There is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of the right brand name period products is capable of achieving anything. Sky diving, skiing, running or gymnastics. You name it and a woman with the right sort of feminine hygiene products can achieve it.
All the evidence is there, from Bodyform telling me that I can be the best me in the world, to Libra advertising water skiing and beach trips. Of course, they don’t stop to consider that maybe I actually have no idea how to water ski, and while I might be glad to know that my boxing game doesn’t have to be affected by my period, I probably won’t be jumping into the boxing ring either.
But it’s still nice to know that if I do desire to take up any one of these sports, I can do so without the threat of the whole world knowing just what time of the month it is.
Except that I can’t because sometimes other things get in the way. For instance, cramps. Have you tried exercising with cramps? Though exercise has been proven to relieve cramps, if you aren’t used to exercising it doesn’t help.
Have you tried moving with cramps or even being a functional human being? And let me tell you that cramps can come at any moment. At work, why not? Any woman who has worked in customer service can tell you about the pain of standing for hours on end while her stomach seizes up.
On a date? Get ready to painfully shuffle around a dessert buffet and try to maintain some semblance of normality while the blades of a thousand knives strike your stomach. It’s not fun. But it’s also not always intense stabbing pains, sometimes it’s just a constant dull pain forever in the background.
It’s not just your stomach either, cramping can extend to your back and thighs. For anyone struggling to imagine what this might feel like here’s an example accessible to everyone. Imagine you have gone to the gym for the first time in months but jump straight back into an intense exercise routine. The pain you feel the next day, the constant soreness, well for many women, that is the first day or two of their periods. Or it might come before their period begins, all bodies are unique after all.
It is no surprise then that tennis player Heather Watson blamed her defeat at the Australian Open in 2015 on her period. I am not up for much on the first day of my period either and no one ever requires me to be at the top of my physical game.
However, her claim started a conversation about periods and sport that had never really been opened before.
And it’s not just cramps, women talk about the cramps the most because they are the absolute worst, but also the least offensive thing to other people’s sensibilities. There is also the mood change, the desire to go for a run can be somewhat squashed when you are fed up with the world. Though perhaps premenstrual syndrome (PMS) might help with the boxing, just saying. Once again though, the changes of mood are also a pretty inoffensive thing to discuss.
So, shall we take a moment to discuss the constipation? Yes, for some women that is a symptom of their periods. In fact, 73% of women experience gastrointestinal symptoms while on their period. From constipation, to diarrhoea, or even both because why not share out the love…
And at this point I would like to point out to corporations and small businesses everywhere how lucky they are that their female staff aren’t claiming a sick day once a month.
So how do women survive working days with all of this going on. A careful observer might notice the coping mechanisms, the secret underground office community. Aspirin being passed between women. Someone heads off to the shops and returns with chocolate for a colleague. (Yes, chocolate really does help.)
So, here’s to women everywhere. The world is telling them that they can be their best selves while on their period, but they are working hard to function normally. And that’s not even beginning to touch on the women experiencing menopause. At least the world acknowledges that periods exist.