Periods: My Experience & Thoughts
A decade on from first learning about the birds, the bees and the monthly cycle of the female body, my older self is slightly less grossed out by it all. I mean every woman goes through it, but it's not really talked about in great detail is it? Like we kind of complain about it maybe, but gone are the days when we used to talk in hushed tones in the school courtyard about who got their period first and whether the moon has anything to do with it and if any of the boys have noticed and that your best friend is the one that has a synced period with you. Now I'm not saying we need to revert back to the sleepover gossip, but there were many times growing up I would have liked some anecdotal and open chat that wasn't from the sealed section of Dolly. So here goes my personal experience and the ways I've dealt with my period. Of course I have to say a disclaimer that this is not at all professional advice, I simply want to share my story, and maybe it will help some of you form your own opinions or understand another perspective. I am not for or against the methods mentioned below, just an opinion and my experience. Let's hook in eh!?
Pill to IUD: The How & Why
Despite my desperate enthusiasm for boobs and a period, I was a late bloomer, and now I can't walk 10 metres without a bra. Go figure. For a year or two I used a varying combination of pads and tampons, but consistently suffered from severe cramps, lower back pain and being on the verge of tears for about a week. With a history of heavy periods in the family, I eventually saw a GP and looked at the options I had to help lessen the severity of the monthly pain I was going through. In the end I opted for the pill, and was on various different brands for several years. I won't name brands because this is like skincare, jelly lollies and so many other things; it is a very personal preference and really comes down to trial and error. Sadly there is no one way of knowing exactly which one will be right for you, I just made sure I had a really good chat with my GP about it so she could help inform my decision based on my needs, which was essentially lessening the intensity of my period. The change in pill would usually occur because after roughly a year, my body started overriding the oestrogen hormone in the pill and basically decided to start a period whenever it felt like it, rather than me being able to control it. So it got to the point last year where the pill wasn't really having any effect except contraceptively (I don't think that's a word but let's roll with it). I also found that I was getting more bloated and moody than the previous year, and as I was having to use specifically branded pills, it was increasingly costly.
So after talking to my GP about it, I made the decision to explore what an IUD would involve. I was more inclined to go down this road because it has less of a hormonal effect than the rod (according to my GP), and I liked the idea of having something more localised to the area in question and reducing my menstrual cycle to an internal thing i.e. no bleeding. I'll reiterate again that this is a very personal choice and it's important to chat to your doctor about it.
While I didn't find any personal blog posts on the matter, this fact sheet and video from Family Planning Victoria is an excellent resource for information and helping explain what to expect from the process. I decided that the hormonal IUD was what was best going to suit me and my period concerns, and booked into my family GP (she specialises in Women's Health so was able to insert it, some may not be able to but will be able to refer). Now this is where it also becomes very much a personal experience; some of my friends had said the pain of getting it inserted was horrendous, whereas I didn't exactly find it pleasant but the pain was really minimal (the pain is from having to open the cervix to put the IUD in). It's really like an extended pap smear test. It can also differ if you've already had children, can depend on your age etc etc. The few days afterwards I felt sore, but no more than I did for a period. After that, I did have some spotting and then had a period in January but it was much lighter. I did have *super* sore boobs for a few weeks but the bloating certainly improved and I feel more in check with my emotions. I certainly love not having to deal with a heavy flow (sorry if tmi but just being honest k).
The biggest and I suppose more negative effect I've noticed is my skin. It is much more uneven, bumpy and pimply in comparison to being on the pill, and was something I wasn't quite expecting. But not having a period, not having to remember to take the pill and not having extra concentrated hormones in my body is worth it for me. It is also much more cost effective than the pill I had been on. There are pros and cons to different contraceptive methods, and the main way I noticed the different changes from the pill and the IUD was simply writing it down - jotting down how I felt every few days gave me something to look back on and helped inform my decision. I think it's really important to consider all of your options and seek advice from different people but especially medical professionals about this topic too. As I said, it's a very personal choice!
Making a Conscious Choice with Your Period
Now if you aren't planning to go down the hormonal IUD road, there are definitely some ways to have a more ethical period. Yes, even your menstrual cycle can be more thoughtful towards planet and people!
While I haven't personally tried it, I have heard very good things about the menstrual cup. A few of the people I've spoken to about this have said it took a little bit to get used to but now they're complete converts. Over 660 million disposable feminine products end up in landfill every year in Australia ALONE. This is a really small and simple change you can make that has a big and positive impact! Reusable, cost-effective and much more sustainable. If you try it and feel like letting me know how it goes I'm all ears!
If you're not quite there yet, the TOM Organic range is free from chemicals, pesticides, bleaches, chlorine, dyes, polypropylene coatings and perfumes - pretty important for our lady bits! I personally found the quality better than other brands and although a little more expensive, the transparency and authenticity of the brand made it worth it for me, as well as the fact that they're 100% biodegradable. They offer subscription options which is awesome and they have a really cool podcast. Have you tried any other period options? Let me know in the comments! x