The new blood drop emoji is meant to signal a shift in the way we talk about periods online. We’re less ashamed to talk openly about our time of the month than previous generations, but the stigma surrounding menstruation still exists in a more subtle form that affects everything from the words we use when describing our period to how we ask for help when something doesn’t seem right.
Lucy Russelll of Plan International UK recently told the BBC that the shame and silence surrounding periods can lead to serious health consequences, while Claire Best of The Red Box Project highlighted the struggle young girls from male single parent families face, often being too embarrassed to ask for sanitary products.
In the spirit of normalising conversations about menstruation, we’re delving into the ins and outs of having trouble sleeping while on your period, as well as taking a look at how women in the ‘roaring twenties’ felt about their periods products, from DIY sanitary care to ultra discreet packaging.
Why do I have trouble sleeping near my period?
Many of us expect to feel moodier, slower and more tired during our periods. These symptoms can be the result of a host of period related bodily functions, from a change in hormone levels to the loss of iron that comes with losing blood. But a new study by the Endocrine Society has discovered that disrupted sleep patterns in the run up to your period could also be to blame.
Women’s sleep patterns were studied a few days before their period, known as the luteal phase, and at the start of their period. The researchers’ findings showed that women were more likely to wake up during the night and lie in bed awake longer before falling asleep during this phase.
Hormone fluctuations are most likely to blame for this shift in sleeping habits, while eating a restrictive diet in the run up to your period could make these symptoms worse. Giving yourself more time to unwind and prepare for bed, or meditating in the evenings can help to offset these sleep woes. Because periods are hard enough, right? A sweet sleep is needed when your womb feels like it’s somersaulting inside you.
Period care in the 20s was anything but practical
You might know her as the mum the Cheaper by the Dozen book was based on, but years and years before her children penned that novel, psychologist and engineer Lillian Moller Gilbreth ran a management consultancy firm. They were hired by Johnson & Johnson to analyse the period care market in a bid to make their pad, Modess the nation’s go to pad over the competitor product that came first, Kimberly Clark’s Kotex.
Lillian and her firm questioned thousands of women from teenagers and college students to business women. They found that it was common for most girls to make their own DIY menstruation kits while living at home with their parents, only branching out into commercial products once the went to university or began working.
May Kits contained a cheap gauze and paper filling that women were expected to construct into pads themselves at home. They were impractical and often fell apart. Mi Ladi Daintis were washable menstrual pads that most women in the study complained were too wide. They also didn’t like the idea of having to wash them afterwards. Even the first complete disposable pad Kotex, which was meant to be a small revolution of sorts, was found to be “too thick, too long, too stiff, too large”.
The women in the study also overwhelmingly desired discreet packaging and discreet period care products, with attractive designs and colours being seen as off putting and something that would draw attention to their periods. Though just like women today, they wanted a product that provided the best protection over everything else.
Interestingly, some of the period care concepts that were seen as impractical in the 20s are making a comeback in the form of washable and DIY pads, spurred on by our desire to be more environmentally conscious. We’ve entered an era of embracing and even celebrating menstruation, where brightly coloured packaging and bold messages take centre stage. We’re moving away from feeling embarrassed and moving towards feeling empowered by our periods.
Period care products first started being mass produced in the 20s, and brands started listening to women in a bid to create a market leading product. We’ve come a long way since then, but the conversation around menstruation was started by the fiery women of the flapper era.