Ida Tin, CEO and co-founder of woman-led digital health startup, Clue (www.helloclue.com)
Menstrual health is, unfortunately, still seen as a taboo topic. Despite the fact that 50 percent of the population spends many decades menstruating, a worrying number of women and girls feel unable to speak openly about their periods, their fertility and the menopause. Here are just a few reasons for why speaking confidently and openly about our menstrual health is essential:
Periods are normal: Half the world’s population experiences a menstrual cycle for, on average, 40 years. Not only will almost all of us start our period, we will likely experience PMS, interrupted cycles and the menopause. Every one of these stages can be scary, but if you talk about them with your friends, family and/or doctors, you will be able to share advice, openly discuss concerns and, ultimately, feel more in control of your body.
Most euphemisms are dated and insulting: From ‘the curse’, to ‘on the blob’ to lines such as ‘I don’t trust anything that bleeds for a week without dying’, euphemisms and jokes about periods are simply not funny. Allowing these phrases to be used makes periods sound like profanity, and reinforces the idea that menstruation is something that we should be ashamed of. Lets start calling our period our period, and accepting nothing less from those around us.
We can and should learn from one another: Did you know that a 28 day cycle is the global average, but that a healthy cycle can really be far shorter, or far longer? Or that ovulation does not occur on the same day for every woman? Similarly, up to 80% of us will experience at least one premenstrual symptom, but that 20-32% of women find symptoms of PMS so challenging that they disrupt their daily lives?
It is important to understand that what is ‘normal’ for you might not be for your mum, sister or best friend, and that not everyone suffers from PMS in the same way. By discussing your unique patterns, you will better understand the cycles of those around you and be better equipped to share advice with other women.
Periods are an indicator of your sexual health: Your period is your body’s way of letting you know that things are working as they should. If you notice an irregularity, let someone know. Too many women feel too embarrassed to go to the doctor when they notice that something is amiss, and this can lead to devastating consequences. By talking openly about your menstrual health, you will inspire others to follow suit.
If we talk, we can plan: We can proactively track our cycles, either via an app or using a pen and paper. Get a group of friends together and challenge each other to track your periods. You can then identify the regularity of your own cycle, as well as compare each other’s cycles and symptoms.
Similarly, we can proactively track the arrival of menopause. Perimenopause can start up to 10 years before your last menstrual period and irregular periods are characteristic of this time in addition to the classic menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. By understanding these signs, and discussing them with other women, you will immediately feel more in control.
Because why shouldn’t we talk about our menstrual health: It is simple, really. We are entitled to speak openly about our bodies, and should feel empowered to do so, without fear of embarrassment, prejudice or insult.
About Clue: Clue is a woman-led digital health startup based in Berlin, Germany. Launched in 2013, Clue is the world’s best period tracker and fertility app. Clue’s mission is to empower women to be in charge of their lives while moving science and health research forward. For more, visit www.helloclue.com or follow @clue on Twitter.