In the year since my daughter was born I’ve noticed that not a week goes by without someone asking on a mummy Facebook group when everyone’s periods returned post-pregnancy.

While I am always happy to see women talking openly about periods, these conversations are a perfect example of how little women are taught about their own bodies and in particular their menstrual cycles.

Women whose periods returned just a few short months after giving birth are offered condolences while those who passed the 12-month mark or later are the envy of the group. These women express annoyance, frustration and dread about their periods, which are often painful and inconvenient.

Just because PMS symptoms like cramps, headaches and mood swings are common — like three out of four women common – certainly doesn’t mean that they’re normal. Hormonal imbalances are often behind these painful and inconvenient symptoms and they may also put you at risk for inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer later in life.

In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists considers a woman’s menstrual cycle to be a vital sign, just like temperature, blood pressure or heart rate, and identifying abnormal menstrual patterns may improve early detection of potential health concerns.

Listen, I know that not every woman wants to be a moon goddess celebrating the blessing of her monthly flow. Hell, I don’t think I want to be that woman (even if the thought of wearing a kaftan is appealing). But at the very least you need to recognize that your menstrual health is a window into our overall health and pay a little attention from month to month.

Taking note of your cycle length, colour and any PMS symptoms can help you identify the pink flags that are raised when something is out of balance before they turn red and you end up sick.