I wasn’t totally sure I was going to post this blog because it’s rather personal. A blog about someone else’s bodily functions might be too much for some readers. Considering there is so much shame and stigma around menstruation, some of you have stopped reading already but perhaps that’s the very reason why I should keep going. I want Alice (6) to grow up NOT feeling embarrassed about what her body is capable of and celebrate her period like I did this week!

I haven’t had a ‘proper’ period for 5 years. Once Alice was born I was advised by my doctor to use Mirena - a 5 year contraceptive implant that would not only stop me from getting pregnant but also lighten or even stop my period entirely. This was good news for someone who had just had quite a horrific natural birth and the IUD did exactly what it said it would do. Once the hormones had seeped into my body I didn’t really get a proper period again.

It was bliss, for years, then it wasn’t. It started a few years ago when I started to run. I run 3 times a week and have been for about 3 years now so you’d expect there to be an improvement in fitness and stamina. Most of the time there was but every so often there are days I was so slow and running was so hard it was like my first time all over again. I felt like I was back to square one.

I eventually noticed that there was a pattern to these slower days but because I wasn't getting my period, there was nothing obvious to link them. They were always unexpected and they just floored me. Coincidentally I read an article about elite athletes and periods earlier this year which explained a few things.

Firstly, and not surprisingly, not much is known about women’s bodies during ovulation. Since Science has been a man's game, only 5% of exercise science studies focus exclusively on women. We’re in the ‘too hard’ basket. 

What we do know is that the menstrual cycle can be divided into two main phases (there are many, many sub phases), the Follicular phase (prior to ovulation) and the Luteal phase (post-ovulation). The actual period is at the start of the Follicular phase.

Studies have surprisingly found that women’s ‘recovery’ times are better during the Follicular phase, even during their period, while the body is in oestrogen mode rather than progesterone mode which happens in the Luteal phase.

While this information explains why I have a regular lull in performance on my morning run, elite athletes are using this knowledge to tailor their training programs so they can lean into what will suit their body depending on their cycle. Maybe not for my running but certainly for professional sports women this fine tuning could be the difference between first and second place. 

Professional female athletes have been more vocal about periods and the impact they have on their bodies - especially during competition. Wimbledon has finally allowed female tennis players to wear ‘dark shorts’ during matches rather than the compulsory full, stark white outfit that’s been tradition since 1877. Athletes rightly complained that worrying about bleeding out (as I call it) during a match was the last thing they needed to be doing. It goes without saying that a man certainly came up with the ‘tennis whites’.

A few weeks ago I got a message from the doctor saying I needed to get my Mirena removed and replaced if I wanted to keep using it. After not having my period for 5 years, I kind of wanted it back. Earlier this year I had read Forty favours the Brave  where they spoke about menopause and pre-menopause. This was the first time I’ve ever considered that one day I won’t get my period and I panicked. I all of a sudden really wanted it back. 

I got my period when I was about 13 years old - quite a late bloomer from memory. The education around it at my all girls school was that everyone gets it, deal with it privately and here’s some free pads. Even though everyone got their periods, it was a very solo journey that wasn’t really discussed. Heaven forbid you got your period at school and you had to ask to borrow a tampon from someone - sorry pad, tampons were for more mature women.

During my teens and 20’s periods were just so inconvenient. Even when I tried to control it with the contraceptive pill it felt like it had a mind of its own. I got really bad period pain, nothing compared to some women but my ultimate goal was to get rid of it. I barely got it during my 30’s as I was pregnant with Frank at 32, then Alice at 33. I had mostly fought against my period until we wanted to start a family and all of a sudden it took on a completely different role in my life. 

During my 20’s I was indifferent. Unless of course I accidentally missed a pill in conjunction with a wild weekend, then getting your period was a relief. When you're trying to get pregnant, getting your period can be devastating. We were very lucky that starting a family was fairly swift but I have many dear and beautiful friends that have had years of trying to get pregnant where each period brought with it immense sadness. There are also many women who dread their period. They bring debilitating pain. Everyone has their own period experiences. 

Today I want to celebrate my period. 

The realisation that I certainly have less periods ahead of me than have come before makes them more meaningful. I want to celebrate the fact that my body is capable of this incredible biological process and that this will one day, come to an end. My first proper period in 5 years made me feel proud. It made me feel strong. It made me feel grounded. It made me want to change how I want to talk about periods because I want Alice, as well as Matt and Frank for that matter, to be cool about periods. I want Alice to be excited about getting her period and not scared or ashamed. 

I have no idea what period talk is like now amongst young people. The 20 year olds I know are so much more confident and proud of their bodies than I’ve ever been. I hope this coincides with more openness and transparency around menstruation. I’ll end with a hysterical list of period euphemisms that made me laugh. Just say period. Period.

Blue day (Japan)

Crimson wave/tide (Australia and New Zealand)

Strawberry week (Austria, Hungary, Latvia, Norway, and Switzerland)

Checking into the Red Roof Inn (USA)

Red wedding (USA)

Tomato juice (Germany)

The carrots are cooked (France)

The little clown with a nose bleeding (France)

Red Sea (Italy)

Defrosting the steak (Spain)

Emma  (Germany)

The English Have Landed (France, Belgium, and Canada)

I’m With Chico (Brazil)

There Are Communists in the Funhouse (Denmark, Estonia, Canada, and Sweden)

I’m With Andrew. The One That Comes Every Month (Central and South America)

Little sister has come (China)

The cranberry woman is coming (Germany)

Birthing a blood diamond (Unknown)

The Red Badge of Courage (USA)

Red Wedding (USA)

Girl Flu (Unknown)

Video of the week
Olivia Colman reads a hilarious seventeenth century letter from a wife to her husband
Podcast of the week
Smartless: Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood
Font of the week
Flaneur: Font of the week by Fred Fonts

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