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Bessbrook woman uses social enterprise Changing Cycles to help change conversations

'If women had more knowledge of their cycle in their teens and twenties that perhaps they wouldn't be reaching late 30s, 40s and 50s as burnt out as we are seeing this generation of women'

Joanne Callan

A menstrual health advocate and holistic therapist from Bessbrook is using her own experiences and discoveries to enlighten and empower others – believing that a better understanding your cycle “is key to understanding who you are”.

Joanne Callan started social enterprise Changing Cycles in 2020 following the purchase of Moon Times – a reusable menstrual products initially founded Rachael Hertogs – to focus on helping people better “understand and connect to cycles and rhythms in their body and in the world around”.

After being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in her early 20s, Joanne embarked on a journey of discovery to see how she could better support her own health.

Speaking to Armagh I, Joanne revealed: “It was an eyeopener. No one had any options other than hormonal contraceptives or if I wanted to get pregnant Clomid to support fertility.

“This just doesn’t make sense. That this is the only option available to me, to mess more with my hormones. That’s the way I saw it and I know it works for some women but it just didn’t resonate with me.”

Joanne had the fortune of having been raised in an holistic household, where a doctor’s visit was of course an option, but it wasn’t the be all and end all.

“I have been passionate about health and wellbeing since I was no age. My mum would have always used aromatherapy and homeopathy alongside normal medication, there were always lots of options”, said Joanne.

Her journey led her down many paths including study in nutrition and reflexology. Connections she developed in reflexology taught her that many women had so little knowledge of their cycle and how it impacted them.

Women were struggling with menstrual pain, fertility issues and mental health issues among myriad other physical and physiological symptoms.

Over time Joanne became more and more entranced with the connection between her life, health and cycle. Afterall, they are inextricably linked.

Continued Joanne: “Women are not the same every day in the gym, in the office, in the bedroom, in the lake – wherever! Our bodies are physiologically different if not every day but certainly every week.

“We talk about the cycle as spring, summer, autumn, winter. Thinking of a week like autumn to early winter you could say, “So what kind of things does my body want or need in this season to rest and recover?

“In spring/summer we are in ovulation energy and have all of that momentum behind us.

“I just feel that in a world where women are juggling so many things and trying to be everything to everyone, and so many areas of our lives that require us to be optimized, menstrual cycle awareness can be absolutely life-changing.

“The menopause conversation has been a big one over the last number months and it’s really important that we are having that. However, my sense is that if women had more knowledge of their cycle in their teens and twenties that perhaps they wouldn’t be reaching late 30s, 40s and 50s as burnt out as we are seeing this generation of women.

“Cycle charting and working with your menstrual cycle could be the solution for today’s stressed, burnt out, often caffeine, sugar and alcohol fuelled women.”

To Joanne, her vision is clear. Together with mentors Suriya, Sarah, Chloe and Mary she hopes to create “a world where the cyclical nature of women is understood, respected and integrated into every day life.”

Joanne and the team from Changing Cycles are now eagerly anticipating World Menstrual Health Day on May 28, where they will be attending Stormont Estate to act as a voice for stigma-free, open discussion surrounding women’s health.

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