TARA McCANN HELPS WOMEN USE THE
POWER OF THEIR CYCLES FOR A BETTER LIFE
Tara McCann is a menstrual health coach. Her mission is to help women use the power of their menstrual cycles to tune into what their bodies need. Tara guides women to identify patterns in their menstrual cycles and helps them find ways to support their health. Her goal is for women to live in the flow of their hormones and to stop fighting with the natural functions of their bodies.
IN THIS EPISODE
[01:15] On what Tara is most passionate about
[02:24] On her childhood and speaking with parents about your period
[04:56] On her early career and life before working with menstrual health coaching
[10:19] On tracking your cycles to help with productivity
[14:01] On what to track and how to go about it
[15:50] On her cyclical moon tracking program for menopause or post-menopause
[17:19] On the best way to start tracking your cycle
[19:03] On a success story that brought major transformation
[21:36] On the myths about menstruation that need to be debunked
[23:49] How to get in touch with Tara and the services she offers
[25:44] On being a member of MOB Nation
[27:25] On the hormonal and spiritual pieces in our cycles
Passionistas: Hi, and welcome to The Passionistas Project Podcast, where we talk with women who are following their passions to inspire you to do the same. We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and today we're talking with Tara McCann, a menstrual health coach who helps women use the power of their menstrual cycles to tune into what their bodies need.
Tara guides women to identify patterns in their menstrual cycles, and find ways to support their health so they live in the flow of their hormones and stop fighting with their bodies.
So please welcome to the show, Tara McCann.
This is such an important topic that no one ever talks about. And we're so grateful that you are joining us today to educate us a little bit and to help us spread the word about something that's so important for women.
Tara: It is, and it really isn't talked about very much. And that's one of the things when I do speak on this, women come up to me and I'm like, "why was I never taught this as a child? Why have I, you know, I'm 45 years old and no one ever told me this was happening in my body." And so I think it is valuable information.
I think it's been missing from our growth and development and education, and I am on a mission to teach people all of the things.
Passionistas: So what's the one thing you're most passionate about?
Tara: You know, I think the biggest thing that I'm passionate about is women shifting from just enduring their menstrual cycle to really understanding and knowing themselves in a very different way through their menstrual cycle.
It's the space where we tap into our intuition. It's where we are powerful in our wisdom. It's our creative force and power in the world. And for so many of us, we are taught the exact opposite of that. And so really, what I'm passionate about, is telling women about this and watching their growth as they start to understand that.
I love women coming through my programs and be like, "oh my God, look what I just did!" And, "I understand this. I understand why I've done this for years." And then they can give themselves grace. They can give themselves understanding, and then they just start to move through the world differently. They're not fighting with themselves anymore. And so I just love supporting women through that transition.
Passionistas: So, what was your childhood like? And was this something that you were comfortable talking about with your parents at a young age?
Tara: No, not at all. So I probably had a very similar experience to you. Like I think it was fifth grade that they separated the boys and the girls. And the girls went with the nurse and the boys went, I don't know who they went with, but you know, the nurse basically explained, "you're going to have your period, and you're going to bleed and then it's going to hurt. And here's a pad and here's a pamphlet from this, you know, maker of products that is going to tell you all about it."
And then that's basically it. And I don't remember having conversations with my mom about it. Definitely not my dad, like that was, you know, not going to talk to him about it for sure. But I don't remember having conversations with my mother about it, like other than, "Hey, I need more tampons" or "Hey, can you go get me some more medicine to take care of my period pain." But there wasn't a lot of conversation about what was going on in my body, how things changed through the month, how it was going to feel. And I think part of it is she was never taught. It wasn't something she was taught. So it was not something she taught me. It was not a conversation we had.
And so I had that one experience in school. For me, like my first period, I was so excited. I was like, "oh my God, I'm a woman." And I just had this feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself and that finally I was part of the club or something. It was... and I remember feeling that. But then, as it progressed, it was like, "oh, you're not supposed to feel that way. It's painful." And you know, all the magazines I read as a kid were like, "take this medicine because it's so painful and here's your perfect pad for the blue liquid we pour on it." And you know, all of this messaging from around me and, you know, people teasing you about, "well, what are you on the rag?" And so you want to hide it and the shame and just all those things started piling on.
So that initial power and excitement and that feeling I had was just kind of piled on. And it went away and it was hidden for a really long time because I didn't want to talk about it. I was like, "oh no, we don't talk about this. Okay. I can do that." So yeah, that was my early experience with this. And I think that's true for a lot of women in the world.
Passionistas: So, you said you didn't start to understand some of the stuff until you were in your forties. So then what was your early career or were you a full-time mom back then? Or what was your earlier years like between, you know, high school and the time you started working with fertility information?
Tara: So, you know, I, had my cycle and it was fine. And it was like, I take the Advil for the pain and, and then I just have my cycle and no, I don't like it. And it's a mess. And, you know, just kind of those general feelings of it's something I have to put up with. I didn't have the experience of having really horrific period pain or really heavy flow. It was just... it was there for me. And, you know, it was kind of a nuisance, but not really a nuisance.
I didn't have super strong feelings about. But what really started me on this path was my husband and I started having a family, you know, decided to have a family. And in my experience with my cycle, I had always been really regular. And I was healthy. My husband was healthy. I'm like, "oh, we're going to get pregnant, you know, we'll be pregnant in months. You know, just a few months and we'll be pregnant." And months turned into a year, turned into two years, turned into two and a half years and reproductive medicine.
But during that time I found menstrual cycle tracking through a book called "Taking Charge of Your Fertility." And so I started paying really close attention to my cycle in the aspect of fertility. Like when am I going to ovulate? And when is the best time that we could get pregnant and just riding that rollercoaster of, okay, "we got to get geared up, you know, I'm going to ovulate soon." And so " we had to go have sex and we gotta be prepared for this." And then that two week wait of just sitting there, like, "am I pregnant? What does that twinge." Or "wait, wait, I don't know what that is." And then that devastating crash when your period comes, like just that utter crash. That like, "oh my gosh, what is wrong with me? Why am I broken? Why can everyone else in the world get pregnant and I cannot?" You know, what's going on? But also having to switch gears really fast, cause guess what? You're going to ovulate again really soon and you've got to get going again.
And so it's just this up and down and up and down. And, so that was really challenging. But through that, and through my tracking, I really came to understand my cycle well. And I'm a scientist by nature, and I'm trained as an occupational therapist, so I had worked in occupational therapy for a really long time. So I have a science background and have always been fascinated by the human body and the amazing things that the human body can do.
And so I really dug into this. Learning about my cycle and learning what was going on for my body. I knew I didn't have enough progesterone in my cycle, basically. And I had worked with acupuncturists and I had changed what I was eating all through this fertility journey. And we were in reproductive medicine and we were doing intrauterine insemination. And we had come to the last one we were going to do. The next time we tried something, it was going to be IVF.
And so in that moment, you know, you're sitting there on the crinkly seat, waiting for your insemination, with the freezing cold room. I don't know why the rooms can't be warmer, you know, shivering in your little thing that doesn't cover your back. And I asked for progesterone. In my mind, I was like, "this is our last chance to try this." And I know this is what my body needs. And so the tracking for me really became that supportive piece that I could advocate for myself. I knew my body and I trusted what I knew about my body. I trusted what the tracking had taught me about my body. And so I said, "can we add progesterone to my regimen this cycle?"
And my doctor was like, well, he had already shoved off my charts before. He's like, "I don't need those. I don't need to look at those." Which in his world, he doesn't because he's controlling the situation, right? And that's what that reproductive medicine specialty is about. He's like, "well, I don't think it's going to hurt, but I don't think it's going to help either." He wasn't, "no, you can't do that." But I didn't feel like he was like completely on board with it. But I asked.
And I got the progesterone and I got pregnant and we had a baby 10 months later. So, you know, that was what I needed. And so that was really what started this journey with tracking for me. And then my two girls were born pretty close together. And so I had been pregnant or breastfeeding or trying to be pregnant for four or five years. And my health was not great after all of that.
And so I went to a health coach and found a health coach for my own health and was like, this is really what I wanted. I wanted this support when I was trying to get pregnant. Like I wanted somebody there every week who I could talk to about what was going on in my own body and who was going to help me. Because I knew my body could do more, but I didn't know what to do at the time. And so I was just trying to Google everything and throw all of it at it. Not hardly having tons of guidance. So I went to coaching school and my first jump into coaching was fertility coaching and helping preconception coaching, you know, people getting ready for pregnancy.
And then a couple of years ago, I started talking in the mom-owned business networking group. I started talking about cycles and how you can use your menstrual cycle to be more productive in your business. And women just started coming to me and like," why did I never hear this information before?" And so that really spurred me to broaden my message to menstrual cycles in all ways. And not just fertility though, I still do fertility work and it's very near and dear to my heart. But just also talking in the broader realm of menstrual cycle.
Passionistas: Talk more about that concept that tracking your cycles can help you with productivity.
Tara: In our menstrual cycles, our hormones shift and change every single day. So there's this, you know, big ups and downs that are happening. And we have grown up in a society where we think we get up in the morning, we go to work, we work all day long and you know, do all our work. We come home, we go to sleep, get up the next morning, rinse and repeat over and over again. Every day should be the same.
Our bodies don't work like that. Because we may get up one day and have all of the energy. And then the next day we're like, "where did all that energy go? It's gone." And that's... our hormones are shifting in our bodies and that's shifting what we can do.
So, when we're thinking about our periods and the time that we're having our bleed, our hormones are really low. And so that's really kind of a time for quiet and for rest and for that introspection that I talked about. Because the way that our hormones are balanced during that time, it's a great time to evaluate, see what's working and what's not working, and think about what are my intentions for this next month? So it's not that nothing is happening during that time. It's not that you're not being productive. You're being productive in a different way.
And then moving through the cycle, the next part of the cycle is after your bleeding, but before your egg is released. And during that time, your estrogen is rising. And during that time, your hormones are supporting you to do things like writing. Or to do things like planning and thinking of big ideas and outlining things. And it's also a really creative time, so brainstorming is really good. And thinking about all the different ways to do something can feel like essence of ease during that time.
And then ovulation is that time when you're putting yourself out in the world. And so things like presentations can be really good, or if you have to have a hard conversation with someone. Because of the way your hormones are balanced, you are very open and receptive and your verbal skills are really good. And so if you want to go ask for a raise or if you need to talk to a coworker or a parent or a partner, you know, this is a really great time to kind of plan for those conversations because of the way that you are hormonally supported during that time.
And then after ovulation: our luteal phase. So that's the time from ovulation to our next period. That's really a time when we're kind of getting things done, like checking things off the list, detail oriented type things. And so, cleaning out your closet or cleaning out the pantry or. Filing your taxes or doing data entry and things like that can be something that's really supported.
So when you start to move through over a longer timeframe, you're getting all the things done, but you're not fighting with yourself to get those things done. And so that's one of the really powerful pieces of understanding how you move through your cycle, understanding what's true for you and what feels like ease and what feels a little harder during different times in your cycle, so that you can think ahead and plan ahead and decide, "oh, you know, I'd really love to record a podcast during my ovulatory time so that I'm speaking and my words are flowing" and things like that.
So it really helps you to plan ahead so don't spend so much time fighting with yourself and like, "why can't I get this done today?" I was like, "well, today not may not be the day." But what about in a week from now? You could batch four of your newsletters or whatever that might be. So just thinking about it in a longer, cyclical way that ease is going to come back again.
Passionistas: So what is the actual tracking? Is it as simple as "this is the day my period started" and going from there? Or are there other things that you track as well?
Tara: When I'm teaching people to track, we start by tracking just two or three things, because there's a lot that you can track depending on what information you are wanting.
So you can track your energy levels. You can track your sleep, you can track how does exercise feel? How does your movement practice feel? Do you have food cravings? Are there sometimes you're really hungry or not so hungry? Do you have certain days that you have headaches? So there's a lot of different things, depending on what's happening in your body.
One of the places we often start is energy. So what does your energy feel like? How is your energy today? What kind of things did you get done? What felt easy? And then as you move through the cycle, like, okay, where are you in your cycle? Those hormones that shifted and move, what's underlying that. So how do you support your body to flow through that cycle, and to support your body to be able to move through fluidly without forcing things.
Passionistas: We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and you're listening to The Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Tara McCann. To learn more about tracking your menstrual cycle and to download the free cycle tracker, visit taramccannwellness.com.
If you're enjoying this interview and would like to help us to continue creating inspiring content, please consider becoming a patron by visiting thepassionistasproject.com/podcast and clicking on the patron button. Even $5 a month can help us continue our mission of inspiring women to follow their passions.
Now here's more of our interview with Tara.
How does what is learned during your work apply to women who are in menopause or post-menopause? Is there still work that they can do?
Tara: There is actually. One of the programs I do is actually using the moon as that cyclical rhythm. Because if a woman is post-menopausal or perimenopausal, when their cycle is maybe not consistent anymore, or post-menopausal when they no longer have a cycle. Some women who are on hormonal birth control don't have cycles. You can use that rhythm of the moon to plan and to create that flow of energy and the different tasks that might feel easy so that you're really prioritizing that rest and prioritizing the different types of like creative work or speaking work, or just getting things done. Because as women even if we're not cycling, we have this imprint of the cycle.
We have this just knowing of the cycle because we are cyclical beings and we have been, and we've always been. And so tapping back into that cyclical rhythm, you can do that even without having that indicator of having a physical bleed. Like even if you've had a hysterectomy, but you still have your ovaries, you're probably still cycling. You just might not know it because you don't have that indicator. So you can also track with the moon until you figure out what your body's signals are of those different parts of your cycle. That's the other way that I talk about and use tracking.
Passionistas: So the best way to get started is to sort of start keeping a journal then of your energy levels, your hunger, your cravings... things like that?
Tara: Yeah, you can. I created just a paper tracker with a paper and pencil because I'm a paper and pencil gal. I like to be able to see that... I like to be able to compare one to the other, right, side-by-side. Because then you can say, oh, look on day 10 of my cycle, this happens. On day 22 of my cycle, this happens. And so you can compare month to month.
There's lots of, you know, online trackers out there as well. So if you are a, you know, you want to do it on an app, there's lots of apps out there. Or I've had lots of women create spreadsheets. Sometimes that can get a little expansive because they'll start with like two things. And then they're like, "oh, I wonder about this and this." And suddenly they've got like 15 things that they're tracking every day. And so that's why I recommend, you know, honing in, or what are the most important things that you're wanting to understand about your body in this time and space?
And some of the things you can track simultaneously. Like if you're having period pain, that's only going to be on a certain number of days. So you could track period pain with how heavy your flow is, and also your energy level and your sleep, like your sleep patterns and see if that changes. So there's ways to kind of incorporate more than one, cause they may not be on every day. And then once you have like a really good understanding and a really good knowledge of, "oh, my body typically does this around this time," then you can add another layer.
Then you can add in, okay how does movement feel? How does it feel when I do a really strenuous exercise during the time that I'm bleeding? Like, does that feel good or does that not feel good? Does that feel supportive or not supportive? And so you can start to understand that too, and plan your movement or other things during the timeframe or during your cycle.
Passionistas: Do you have like one or two success stories from the women that you've worked with, where you've seen, like, just this major transformation?
Tara: Yeah, there's a couple. So I had one woman who tracked... there's many, but we'll go with a couple. So there was one woman who tracked with me last spring and she had had heavy periods and really debilitating period pain for years and years and years. And she just assumed it was normal... assumed that it was what happened. And so she started tracking with me and shortly into our time together, she had her period. And she got into a situation where she was taking Advil and then she couldn't get the period pain to stop and then was taking more Advil. And just her body got more and more pain. And then she didn't feel good. Got sick. Had to go to the emergency room... was, you know, all of these things. And she had just moved to a new space. So she didn't have an established practice with a doctor. So she couldn't get more pain medication to help alleviate what was going on for her.
So, it was that situation that she was kind of stuck with. But she realized in the group setting we were in-- we were in a group of four women-- and another woman in that space had been an ovarian cancer survivor. And so both of us were talking about, you know what, this much pain is not normal. Like there is pain involved. There can be pain involved, but there's a lot you can do to less en that. But this much is a lot and you need to go find someone who will listen to you.
And so what tracking did for her, was it really allowed her to advocate for herself. She found a doctor. She found a space where... you know, cause she was within that 30 day period that we were checking together. She's like, "I'm going to have another period. And what am I going to do then? Cause I'm still not established with a doctor." So, you know, she was creating a plan for, "okay, can I talk to my old doctor?" And "how do I take care of myself?" And then she was able to find a really good doctor and get in with them, even though they were further away because she got a recommendation from someone else in the group and was really able to establish care with someone who would listen to her.
And so I think that was a really big transformation for her... being able to know what's going on. And, you know, she had gotten some pain medication and then she was like, "oh my gosh, is this what it's supposed to feel like? Is this what it feels like to not be in such excruciating pain? Is this what typically, you know, people experience during a flow? Cause I've never had this little pain before."
Passionistas: So aside from the pain, what are some of the other myths about menstruation that really need to be debunked?
Tara: So pain is one of them. That's one of the biggest ones that you have to endure your cycle and that it's painful.
You know, the other big myths are the shame around it, that it's something you shouldn't talk about. It's something that should be hidden. And one of the women in one of my communities was... her transition over the 30 days with it, she realized that it was just this natural process that her body went through and such forgiveness for her body and understanding that this is something that is natural and wonderful that's happening to her. But she had also had a lot of pain in her cycles as well. And so coming to a different space with what your body feels like. So, you know, shame and the myth of that and wanting to hide it.
I think one of the things that I experienced going through my fertility journey was, I think at the beginning we talked about, you know, when you first get your period and you're fearful of pregnancy and like, you don't want to get pregnant and all of that fear that surrounds that. And so, you know, there's birth control and there's ways to prevent pregnancy. And we live in this kind of like, "oh my God, you know, did I have... we had a pregnancy scare" or "I think I might be pregnant even though we're on birth control."
And so there's like this holding that happens. And then when we go to get pregnant and we're like, "oh, I stopped the birth control. It'll be fine. I'll just get pregnant right away." Because there's this fear that we could get pregnant at any moment. And then when we stop, we're like, "of course I'll get pregnant right away because I can get pregnant at any moment." And then our bodies have changed, or sometimes we go on... women go on birth control at a very young age because they're having difficulties in their flow or difficulties with pain or heavy periods or things like that. And instead of looking at the underlying cause of what's going on, they're just put on medication, which just kind of masks it. And then when they come off of the medicine to get pregnant, that underlying whatever it was is still there. And their body has to adjust to coming off the birth control and then it takes a long time to get pregnant.
And then there's that feeling of "what is wrong with me and what's wrong with my body and why can't I get pregnant?" And so it just kind of piles on top of each other.
Passionistas: So how can people work with you? How can women that want to get in touch with you do that? And what services do you offer specifically?
Tara: My signature program is called Tracking With Friends, and it's a 30 day program where we track our menstrual cycles together. And we get on together every day, and I give you a little video and a little meditation for you to check in. And then each person gets to do an individual check-in. So we create this sense of community around talking about our periods.
Because for so many of us, we don't have a space. There's no space where we can go and talk about it. And so this small community of women-- it's usually three to five women tracking together-- is that community where nothing is TMI. You know, we talk about all the things and it's just this amazing container that happens. And women get to know each other so well and so quickly in this space.
And so as we track together, I'm going through with each person, like this is where you are in your cycle. This is what might be going on underlying in the hormones. So this is something you might want to keep track of moving forward. So there's the accountability piece to it. And then once a week, we get together, live on Zoom and talk about, you know, "okay, here's what's going on in your hormones." And I do a little bit of teaching, but it's also just a lot of sharing of all of the things that are happening in cycles.
And then I also do one-on-one coaching. So women who really want to dive in and support their hormones and figure out what's going on. So when I talk about, you know, that period pain is really common, but it's not normal. Like we shouldn't be in so much pain. There's a lot we can do to support our bodies with nutrition and the foods we eat and taking care of our gut and taking care of inflammation and sleep and movement and all of those things that I can help women to create and help them understand what's going on. First of all, understanding their own bodies and then making those small shifts that are going to have really big impacts in the way that their cycles flow.
Passionistas: You mentioned that you're a member of MOB Nation. So can you talk a little bit about that organization and what it's meant to you?
Tara: Yeah. The Mom Owned Business, MOB Nation. And so it's a group of mom owned business owners, entrepreneurs who... it's a supportive network of women. So it's networking, but it's so much more than networking because yes, there is... there's incredible support for your business and, you know, MOB economy. Because you know, the tagline is that "There's a mob for that." Because there is. There's another mom owned business that you can buy from for just about everything. And so our directors have created a directory of mom owned businesses, and so you can find someone to buy from.
And so we've created this whole economy where we buy from each other and support each other's businesses. And then even beyond that business support, it really is support for your whole life and your whole being and who you are. And the MOB Alliance, which is the paid version of the MOB Nation is really this close knit group of women who... you know, you can hop on at two in the morning and be like, "this is going wrong and this is going wrong and I can't," you know, "I need somebody." There will probably be another MOB on that can hop on and support you and supporting women through, you know, their grief or closing their business. Or, you know, in this pandemic, it's been an incredible lifeline for staying connected with other business owners, you know, because we've gone virtual and been able to support each other in that way.
And so it is a networking group and it is a, you know, supportive life group as well, I would say. So, so much more than just networking.
Passionistas: Is there anything else you want women to know that we haven't asked you about?
Tara: I think one of the things that we touched on a little bit, but not too much, is the fact that there is this physical piece, there is this hormonal piece to the way that our bodies move and flow. But there's also this energetic, spiritual piece, this connection to our wisdom, that we flow through and that our cycles can be, I don't want to say a tool because that's, you know, tool feels very like masculine. You know, like this is a tool.
It's not. It's a process and it's a journey and we can use the, you know, the life and death and rebirth that happens with a cycle, right? Every month our uterine lining sheds, we grow an egg and mature an egg, and then that egg and the lining gets shut again. And then we are reborn again. And so it can be a really supportive process for our growth and expansion in the world.
And so not just with that physical cycle, but that creative process that I was talking about. That creation in the world and staying in alignment with the world. And then using that time when things are getting broken down, using our cycle as that supportive, grounding space that we know that even as things break down, you're going to be reborn into what's next. And that the cycle just continues and goes on and that you are always supported by it and with it. And it's that constant companion grounding force for ourselves.
Passionistas: Thanks for listening to our interview with Tara McCann. To learn more about tracking your menstrual cycle and to download the free cycle tracker visit taramccannwellness.com.
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