I am not going to lie, I was a little terrified about publishing this post. For so many years I have been made to feel ashamed about my period, it is just not something we, as women, talk about.
Periods are completely natural and normal, yet we are constantly told to “keep it to ourselves”. We live in a society where men fear buying pads and women hide their tampons in their sleeves before they sneak off to the bathroom. Add an ever-changing postpartum body to the mix and it gets all shades of messed up.
A few weeks ago I ran a quick poll on my InstasStories and the results were horrifying. 63% opted that their periods are completely off-limits for discussion with other people (including spouses and family), while 47% of my readers said that they were worried that there was something medically wrong, but were too ashamed to visit their gynecologist with a “period issue”. It shouldn’t be the source of any shame at all. We need to create and nurture an environment where we openly discuss periods — why it happens and why it’s nothing to be ashamed about. If there’s no more mystery around periods, maybe there will be less shame, and that’s what we need to work toward.
I have been thinking about all these issues for quite some time, but what made we want to talk about it was a gift I received from Always a while back. They sent me a little gift box containing their new Maxi sanitary pads, along with a chocolate, bath bomb and peppermint tea – and it kind of made me emotional. It was a very thoughtful little box, and something I think we should all have for those days, right next to our warm bean bags and super stretchy pants!
Since I have had my two kids, my period has been a very uncomfortable and painful time for me. It actually makes me physically ill… I get such bad cramps, all-over body pain, headaches, low blood pressure, bloating, digestive upset and sometimes even a fever. To add to that, I get my period for so long and with a really heavy flow… sometimes I even have to take sick leave as it renders me unable to function in an office environment. I know I should see a medical professional, and these FAQ’s and the answers to them just confirmed that I need to put it higher on my priority list. In the meantime, I have been using the Always Maxi Pads and they have defied my expectations. There has been no leakage and they are extremely comfortable, even at night – and I have tried so many products out there that simply did not work. This is my honest opinion – it is the most comfortable pad I have ever used.
I asked on my Facebook and Instagram page for my readers (you!) to ask me the questions you are too afraid or embarrassed to ask anyone else. I think we sometimes feel that issues relating to your period does not justify an expensive visit to the gynecologist and as it is not something that is openly talked about – we never know what is normal and what isn’t. I am no medical expert, so I got the lovely Dr. Manasri Naiker to shed some light on these issues. Dr. Mana, as she is affectionately known as amongst her peers, is a dear friend and an incredible specialist Obstetrician and Gynecologist who owns her own practice at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont, Cape Town. I Trust Dr. Mana with my life – she was actually on call on the day that Knox was born and stood by me through the whole terrifying experience.
Question 1: So many women go through life having perfectly “normal” periods, but after pregnancy/giving birth their periods become heavy and is accompanied by extremely painful cramps. Why does this happen, and is it something we should have checked out by a medical professional?
A: A woman’s period can change over time as she ages. It is often irregular at the start (menarche) and at the end as she approaches menopause. Having a baby should not change ones period drastically. Persistently irregular and painful bleeding should be investigated. One can get polyps and fibroids (benign growths) especially in the late 30-years and 40-years.
Question 2: Most people experience cramping during their periods, at what stage does it become abnormal or something you should have checked out? What symptoms should we be looking out for that indicate that something might be wrong?
A: Cramps are experienced by most women but typically last for the first 2 to 3 days.
If they start before the period and persist throughout… it could be an indication of possible Endometriosis.
Question 3: What are the major causes for irregular periods? At what point should it raise alarm bells?
A: Persistent irregular periods such as skipping periods for 2 to 3 months at a time need to be investigated… most common reason for skipping your period is PCOS. Continuous bleeding could indicate a possible growth in the lining of the womb/ uterus.
Question 4: Why don’t we get our periods when we breastfeed? Is that normal?
A: It is perfectly normal. When we breastfeed we have high levels of prolactin which inhibits ovulation in about 80% of patients, thus resulting in them not getting their period.
Question 5: When will everything go “back to normal” after having a baby? Some women go for months without getting their periods, but still get the classic symptoms like PMS, etc?
A: The body functions returns to normal at 6 weeks post delivery. Your period, however, may only return once breast-feeding stops as mentioned above.
Question 6: What would cause PMS to get worse after pregnancy, what exactly is PMS and how can we “make it better”?
A: Pms may change with age more than related to pregnancy. It is the symptoms experienced due to fluctuating hormonal levels. Some women experience it worse than others and treatment should be addressed at specific symptoms. Eg. Evening primrose oil for breast tenderness or a low dose antidepressant for 2nd half of the cycle for severe mood swings. The combined oral contraceptive (The Pill) may also be beneficial to help curb PMS.
Question 7: For people who struggle with extremely heavy periods – what can they do to ease “the flow”?
A: Heavy menstrual bleeding needs to investigated. If no cause is found… The coc and the Mirena often help tremendously.
Question 8: What can women expect when it comes to their first period after pregnancy?
A: The first period after pregnancy is going to vary for each individual, but it should be close to that person’s baseline period.
Question 9: Is it normal to release large blood clots during your period?
A: Seeing blood clots is an indication of very heavy flow.
I found some of these answers incredibly insightful and interesting, and I truly hope they help you too. We need to equip ourselves with knowledge and the best products to boost our confidence. With confidence and education we can break the stereotype and defy expectations as women.
I will be booking my gynecologist appointment for as soon as possible, and that together with my Always Maxi pads – well, I wouldn’t have to be afraid to move anymore. A huge thank you to everyone who submitted their questions, to Dr. Manasri for taking the time to answer them and to Always, for being innovative brand dedicated to sustainability and social responsibility.
Did this help you? Are there any questions that you have been too afraid to ask? Please post them in the comment section below and we will try our best to shed some professional light on it. Also, did you try to hide your period from your parents when you were younger? DO you feel ashamed to talk about it and why do you think that is?
Dr Manasri Naiker
FCOG (SA) MBCHB (UKZN) MMED (O&G)
Practice No: 0655988
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Procter & Gamble for Always