Did you know that there is a Museum of Menstruation?

It is run by a man and is actually really interesting – for example, women now have about 400 periods in their lifetimes. Our female ancestors had only about 100 periods, due to constant pregnancy and breastfeeding. They were housebound when they had their periods because there was no great way of coping with it. Today women also start their periods earlier and enter menopause later so we menstruate for longer.

Joshua Yospyn
Joshua Yospyn

I used to hate these things!

In developed countries, menstruating women (without menstrual problems that is) can live their lives normally. In developing countries women are often shunned, at risk of infection, and unable to carry on a normal life for a week or more a month. Not because of medical issues, but because they do not have access to the products we take for granted. This is called period poverty.

In many African countries, girls are unable to attend school when they have their periods because they do not have access to sanitary products. Almost 30% of girls end up dropping out of school because they miss about a week of school per month. In South Africa though, there are many projects that get these products out to many people who need them. In some schools, the boys restock the sanitary cupboards to teach them about periods. There are still many men out there who are both ignorant and afraid of women’s periods.


I also really admire Arunachalam Muruganantham (below), who sacrificed a great deal (family, money, social class) to bring affordable sanitary products to women in India, even testing them himself because he could not find anyone who would test them for him. He now empowers women by educating them on how to produce, name and market affordable sanitary protection for fellow Indian women, creating job opportunities at the same time. The documentary Menstrual Man is about him. I think he is WONDERFUL!

I started out with the awful sanitary belt, then pads with adhesive strips came out, freeing me from it. Later I moved to tampons, until I had an complete hysterectomy at 33, due to uncontrollable bleeding which was destroying my life and making me more and more ill. I was in a developing country at the time, in a town with no specialist doctors, and my doctor was an elderly man. Hysterectomy was the first and only option I was given. If I had been in Sweden, I am sure I would have had better help and been able to have children. But life is too short for ifs.

Nowadays you have menstrual cups and period underwear which probably would not have coped with my flow but which have revolutionised that time of the month. I wish I had been able to try them.

In English euphemisms for period are:

  • Aunt Flo is Visiting
  • Being Unwell
  • Bloody Mary
  • Cousin Red
  • Devil’s Juice
  • Eve’s Curse
  • Got the Painters in
  • My Kitty’s Bleeding
  • Nature’s Course
  • On the Rag
  • Period/having a period
  • Ragging
  • Redrum
  • Riding the Cotton Pony
  • Riding The Stick
  • Shark Week
  • Surfing the Crimson Wave
  • That time of month
  • The Crimson Tide
  • The Monthly Curse
  • The Monthly Volcano of Doom
  • Women’s Trouble

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

10 thoughts

  1. As a man I have experienced none of the symptoms of periods myself. However, I have had many girlfriends (a few wives too) and some of them had really heavy flows and couldn’t leave the house without a tampon or pad. I was often sent to the shops early to get sanitary products for them and never once did I feel embarrassed about buying these. It should be something a man would do willingly for his partner when she is bleeding.

  2. Poor, poor man! I am shocked that a man would go to such lengths to improve women’s lives, especially for something that is so unique to women…

    I also had an extremely heavy flow. I would go through a pack of Always (the purple ones) per half day… I suffered from anemia and hair loss and my gynecologist put me on the Pill, which helped with the blood flow but caused me severe headaches for half of the month. She scared me to death by telling me to stop taking the Pill right away!… My other two options were to either take the mini Pill or a hysterectomy. I tried the mini Pill and I haven’t been bleeding since I took it! And I got my life (and my hair!) back!… I am now 46 and I think I am in perimenopause. The gynecologist is happy for me to keep taking the mini Pill until I am 50, so that’s what I will do!

    I had always wondered how women dealt with periods before the pads that we know now were invented. I didn’t even know about the belts and pad… That must have been so uncomfortable…

    1. I think women used to ‘free bleed’ hundreds of years ago when they were at home way back when they did not have many periods. In Africa, rural women used to use leaves, which strikes me as really unhygienic. My flow was awful. I used to have to sit on the toilet all night and use multiple tampons and pads at the same time even if I just wanted to pop to the shops. I used to regularly faint and was grey in colour almost all the time. In the end I developed severe anaemia and was unable to go onto the Pill because I had very high blood pressure and my parents had both had strokes by the time they were in their thirties. I could never have children but my whole life changed when I was not bleeding for three weeks of the month. I used to just have mild cramps but the bleeding was unbelievable.

      1. Wow, that’s really tough… I didn’t pass out but I could hardly leave the house… And once I was feeling recovered, my period would come back again!… I had excruciating pain. I could take 6 ibuprofen tablets and it wouldn’t even make a dent on the pain… I was also thinking that maybe leaves were used for those who didn’t have any extra cloth to spare… One day, I bought a pack of Always and they were so amazing, a lot more than usual because they didn’t leak, so I started reading the packaging to make sure I got the exact same one the next time I would in the drug store and it turns out they were incontinence pads… That explained a few things!… What a curse periods are… It just shows just how resilient women are!

      2. If I had thought of it at the time, I would have worn adult diapers, though they were probably not as good way back then. Not being able to sleep through the night really affected my quality of life. Looking back, I am not sure how I managed. And the (male) doctors I saw used to just brush me off.

      3. I think poverty and lack of information led to some really unhygienic solutions to the period problem. Another HUGE problem in North Africa is female genital mutilation which means huge problems during menstruation, but that is a whole other hobby horse of mine. In Sweden, almost 100% of Somali women have this done to them. It’s going to be reclassified as men’s violence against women, hopefully, and then there can be proper consequences.

  3. In Scotland we have free sanitary products available in the toilets of schools and other government buildings to help prevent period poverty.

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