As a child, teen and young woman I was always really lucky with my periods, I would have a fairly average flow and I wouldn’t really suffer that badly with cramps – mood swings and weepiness were much more my jam. I started periods when I was 9 (I KNOW! I feel sorry for me too) and it all came as a bit of a shock really. My mum was always phenomenal with me, explaining everything and helping me navigate a world of pads, tampons and hiding them in your school bag so the boys don’t laugh at you. I think we’ve progressed a bit beyond that now, but not by all that much. Let’s be fair, how many of us are filled with dread when we know that our period is about to start? We’re still in a culture where we don’t really discuss periods all that much, still hide the tampon up the sleeve when we’re heading off to the toilet and still refusing to wear certain clothes during “shark week” just in case.
Shortly after I had Toby I decided that I wanted to use a form of contraception, but I wasn’t sure which one. I had been on the pill for years, and it was an absolute nightmare in terms of mood swings, weight gain and bad skin. I really felt like I needed something that was completely reliable but wasn’t going to pump me full of hormones, that was my hard line – no hormones. After a lot of humming and harring I chose to go with the copper coil and I can tell you today that it was categorically the WORST decision I have ever made for my health and feminine wellbeing.
After I started to have children and then with the combination of the copper coil, everything changed. The cramps increased and were an absolute nightmare, the bleeding became so heavy that I ended up anaemic. It’s always felt like one of those taboo things that people don’t discuss, a silent sufferance, something that I was alone with and that I was ashamed of. A natural function of my body, and yet I felt like I had no one to discuss it with or that it was just something I should put up with and get on with.
I distinctly remember taking the boys baby and toddler swimming. I had changed my tampon before I had gone swimming (as recommended) and, let’s be honest, the kids had a swim class and when you’re a mum you aren’t going to miss something for them because you feel rubbish on your period – it would be fine. Everything was fine during the class, everything was great, until I started to dry myself after swimming and noticed that I was starting to leak through my super heavy tampon onto my pale swim towel. Not only did I not bring an additional tampon with me because it was a one hour class but I was wearing a dress, which any woman who has had this kind of experience will know the fear that blood will be seen running down your legs like you’ve just stepped off the set of a horror movie. I can’t put into words the panic I felt whilst I was trying to usher Reuben to the car (he was only a toddler so his walk wasn’t speedy) with Toby in my arms. By the time I was home I had soaked through all of the toilet paper I had tried to use to protect myself on the way home. It completely ruined the morning spent with my babies. Completely. I dashed home and rang my husband, who had trotted off to his weekly football match, in tears declaring that I was so embarrassed and that all of the mums must have seen! It is one of my most prominent memories of baby swimming – isn’t that sad? Something I loved so much and that we had so much fun doing has forever had that mark on it.
This, if anything, is a pretty mild story compared to a lot of women who have experienced heavy periods, this was the moment at which I realised I couldn’t keep on with the copper coil and I went to see my GP. I wasn’t really offered much advice beyond “Your options are natural family planning or the copper coil if you want to avoid all hormones. Sorry!” from the GP with regards to contraception and when I explained that the copper coil made my periods so heavy I was ill, there wasn’t much help there either. After the copper coil, though my periods were much lighter, I still experienced far worse symptoms than I did before having children, leading me to question what would work for me to alleviate periods pain and hormonal imbalance.
It simply isn’t true that we should just accept heavy periods and thanks to Wear White Again I can see that there are so many more treatments available to women who suffer with heavy periods, more than I ever imagined. This isn’t something that we should just accept, feel ashamed of or “deal with”. It’s a treatable medical condition that more than 1 in 5 women have suffered with at one point in their lives, and we don’t need to. The website has a wealth of knowledge about what is and isn’t “normal” for a period, what could be causing your heavy periods and even how to talk to your GP about them. Research has shown us that 50% of women with heavy periods never approach their GP – they carry on with pain and anxiety. That’s not right.
You can take the Wear White Again questionnaire too to see if you suffer with heavy periods that are worth talking to your GP about.
You can also find out more information here if you need it: Talking Heavy Periods guide.