I think the first time I got my period, I was about thirteen. Nothing special – I knew what it was so I was only slightly alarmed when I saw the blood.
And there’s that word. Blood. Most people aren’t phased when talking about blood. Maybe it’s from a nose bleed or a scratch on your knee. So why is there still stigma around talking about your period?
A period, or the term menstruation, is when blood and tissue leave your body through the vagina. Generally, it happens once a month until the menopause. In my opinion, periods are one of the most normal things in existence. I think when you’ve been having periods for over 10 years, it just becomes your routine. However for me, I don’t have a routine. Never really have.
I have suffered with my periods since I was about fifteen. Birth control in the form of the pill was a short respite, but I decided to completely stop my birth control as I just wanted a break. As soon as I stopped the pill, my periods went right back to how they were before – irregular. Currently, I am on day 86 of my cycle. Yes – 86. Whether you consider me lucky or not, I hate my stupid, irregular cycle.
Thankfully, periods are becoming more acceptable to talk about in today’s society (is it just me who has ever felt embarrassed to ask for a pad at school or work?) However, something I don’t hear often is when people discuss the absence of a period.
According to the NHS, a menstrual cycle is usually between 21 and 40 days. I know some of my friends would be rather envious of my cycle. In fact, I’m sure many women would be relieved if they had a short few days of light bleeding every month – or more, every two months.
There are many reasons why you may miss a period, or why they may stop. Of course there’s pregnancy, but there’s also stress, changes in weight, different medical concerns and even a lot of exercise to name a few.
I can never shake the feeling of jealousy when I overhear friends talking about their cramps or their on-time cycles; while I sit on month two, waiting for even a small cramp to signify a potential period. I’ve found my consistent lack of period has affected me in many ways; I often feel bloated, have frequent mood swings and find myself longing to be able to wear a pad. Weird, right?
However, these kind of thoughts come from the already existing stigma. Why should I see myself as weird because I would like my period to come? I remember times at school when I didn’t really hear anyone talking about their periods, despite more or less every single person in my all-girls school having one. I think I built up an image in my mind that it was something you simply live with, and don’t speak about because it was dirty or embarrassing.
While periods are part of everyday life for most women, I feel discussion about them is healthy, in order to learn from real experiences as opposed to simply reading information online.
I feel like despite the normalisation of periods increasing, it can still be seen as a ‘taboo’ to talk about. Like many taboos today surrounding female health and wellbeing, such as female masturbation being a huge one in society, it reminds me that periods haven’t always been viewed as they should be – normal. Periods are something that should be easily spoken about; I don’t see why it should be an uncomfortable topic to speak about. Why do we feel like we need to whisper to a friend when we need a pad or tampon? Or feel anxiety before opening a sanitary product in a public toilet?
In my personal experience, periods haven’t always been discussed with such freedom. I feel I don’t really hear much from friends, peers and women in general about missed periods – almost as if it’s just something you have to live with. By talking more openly about this, we can help educate ourselves.
Although, there has definitely been some traction around the subject in recent years. With the release of new and evolving sanitary products, like reusable cups and even blood-absorbing underwear, there is a new wave of pride in periods, that seemingly goes hand in hand with other topics such as self-love and body positivity.
For me, I am still unsure as to why my cycle is so irregular. A few trips down to the chemist to buy an abundance of pregnancy tests, also ruled out what I already knew was definitely not true; waiting for that single line I knew (deep down) to appear whilst sitting in our shared uni bathroom, really was the highlight of some of my days. Sometimes I feel dejected that I don’t have a somewhat functioning cycle – it affects my mental and physical health. Every cycle for every woman is different of course, and I think the more we begin to discuss our differences, the easier it becomes to relate to one another.
So while a heavy period each month that cries for junk food and hot water bottles is someone’s normal, my normal is nothing for months and months. It’s anticipation for something that many women dislike. It’s saving money on products I wish I could buy. But in all honesty, it’s hoping for more free discussion on the bloodless side of periods.