Ladies, the statistics say it all, women’s gynecological health issues are appalling!
176 million world wide have endometriosis.
1 in 10 women have PCOS.
70% of all women with have at least one fibroid by the age of 60.
60% of us over 60 will have a hysterectomy (starting as early as 25-35 these days). As many 75% of these are unnecessary.
30% of all women aged 15-40 are on a hormonal birth control (over half is due to non-contraceptive needs a.k.a to put a band aid on a hormonal imbalance)
(Disclaimer even if you aren’t included in those stats the information in this article is for you! Specifically to keep you out of them!)
This stats tell a grim picture about the status of women’s gynecological health world wide. That’s the bad news.
So what’s the good news!
The younger generation is on it! There is a menstrual health revolution going on and I am so happy to be a part of amazing teens, young women and even those of us entering into our crone time working towards better health for women. Better health for women means more empowered health, women not only knowing more about their bodies but also talking about it!
I want to share just a FEW of the teens and women who are up to amazing work in this menstrual health revolution!
Bryony Farmer: Bryony is a TEENAGE girl from the United Kingdom. Her path on the menstrual health revolution started when she contracted Lyme disease. Lyme left her bed ridden, which made changing pads/tampons incredibly hard. She discovered the menstrual cup which lead her to get deeply in touch with her own body and inspired her to share and educate other teens. She founded the company and website Precious Stars, along with a YouTube channel to help educate young girls about their periods in an empowering and accessible way from a peer.
Nadya Okamoto: Nadya runs the organization Period. The Menstrual Movement. She started this organization after her family unexpectedly found themselves homeless in her teen years. She saw a first hand account of how the lack of access to feminine hygiene products affected homeless women in countless ways. She crusades to make access to menstrual health information and products a right and not a privilege.
Alissa Vitti: Alissa Vitti is a POWERHOUSE. She has taken her own diagnosis of PCOS in her early 20’s and challenged the there was nothing that could be done other than birth control pills or a hysterectomy. She spent years of research and personal trials, deeply connecting to the healing power of food and the endocrine system. She helps MILLIONS of women each year do the “impossible” and heal from PCOS and other menstrual health issues.
Megan White Mururia: Founder of the ZanaAfrica Foundation an organization that helps Kenyans girls stay in school by providing them with free sanitary pads (prior to this organization the girls were missing up to 6 weeks of school per year and dropping out at high rates all due to lack of menstrual health care products). She is not only providing access to products she is showing the girls that they are worth it and that this cycle doesn’t have to hinder there life, she is opening the conversation.
These women are calling B.S on the notion that there is nothing that we can do about the abysmal women’s health statistics and disease. Not only are many of them doing their own research they are also being fearless about changing the narrative! They are talking out loud what cross culturally we have kept secretive for so long. The more we talk the more we can bring focus change occurs.
So…HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Back in the day when I was a kid NO ONE in my friend group, town, just NO ONE was talking about periods! As an adult I chalked this up to being raised in a small town in middle America. However, I have come to research and experience first hand that well over 50% of the adult female population STILL don’t want to talk to ANYONE about their periods or menstrual health issues (even health care providers). They state that they don’t feel heard, they don’t trust and they don’t believe there is anything that can be done other than a pill or surgery.
One of the reasons that so many of us as women don’t know about our own cycles traces all the way back to actually getting our cycles.
In my years as a midwife and menstrual health educator I have heard countless stories of surprise, embarrassment, shame, confusion and ignoring of the start of the young girls period. When a girl started menstruating there was little communication and life moved on. These are just a few short versions of stories I have heard OVER and OVER again.
“It just wasn’t talked about”
“I had no idea what was happening to me. I felt scared and alone.”
“I was given a pad (slid under the door) and told it would happen every month and that was it”
“I hid it for a full year; I was so embarrassed”
“My mom told me that my life was basically over and that I better get used to feeling horrible every month”
Let’s take a good look what the ramifications of that introduction into menstruation might be to the over all menstrual health life cycle.
From the very beginning we are disconnected from the cycle! We never see it as a curious thing that occurs, let alone as something we could and should have knowledge about. We experience it as a few days of “bleeding” that is annoying and that we grin and bare, along with all of the annoying and sometimes painful things that come with it. We aren’t given the understanding on how this cycle occurs all throughout the month and affects ALL THE THINGS! We aren’t given the knowledge that what we do, eat, how we exercise and so many more things directly impact our cycle. It is rare that someone says our cycle doesn’t have to hurt, to come with pain and that we don’t need to wish it away. In fact, has anyone ever told you that your cycle is actually your bodies way of communicating with you on what is going on internally and is even an indicator on how your overall health is? Thinking about it like this makes it seem POWERFUL.
Now imagine a world where….
Can you imagine if when (or even before) you got your period someone was open and honest with you? What if your introduction into this time of your life was honored? What if you were given information about how important menstrual health is for your entire life? Heck what if you were just given some information about it in a way that promoted the normalcy of the event rather than talking about it secretively?
The truth is that we have so much more “control” over our bodies than we ever realize. Really the control or power that I am talking about is coming from being able to understand our own bodies and then have supportive tools to respond. To no longer be reactive to them and push away any pain we have by taking pills (that end up putting a band aid on the root cause and making it worse in the long run) or pushing away uncomfortable emotions and chalk it up to “PMS”, rather than digging into what PMS emotions are telling us month after month.
THAT’S WHY WE NEED A MENSTRUAL HEALTH REVOLUTION
And you need you to be an empowered participant!
Many of the women highlighted in this article and that take part in this work came to this calling through their own experience of disease. The thing about the revolution is that we are asking all girls and women to show up and be empowered by reframing their thoughts, curiosity and knowledge about their cycles. We want girls starting their cycles and women who are at every stage to know about their bodies so that we change those stats!
For me knowing about our bodies is as necessary as breathing and eating (in fact so much of our hormones are actually regulated by our diet). If you feel disconnected, uninformed about your body or want greater connection than make sure to check out Empowered Menstrual Health; becoming an empowered participant in the revolution by just knowing more about the intricacies of your own body (whether or not it is suffering from dis-ease).