According to a recent study published by the British Medical Journal, painful periods or dysmenorrhoea effects more than 80% of women between the ages of 15 and 45.
In my clinic, I would say 95% of the patients I see, come to me with irregular or painful periods. Dysmenorrhoea is alarmingly common, so much so that many women don't even realise that it isn't normal to be experiencing this much discomfort each month.
"But doesn't every woman experience some level of pain associated with their periods? Isn't this just part of being a woman?"
No! Just because something is common, does not mean that it's normal. And it definitely doesn't mean we have to be enduring agonising pain once every four weeks and in some cases all month!
I will be writing a follow up to this post on how to treat dysmenorrhoea with herbal medicine, dietary and lifestyle advice but first I want to address a really important aspect of why I think so many women are experiencing this incredible pain each month.
I want to share a personal story which has given me insight into why I think this issue is so prevalent. I grew up in 'period positive' home, my mother always talked openly about her own period and encouraged me to do the same. She taught me how to use pads about 4 years before I actually got my period, just incase I was to get caught out at school. She also stocked up my back pack with sanitary products and spare undies for the same reason.
When I got my first period at 14, I was excited. I embraced my new found womanhood and felt really proud. But something changed over the following years, something that when I reflect back now, had been brewing from the moment I was born.
The feeling that my natural woman-ness, the natural rhythms and cyclical nature of my body and its functions, were something to be ashamed of, something to be hidden away.
Unlike in my house, periods weren't something that were ever talked about in public, in fact not only were they not talked about but they were something that was only ever whispered about in the most private of settings. Something that we were supposed to pretend didn't exist at all - this huge thing that happens one out of every four weeks! God forbid if a tampon were to fall out of your bag or even worse leaked onto your clothes.
I remember writing a letter to a pushy male sports teacher in high school explaining why a few of the girls didn't want to go to the swimming lessons. He was insisting everyone participate after declaring that 'periods weren't an excuse not to swim as there were 'inventions' for that very purpose.'
Argh my blood boils writing this because that letter got me in a lot of trouble and up until a couple of years ago I felt guilty and ashamed for being blunt and 'rude' in my letter. I carried his ignorance as my shame. But this doesn't even come close to the shame some women carry, particularly in cultures and religions where a woman on her period is excluded from temples and sacred celebrations and rituals.
The crux of what I want to get to here is that there is an underlying and subliminal conditioning in our culture that tells women that their periods are dirty or 'impure' and that it is not acceptable to speak openly and confidently them.
A 2019 study reported that 10 out of 100 women experience pain "so bad that they're unable to carry out their usual daily activities on one to three days every month."
So many women are suffering in silence due to the shame and embarrassment they feel about their symptoms coupled with the concern that they wont be taken seriously if they mention it.
Now more than ever we need to speak up and lift the taboo around the most natural thing in the world! For centuries we have internalised our shame about our natural and SACRED cycle and it has manifested as physical pain and severe discomfort that we are experiencing EVERY MONTH.
So I want to share a mantra that I have adopted ever since the realisation that despite my 'period positive' upbringing, I was still carry the limiting belief that I am 'not allowed' to bleed freely, that I should be embarrassed by my menstrual blood and keep it hidden away. Now every day I tell myself:
I AM ALLOWED
As woman we are conditioned to feel like we aren't allowed, like we aren't worthy. I'm calling it, I'm done! I'm calling it out for myself, for my patients and for you - enough is enough!
This mantra has rippled out beyond embracing my period into so many areas of my life as I begin to reclaim my power, my worth and my 'allowedness.'
I am allowed to bleed, I am allowed to speak about my pain, I am allowed to rest when I feel tired, I am allowed to eat when I'm hungry, I am allowed to experience pleasure, I am allowed to ask for what I need.
Say it with me 'I AM ALLOWED'
When we make peace with who we are, with our truth and our fullness, we allow our body to relax into its natural rhythms, to return to harmony. The body knows, so ladies, let us allow the body to do what it does best!
Stay tuned for my tips on treating dysmenorrhoea and other common reproductive issues with natural and herbal medicine. If you would like to book a 1:1 consultation with me, I am available via skype or in person in London, click HERE to book your appointment.