It seems like one of the hottest topics of last year was female menstruation. It was much discussed throughout the world and the trend looks set to continue.
But in reality will the open conversations, press coverage, documentaries and government intervention really do much to change the stigma associated with our monthly periods?
2019 saw menstruation reach giddy heights, taking centre stage at the Oscars when a group of female (obviously) filmmakers took home Best Documentary (short) entitled Period. End of Sentence, about a group of women who use a machine to make low-cost sanitary pads in a village in central India’s Hapur district.
The Middle East took note with a digital marketing agency in Cairo leading the way as the first Egyptian company to offer female employees a day’s leave for their period.
Menstruation became the back story for sustainability with traditional plastic laden period products making the headlines and the war on single use plastic taking a stab at the sanitary market. Soon we were all jumping on the bandwagon as we were told just how many tampons and pads we were likely to contribute to landfill over the course of our menstruating lifetimes. So it seems, from menstrual cups to period pants to reusable pads, a visit from Aunt Flo has become big business.
But in the realm of all things female menstruation, the environment now plays second fiddle to a much more pressing issue which is gaining huge, worldwide momentum; Period Poverty. In July 2019 the Government’s Period Poverty Task Force met for the first time to discuss tackling the ‘stigma and shame through education, working on data and evidence, and improving access to period products for all women and girls’. And it appears they weren’t just paying lip service either. January 2020 saw the government make tampons, sanitary pads and other period products freely available to all state schools and colleges in England.
And whilst all this is a huge step forward for equality and female empowerment I was drawn to this subject because of a more recent headline to hit the newsstands – “Chelsea women tailor training to players’ menstrual cycles.” And it struck me – this is all very well and good, but where are the men in this narrative.
Female film makers, lady politicians and women sports coaches have all spearheaded these initiatives. For those of us with sons, fathers, husbands, male bosses and teachers the conversation and the issues surrounding it are as difficult as they have ever been. Kudos to my ten year old son’s male teacher who recently gave a PHSE lesson to a group of 30 open minded boys and girls on the subject of periods and a woman’s monthly cycle. These types of discussions need to take place and I for one was happy that my son will now hopefully be more sympathetic to his girlfriends when their time comes. If only our male partners had been educated at that age perhaps dropping a tampon out my handbag across the restaurant floor wouldn’t have left me crimson with embarrassment and my husband cracking childish jokes at my hormonal expense!
I’m not sure the men in my life will ever truly understand or show me any ounce of empathy, and why would they. It’s true – times are changing but these conversations we are having are about women and between women. I don’t believe the male population is ready and my recent purchase of Maisie Hill’s book entitled Period Power is just more proof. No one was comfortable. Not the very sweet salesman in Waterstones who helped me find it, nor the suited gentlemen on the tube journey home who clocked me reading it!
So this is my ode to keeping the other half of the conversation going, where we exchange glorious tips and tricks on surviving the monthly onslaught. When I’m at the point in my cycle where my mood legitimately means I no longer care about the greater good and I just want a quick fix to relieve the tension and ease the pain. But rather than moan, this is a good week for me hormonally. I’m going to be proactive and suggest the three tips and tricks that keep my undercover period operation functioning!
Stay hydrated – I try and drink at least two litres of water a day but during my period Pukka Herbs Womankind Tea is my drink of choice. They say it will help to regulate and balance my health, whilst also relaxing and soothing my mind. The warmth and comfortable homely feeling definitely helps to keep me calm and gently centred. No mean feat when I’m menstruating!
Comfortable clothing – I’m fortunate enough to work in an environment where we wear what we like but rather than “dress down Friday” I have my own corporate rule known as “dress down I’m on my period and I’m bloated week.” Here I avoid tights at all costs and high-waisted jeans. Loose clothing is a must have if I’m to get through the day. Read Shabir Daya’s, registered pharmacist and co-founder of VH, piece on Period Bloating and why he recommends A Vogel’s Dandelion Tincture to help reduce these uncomfortable symptoms.
Supplements – I’m a firm believer in the power of nature and these days have become less compelled to reach for the paracetamol and ibuprofen. I find natural remedies work over time and the cumulative effect of taking the right supplement can be just as effective as more traditional pharmaceuticals. More recently, anxiety has become one of my most difficult PMS symptoms to manage. Magnesium B6 and Saffron has worked wonders, helping to reduce these anxious episodes and with the the added benefit of alleviating low energy and those ever present food cravings, this is a great choice for helping with some of the most common premenstrual symptoms. To ease the more physical symptoms Evening Primrose Oil in the week leading up to your period can help ease cramps, mood swings and tender breasts.
So whilst I firmly support the Government’s initiative to end Period Poverty and trying my hardest to move towards sustainable period products. I urge women to keep open the more conventional survival dialogue. The dialogue that doesn’t need to involve the men. In a desperate bid to help us all navigate our way safely through ‘Shark Week’ – my most favourite of the menstrual cycle slang phrases!