Periods: Not a Curse, Period.

Cover Image for Periods: Not a Curse, Period.
Dr. Erin Chambers, N.D.

How many period euphemisms and jokes have we been inundated with since we were little? The curse, on the rag, shark week, aunt Flo, moon cycle, that time of the month, or Mr. Garrison on South Park saying "I don’t trust anything that bleeds for 7 days and doesn’t die." It just so happens that a period (or menstruation) is a natural biological process that occurs in anyone with uterus. Despite being a normal bodily function, periods have been steeped in negativity and shame for ages. This negativity has created a culture of silence and taboo around periods, leading to a lack of education and misinformation about menstruation, and complete amnesia about how a period can be helpful.

The negativity surrounding periods has a long-standing history intertwined in religion often involving the seclusion and restrictions on activities such as cooking, entering places of worship, and having sexual intercourse. These beliefs have persisted over time and the resulting effects are still present in most cultures today. It is time we moved past this.

In modern times, menstruation has been further stigmatized through media and advertising. Many advertisements for period products use euphemisms to describe periods, reinforcing the idea that periods are something to be hidden or ashamed of. Even the other day I was shopping for tampons and couldn't find them so I got some help. I was directed to this little yellow box that could have been bubble gum or toothpicks and was told "Isn't it great how discrete it is?" Half the world menstruates. Do we really need to hide this?

This stigma is especially harmful to our young people who are just beginning to experience menstruation. The shame and secrecy surrounding periods can cause anxiety and confusion, leading to a lack of education about menstrual hygiene, what is normal, and more importantly, what is not.

This lack of understanding can result in the underreporting of symptoms, lack of investigation and subsequent treatment in those who experience period-related health issues such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and endometriosis. These conditions can cause severe pain, discomfort, and emotional distress and some have fertility, cardiovascular, and metabolic consequences, but are often dismissed as "just PMS" or "women's problems."

To combat the negativity surrounding periods, we need to start by normalizing conversations about menstruation, stop hiding period products, and highlight the positive aspects about having a period. Education and open discussion about periods can help break down the stigma and promote understanding and support for people who menstruate. Access to menstrual products should be made available to everyone at no cost and in plain sight everywhere. We should highlight the fact that periods are a sign of fertility and fertility is a sign of vitality. They indicate the ability to orchestrate the incredibly intricate process of growing another life. That's powerful stuff! A regular cycle also indicates that the body is producing enough hormones to protect bones, the brain, and mood. Further, the menstrual cycle provides a wealth of information on how the body is operating and can help direct investigation and monitor treatments. Periods are great.

Our negative attitude towards periods is harmful and unjustified. We need to break the silence and promote open discussion, education and POSITIVITY about menstruation. Only then can we create a culture that supports and values the menstrual health and well-being of all people who experience periods.

Yes, there's a lot for us to unpack collectively and personally but I think we can really lean in to the fact that bleeding for 7 days and not dying actually makes us gods. Let's own it.

🔴 Dr. Erin

If you want to discuss period health with a naturopathic doctor, I am here and taking new patients. Looking forward to chatting all things period related.

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