We have been bleeding out of their vaginas for centuries, and yet it’s taken until 2023 for a period study to use actual blood to test the durability of menstrual products.
The study conducted by Doctor Bethany Samuelson Bannow from Oregon Health and Science University did not use water or saline solutions as previous studies had done, but actual blood.
Doctor Samuelson and a team of researchers wanted to find what the best solutions for heavy menstrual bleeding were, a side effect which affects one third of people who menstruate.
The study found menstrual discs or cups may actually be better for people with heavier flows during their period.
And while this is a bloody great discovery, it’s absolutely shocking that it has only been uncovered in 2023.
Menstrual discs, when compared to pads and tampons, are a reusable option when it comes to the time of the month. Not only is this better for the environment but it’s also a more affordable option.
Had period blood been used in this type of study years ago, this could have saved people with vaginas a bloody fortune.
And the fact that this study has only been published in 2023 makes it evident that there is clearly not enough research, money or conversation in the realm of women/people with vaginas healthcare.
Only in late 2022 did the federal government establish a Women’s Health Advisory Council to tackle medical misogyny within the healthcare systems.
Founder and managing director of charity Share the Dignity Rochelle Courtenay weighed in and said a lot of what is impacting the lack of research and outcomes surrounding menstrual health is the shame and stigma.
“There are still so many people who are living in the shame of menstruation,” she told PEDESTRIAN.
“Whether that be a period, whether it be menopause, whether it be endometriosis, whether it be infertility.
“All of those things are linked to the shame of not speaking about it at all.”
According to the Period Pride Report commissioned by Share the Dignity in 2021, 23,307 respondents out of 125,000 admitted to hiding things to do with their period.
This shame, no pun intended, has bled into many facets of our life.
In 2020, a Modibodi campaign which showed viewers blood-coloured items was banned by Facebook as it violated their terms. Only after Modibodi confronted Facebook did they reinstate the video.
The study headed by Dr. Samuelson Bannow also sought to establish what should be considered a normal period as a way to understand what products work best for different people.
How are we all going to figure out if there are any abnormalities in our period unless we begin speaking about them more openly?
I was 21 years old when I discovered that I was suffering from some intense side effects from my period.
I only found out by accident when I admitted to someone who worked in healthcare that I had taken multiple days off because of my crippling period cramps.
“If you’re taking days off because of your period, something isn’t right,” she had told me bluntly.
Others who suffer from gruelling period side effects could have endometriosis.
And the average time it takes to receive an endometriosis diagnosis is seven years. For context, you could graduate with an undergraduate, masters and even a PhD qualification in seven years.
Rochelle explained that this diagnosis takes so long because no one talks about their period.
“Students in schools are not talking about it amongst their friends to understand that their period is not normal in the first place,” she said.
“But there’s also a lack of education in schools about what is a normal period and what isn’t a normal period.”
This newest study is a game changer. It’s also just one study in the scheme of things.
The only way more is going to be done in the way of advocacy for people who menstruate is if we keep talking about our periods.
Rochelle said the best way to do this is to talk about menstruation around everyone.
“We must remove shame and stigma and we must educate boys and girls,” Rochelle told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“Without educating boys, we already create a shame piece for girls which then perpetuates into the rest of their lives.
“And boys believe it’s not their business and shouldn’t need to know that information… and those boys end up being somebody’s boss, somebody’s husband, somebody’s father, and they don’t have the education to equip them for life.”
And maybe by actually talking about our periods we will get the chance to see more groundbreaking studies like this one in our lifetime.
Emma Ruben is a Malaysian-born freelance journalist who menstruates. You can find her on Instagram.