Moving beyond medication to take control of my cycle - a personal story by Ashley Greene Khoury
A few years ago, I made the decision to stop using any medication I'd been prescribed over the years. I was committed to working on myself and working to find different methods to treat anything I may be experiencing. The process wasn’t always the prettiest and certainly felt like an uphill battle at times. But one by one, I eliminated each prescription from my life. I felt liberated, I felt clear, I felt strong. Then, It was time for hormonal birth control (HBC) to kick rocks. This seemed like the simplest of the batch to discontinue, but boy was I in for a rude awakening.
We spoke specifically on our reproductive system and menstrual cycle symptoms. It was educational and it was cathartic. For the first time I felt empowered speaking about these things.
I share this with you, reader - perhaps even a fellow menstruator - as a very personal experience. I don’t expect you to necessarily follow my lead but I do want to start a conversation about our bodies, how they work, what we can expect from them and any possible implications of things like NSAIDs, HBC or further pharmaceutical intervention.
I like how our medical advisor Dr. Jolene Brighten puts it: “I’m not anti-birth control. I’m pro-education.”
Dr. Jolene adds: “I believe women should be informed about every aspect of their reproductive health so that they can make the best decisions to support their bodies. And I believe we can simultaneously advocate for access, education, and advancements in women’s health. My passion is helping women understand the body they live in. After all, you shouldn’t have to go to medical school to understand how your hormones, your menstrual cycle or your body works.”
Here you’ll find my journey, and with that, the story of how Hummingway came to be. I hope to start a conversation with you on the subject and now feel ready to share my experience - for myself, my circle and for those that might feel a similar decision is on the way.
I had jumped on HBC as soon as I began having sex. Without the permission of my parents, without understanding the dangers of the pill and without being informed on how the pill actually functions. (Spoiler: Hormonal Birth Control actually cuts off communication between your ovaries and your brain, inhibiting your natural production of hormones, telling your body not to go through the process of ovulation.) When I came off birth control some 16 years later, my system began firing back up and I had a whole slew of previously masked symptoms, just waiting in the wings for me.
My cramps were debilitating, I had mood swings that fit every stereotype and lots of breakouts, which caused me lots of embarrassment. I went back to my health care provider for answers and was met with options like accutane, steroids or antibiotics. The problem with these offerings was that they would all involve non-natural ingredients (many with adverse side effects) that would once again only mask the problem, but never answer my question of WHY this was happening in the first place. I quickly realized that my doctor (and a majority of doctors) simply didn't have the knowledge or bandwidth to be able to give me the answers I was seeking. Add to that, I realized that I myself had a VERY limited grasp of what I now know as body literacy (thank you Dr. Lara Briden). I was completely in the dark. I felt frustrated and defeated. How could I be a grown woman in my 30s and be so lost when it came to my reproductive system? Why did the internet seem so overwhelming and contradictory around this subject? And why had I never been taught the ways of our most intimate and important parts and their reason for being there in the first place? I needed answers, but, yet again, I felt too embarrassed to venture out to find them.
Finally, I opened up to my sister-in-law and now my Hummingway co-founder Olivia. We began sharing with one another all of the highs and lows we experience involving our bodies. Then we spoke specifically on our reproductive system and menstrual cycle symptoms. It was educational and it was cathartic. For the first time I felt empowered speaking about these things. Then we took things a step further and began reaching out to friends around us. At first, it felt a little like walking on eggshells. And then, to my surprise, each person we spoke to opened up like a flood gate. I no longer felt alone in my experiences, I felt protected by this new community willing to share their similar experiences. I also found that most of us were still alarmingly in the dark about our bodies, how they worked, and why we experienced the symptoms we do.
Olivia and I decided to buckle down and seek out the answers ourselves. This left us even more frustrated than when we began. There was a vast ocean of things we’d never been taught, and it differed significantly from site to site and article to article. However, it also defined a clear mission for us. We felt compelled to create a company that could provide a safe space for people to share their experiences in a true community, serve as a science-backed but easy-to-digest educational platform (called The Regular, where you’re reading this) and provide non-toxic menstrual products (the first being The Cycle Soother) that target the root cause of an issue in a safe, effective way. As a result of the gender data gap, this will continue to be an uphill battle, but one that we are 100% willing to fight.
We still have a lot to learn here at Hummingway, but we have surrounded ourselves with incredible doctors, scientists and specialists in a range of relevant fields to help us grow along the way. I hope you’ll join this journey with us and I hope that sharing my story encourages you to do the same. The idea of sharing something vulnerable, speaking about something perhaps considered taboo or diving into the depths of our reproductive health is daunting. But in my experience, the payoff is well worth it. Welcome to Hummingway.
Ashley launched Hummingway with her sister-in-law, Olivia Khoury, in 2021. Ashley made the choice to pursue a pharmaceutical-free lifestyle (including coming off hormonal birth control) in 2018 in an effort to truly put her health front-and-center. Soon after, her hormones raged out of control, creating a body that was foreign to her and symptoms that were both embarrassing and debilitating.
After reaching out to several doctors for answers, she was frustratingly met with similar suggestions, all of which included reactive methods - ones that would temporarily mask the problem but came with a slew of adverse effects, toxic chemicals and ‘band-aid fixes’ rather than addressing the root of underlying issues. It was then Ashley realized there were a number of key problems:
A lack of non-toxic treatments for combatting symptoms associated with reproductive health.
A generationally institutionalized stigma associated with and surrounding reproductive health.
A severe lack of research into the matters of reproductive health - impacting the education available for people to understand their own unique bodies; more specifically, how to care for themselves.
A call for traditional healthcare providers to level up to a growing desire amongst menstruators who are seeking more comprehensive solutions to reproductive health challenges and the whole picture on our health.
Alongside an experienced team of medical professionals, advisors and acclaimed partners, Ashley shares a passion for building Hummingway into a valuable and impactful resource for people of all ages and circumstances - even non-menstruators.
Outside of work, Ashley enjoys time with her husband Paul and rescue pup Rosie, all things health and fitness related, and hosting game nights with friends and family at home in Los Angeles.