If you are someone who is uncomfortable with thinking about the fact that I, and a large number of other women, periodically expel their unused uterus linings, please stop reading now. You have been warned. There will be blood.
This week is National Women’s Health Week. Their slogan is “Let’s talk!” and their logo is a delightful pink elephant in the room. As if I needed any more of an excuse to get behind an event… They had me at pink elephant!
I wanted to write about periods and working as an engineer because I when I was younger and more self-concious this was the type of topic of conversation that would have been useful to me, but the thought of bringing it up with anyone put my social anxiety into hyperdrive. But my mind was full of questions such as:
Is anyone else dealing with trying to change a tampon underground where there are a scattering of portaloos and your fingernails are caked in lead?
Does anyone else care that there are no sanitary bins for 40km?
How do you survive your day of walking around the middle of nowhere when you just want to curl up in a ball in your shower?
This was a continuation of my preference for not asking awkward questions and just making assumptions, and is the kind of thing which made 10 year-old Yvette dread growing up because she thought that grown up women had their period continuously for the rest of their lives (that is, without the three week blood-free gap). There was lots of teaching about getting your period but nothing about it stopping or it starting again after the next month…
Now that I’m more ballsy (ovary-y), I talk about whatever if I think it’s worth it. And I’ve been encouraged by some of the other awesome women I’ve met (shoutout to Betty Lovecat and Vivien Victory!) that there’s no such thing as TMI when it comes to women’s health. And now even Olympic swimmers talk about cramps on international television!
But, one thing that I was concerned about when highlighting that there are some women who don’t feel 110% for 5 to 7 days of every 28, was that this would give the patriachy yet another reason to discriminate against the “weaker sex”.
But basically, if you haven’t cottoned on by now, my mission in life it to prove that princesses make great engineers. And some princesses get PMS. And they deal with it incredibly well.
However, I might be getting defensive all too soon. Statistically it seems that succumbing to period-related presenteeism (rocking up to work even when you aren’t 100%) doesn’t even feature in the top twelve medical reasons for presenteeism (according to this article). Despite the hype, such as this article about period leave being a thing, a worker is significantly more likely to be underperforming due to depression, allergies or hypertension, than a visit from Aunty Flo
Put this together with the fact that the female engineering population is tiny, chances are having a watercooler conversation about having a tough period is probably going to be a rare occurrence.
So if you do happen to be a female, and a female of reproductive capacity, and a female who is adversely affected by her cycle, and you want to hear about how some other engineeresses have made their lives a little easier each month, read on.
We will be using the Engineering Hierarchy of Controls to examine this topic each day National Women’s Health Week.
Just a note that some of the health and medical things discussed here aren’t the right solution for every one and your doctor might have some really good reasons why it won’t work for you (like, you might have a stroke), so treat this information as if it were a casual gossip with a girlfriend and not tailored medical advice.
When I mentioned to an engineeress friend of mine that I was thinking of writing about life hacking my “moon time”, she gave me a look that said “way ahead of ya, sister” and revealed that she’d avoiding periods by taking her combined oral contraceptive back to back for years. (This is listed as a solution for period pain on the Jean Hailes for Women’s Health site.)
Theoretically, you can also do this with other types of combined contraceptive like Nuvaring. (The Nuvaring is one of the coolest medical gadgets I’ve come across recently. Imagine a colourless glow stick bracelet, filled with hormones, which is inserted somewhere you should never insert a glow stick. Because the location is so close to the target, the dosage can be smaller. Nuvaring is to combined oral contraceptive as Implanon is to mini pill. I can’t express how much of a difference not having to remember to take a pill has made on the quiet enjoyment of my life, while still knowing when crimson tide is nigh.)
Tomorrow, we’re looking at Substitution!