Roughly half the globe’s population menstruates every single month. There are bleeding people walking around you at all times. Despite this being such a commonplace occurrence, for some reason society still shuns and disregards people who have periods. “Periods should not be talked about,” they say. “They’re disgusting,” they say.
It’s time to make big changes to the way people think about periods.
The taboo surrounding menstruation has created a culture of fear and aversion, fueled by misogyny surrounding periods. This leads to a lot of misunderstandings about what periods are and how they work. Do you know how your body and the bodies of the ones around you function?
A menstrual cycle lasts on average between 24-38 days, and the typical period lasts between 4-8 days. During this time, the body prepares itself for a possible pregnancy.
During ovulation, which usually falls in the middle of the menstrual cycle between two weeks and seven days before the period, the uterus builds a thicker lining and the ovaries release an egg. If this egg does not get fertilized by sperm, the body shreds the thick uterine lining and the result is vaginal bleeding — a period.
Miseducation and stigma surrounding periods and reproductive health has led to — and will continue to — lead to unwanted pregnancies, STDs and undiagnosed illnesses related to menstruation such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids.
When a period is really bad
Did you know that 32-40 percent of people who have periods report this pain so severe they have to miss work or school? Did you know that 70 percent of white women and 80 percent of African American women will develop uterine fibroids? We need to be able to break the stigma and start talking about periods.
This is just the first step that will lead us to a more fluent body literacy. Take some time to get to know your body, to get to know your flow. Roughly 90 percent of people who menstruate say they experience various symptoms, so use period tracking apps to track unusual bleeding. Get in there and learn the different consistencies of your vaginal fluids, and gather that information to then take to your obstetrician-gynecologist. Once you strip the taboo that has been attached to your body by society, you can understand what is going on inside of you, and notice when it is telling you that something is not right. Bodies are so vastly different that what is normal for you is not normal for someone else, but talking about it will definitely be helpful.
If you do not have a period, take some time in the upcoming days to sit down with someone you love and listen to their experiences. Most often, menstruators are not being whiny or being irrational, they are having extreme hormonal changes in their body and a lot of the time excruciating pain.
So ask them if there’s anything you can do for them instead of asking, “Are you on your period again?”
Eira Nylander Torallas, Program’s Director at PERIOD. Inc, [email protected]