Multiple times a week on consult calls with new clients, after we book a date for their first session, I hear some version of, “Oh! I’m on my period! Is that okay? Probably not, right?”
I completely understand the nature of the question and it makes total sense to me that they ask it. If they’re a new pelvic health patient, we would like to do an external and internal assessment, and they’re thinking about how the internal assessment would go on their menses.
And the answer is, as long as they are comfortable, we can definitely still examine internally. If they’re uncomfortable, and would rather not, we can do a thorough external exam. Additionally, we have organic cotton pads, tampons, and liners from TOP the organic project in each room. (I’m also a big menstrual cup and period underwear fan, so feel free to ask me about those if you’re curious!)
But this question still always strikes something discordant in me. It reminds me that even though half the world menstruates (or has menstruated), periods are still accompanied by so much shame and discomfort and extra lengths taken on the part of the menstruating person.
I want to clarify that I do not think our patients are ashamed of their periods or that their question intimates shame. I do, however, think it shows that we ask the menstruating person to bend and twist themselves to fit “polite” society instead of the other way around.
When a woman asks if she can still come to an appointment on her period, I think, “But, of course! Most of our patients are women. Many women menstruate. WE menstruate. We get it, and we will do whatever we need to to make YOU feel comfortable.”
This reminded me of a story from when I was a teenager and newly menstruating person. I had graduated from the pads I used exclusively in the 8th grade to tampons now that I was a high schooler and really didn’t want to have leaks.
I slept over at a friend’s house and left my used tampon applicator (in the sleeve) in her bathroom trash can as anyone would…
She called me and told me afterwards that her mother was furious with me for not hiding the period product and burying it in the kitchen or outside trash. Her mother, unbeknownst to me, demanded that all period products be absolutely hidden.
My stomach dropped, my face flushed, and I just didn’t know what to say. I felt sick. I didn’t understand how someone could be mad at me for having a period and throwing the period product trash away (neatly, I might add).
I did not go back over to her house for weeks, and I never looked at her mother the same way again. I am a sensitive person and I have often taken criticism from authority figures personally. I don’t deny those sensitivities colored that experience for me.
But those sensitivities and that experience as a whole also inspired me to never hide my period products again and to be very open with my husband about my period.
I talk to my husband about how much the shame around menstruation upsets me, about how teenage girls (and grown women) hide pads and tampons in their sleeve when they have to go replace one in a restaurant or somewhere else public. I tell him about the incident with my friend’s mom, and how I never will hide anything in our house, and how we will educate our son on periods so he will be knowledgeable about what his mamma and friends and aunties experience every month (seriously, how can you answer a child’s question about where babies come from WITHOUT discussing menstruation?).
And when bloody pads, or the adult diapers I wore after our son’s birth, pile up in our bathroom trash, he takes them downstairs and empties them without a word or a look, but always with a sense of care. I can tell it’s his act of solidarity with me…like him disposing of those period products is his way of saying “I don’t and can’t know what this feels like, but I will carry and hold you throughout this tender time every month as much as I can.”
I definitely have mixed feelings towards my period. It can feel like such a nuisance sometimes, but when I stop to think about it, I am grateful for my period. My period is an essential part in the process that allowed me to carry, nourish, and birth my son. Gentle easy periods tell me my hormones are in balance and that my body is happy.
Wherever you are currently in your relationship with your period, please know that we, at OrthoPelvic, want to accommodate and support YOU and your period. You do not need to show up any kind of way with us other than ready to work!
Be empowered in education (and menstruation)!
OrthoPelvic Physical Therapy