Period piece: Demystifying and destigmatizing menstruation

By in Sports & Health

There are many names for menstruation — the shedding of uterine lining after ovulation — but whether you call it your period, mother nature’s gift, moon time or some other strange term of endearment, it’s a straightforward biological process.

And yet, there are a lot of misconceptions and stigma that surround it.

Making the rounds on the internet last week was some poor soul’s poor attempt at explaining the affordability of menstrual products on Twitter. He allotted seven tampons per cycle — 10 for those with “extra juicy lining” — and nine periods per year. With his dubious math skills, he found that tampons, if purchased in bulk on Amazon, would cost roughly $35 per year.

Does he think that there are nine months in a year, or does he think that the uterus just checks out for three months? Perhaps, he confused this with the nine-month gestation time of a regular pregnancy. One thing is blatantly obvious: the dude has no idea about human biology or women’s bodies.

First of all, seven tampons per cycle are not going to cut it for most women — more like seven tampons a day. The average amount of blood per period is not standardized, with some women bleeding a lot more than others during one cycle.

Period lengths also vary and can last anywhere from three to seven days. Those who have irregular periods may not menstruate for months at a time while others will have two experiences in one month. Yeah, two periods a month. It is more common than you think.

Recently, sex education has taken a hit in Canada and the United States with opposition from religious groups and socially conservative governments. After his election, Ontario Premier Doug Ford wanted to return to the archaic sex ed curriculum of 1998 — a dangerous step backwards.

It comes down to the fact that we are generally uncomfortable discussing what our bodies do. But this lack of awareness is troubling and problematic.

Periods are not one size fits all, with women experiencing anything from mild discomfort to excruciating pain during their cycle.

There are reports of young women mistaking appendicitis for menstrual cramps, which could lead to a ruptured appendix and adverse health outcomes. The fact that regular period pain can be so intense that one can confuse it with the near rupturing of an organ is just another reminder that being unaware of how our own bodies function can be disastrous for our health.

Cycling back to the original roast of Twitter guy, period products cost a hell of a lot more than $35 per year. A box of tampons will set you back by roughly $10, and women might go through half a box during a period, if not the whole box. So menstrual-related products are going to set you back at the very least $120 per year and often much more.

Prices like these can be problematic for low-income women. Organizations like the Saskatchewan-born Moon Time Sisters strive to provide menstrual products for women in northern communities who can’t afford them.

Some of us can get around the whole cotton money grab by trading in your tampons for menstrual cups, but these cups are not the Holy Grail for all women. The limited sizes offered for the plastic cup don’t really translate to the individual anatomy of women, causing slips and leaks for some.

You’ll also need to make sure you keep the cup clean to avoid bacterial infections and dangers like toxic shock syndrome — both are risks also associated with tampon usage.

Destigmatizing and demystifying periods doesn’t necessarily need radical movements like free bleeding or menstrual blood facials — education is what’s essential. A basic grasp of biology goes a long way toward understanding how our bodies and the bodies of others work. And it can help you avoid looking like a fool on Twitter.

Erin Matthews / Opinions Editor

Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk