Our fashion features editor on Aunt Flo, having the painters in, shark week…and why we should all talk about periods more openly
Earlier this year I went to New York for fashion week and I got my period. I’m not ashamed to tell you that, guys! It happens to us all, after all. And besides, I wasn’t given the opportunity to be subtle about it because when I went to the local pharmacy to buy some sanitary products, they only came in packets literally twice the size of my head. So there you go folks, I got my period in New York and everyone within a 100-metre radius knew about it.
But why am I telling you this? A study, just published in the Journal of Women's Health, reckons it has finally cracked the reasons behind our cramps and moods swings, which means they are on track to finding the best way to treat it (air punch!). In February, Professor John Guillebaud, professor of reproductive health at University College London, recognised that periods pains can be "as bad as a heart attack". And totally inspirational was Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui, who after swimming in the relay at the weekend told a reporter "my period came yesterday. I'm feeling a bit weak". It was even more brave to speak out when you consider that tampons are very unpopular in China due to beliefs about hymens and virginity. Fu, we salute you.
Back in March, a Bristol company called Coexist announced its “period policy”, whereby employees can take paid leave when they are menstruating. As someone who has suffered from crippling pain since my very first cycle (though I might add, not nearly as badly as women with endometriosis and other similar conditions), I think this is an amazing idea. Of course, I am lucky enough to work in an industry dominated by women, so I’m not bothered about sending my colleagues a text along the lines of ‘running late. Period pains from hell!’, but for women who work in more masculine environments, I can imagine it’s awful. How do you explain to a guy that you’re not on top form this morning because you had to get in a hot bath at 3.30am and the painkillers only kicked in enough for you to go to sleep 10 minutes before your alarm went off? Or that you’re ducking out of those after work drinks because you’re so dehydrated that you’ll be paralytic after half a glass of prosecco? And even if you do have the nerve to say it, you don’t always get an entirely sympathetic reaction.
Not all women suffer from bad period pains, but for those who do, the option to spend a few hours with a hot water bottle and a dose of Cuprofen without feeling the need to lie about it would be an absolute godsend. Periods are barely discussed in the media, or even in real life, and when they are, it’s usually in code – Aunt Flo, having the painters in, shark week – or mouthed silently because we’re so embarrassed. Last year the New York City subway system banned adverts for THINX pants because they used the word ‘period’ in them. I know, ridiculous. (They’re amazing washable knickers that you can use in place of your regular sanitary products, if you didn’t already know. Genius). 50% of the population have periods. So let’s talk about them!