#SexColumn: The menstrual cycle matters

Menstrual health and education continue to matter. Picture: Supplied

Menstrual health and education continue to matter. Picture: Supplied

Published May 24, 2024


By Sharon Gordon

On May 28, the day before we head to the polls in South Africa, the world will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Menstrual Health Day. I am involved in an NPO – Dignity Dreams – that has been operating in this space for just as long.

Instead of it getting easier, I believe it is getting harder to get the message across and raise money for all the good we do in this space. We are bored. Do we really have to talk about this again? Are there not more pressing issues to address?

I am mindful of all those issues, especially when I cast my vote. Yes, during Covid it was very important to feed the hungry and the “tenderpreneurs”! The truth is there will always be causes that need attention, and donors will always follow what I like to call “the flavour of the month”.

Menstrual health and education continue to matter. Every year, thousands of young girls in your community start their period, not knowing what is happening to them. Parents are still not talking about it nor are they addressing sexual health. So, while we are bored with the same conversation, there is an entire generation of young women who have not heard it all before.

Period poverty, the inability to afford proper menstrual health care ranging from purchasing products, education, contraception, pain management and understanding, is at an all-time low.

The world is finally recognising that the menstrual cycle continues into old age, so menopause is starting to be placed on the agenda.

If you think we know nothing about sex and the sexual response, wait until we start talking about menopause. Very little research has been done on the subject. We don’t know how different races experience menopause or what we can do during our fertile years to manage menopause later in life.

Women don’t talk about the discomfort of either menstruation or menopause. Here, I hold my hand up and say, “Mea culpa.” I am old school and believe that if you want to run with the big dogs, then you must learn to piss in the long grass. If you want to rise to the top of your career, there isn’t time to complain about period pain and there certainly isn’t a place to change after a particularly nasty hot flush requires you to change your clothes.

We don’t talk about it because we are terrified that we will be seen as not up to the task. We joke about the loss of libido and brain fog. We hide behind the humour, but the truth is we are terrified we are losing our minds.

My children have started keeping keys safe from me because this year alone I have lost three bunches of keys, costing thousands to replace locks and remotes. I keep insisting I put them in a safe place, I just can’t remember where that is.

I am exceptionally pleased that my bleeding years are over. They were uncomfortable and difficult to manage when I was travelling for business or experiencing a gush in the middle of a board meeting when I was the only woman. And I remember how painful my breasts were when we were doing physical team building.

I too never said a word.

This menopause thing will be the same journey if I don’t start standing up for myself and admitting my limitations. Writing this article may be the first step.

I think I’ll start a social media and WhatsApp group where we can all talk about it and share ideas on how we can manage it. Let me know if you’re interested. My email is [email protected].

I’ll start. When you are having a hot flush in the middle of the night and you can’t jump into a pool, lie on the bathroom floor if it has tiles. It lowers your body temperature very quickly.

The next challenge is getting back to sleep. If you have a trick, please let me know.

In closing, the menstrual cycle matters. It is the most important biological system for women. Without it, not one of us would be here!

Don’t stop talking about it. Keep supporting the organisations that educate and ensure young women have products. And because I can, please support www.dignitydreams.com. They manufacture and distribute washable, eco-friendly sanitary pads.

On May 28, do something to help a woman who may be having a rough day because her hormones are wreaking havoc. I hope I can remember.

Saturday Star

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