The painful truth no one tells you about periods

Periods hurt. I don’t think there’s a person with a functioning uterus alive who has not experienced the pain of menstruation. For many people the pain of menstruating is not even explained to us. If it is, it tends to be downplayed and dismissed as something we need to just get on with, just deal with it. I think that if people knew the truth about the pain of menstruation they would be a lot more sympathetic.

I will preface this by saying I’m not a doctor or medical expert. I do have a diploma in anatomy and physiology but the information I’m about to impart comes from life experience and common sense and not from any claims of medical expertise.

When you’re in labour your uterus contracts in order to empty itself of the contents; ie the baby. When you’re menstruating your uterus contracts to empty the contents, ie the lining of your uterus. Imagining how much shaking and contraction your uterus has to do to destabilise it’s own thick lining! Those crunching pains that you get? They are EXACTLY the same pains as early labour. That is why it is so sore.

Probably because I breastfed for long periods of time I did not make this connection until after my third baby. When I first got my periods again after giving birth I had that body-memory of early labour and I realised that the pain was exactly the same. The same waves of pain, the same pattern. And I wondered why is period pain never explained in this way? Why is labour not explained in this way? Imagine how much more emphatic people would be to those of us who menstruate if they knew that the pain was the same as early labour? Imagine how less afraid pregnant women would be if they knew that early labour is the same kind of pain as having a period?

I have been in labour 5 times, I have breastfed, so had the uterine contractions breastfeeding causes, I have experienced 27 years of menstruation, I have had one miscarriage and one medical abortion and in every case the pain was the same kind of pain, the rippling contractions of a uterus trying to expel it’s contents. Obviously with later labour the pain was more intense, as there was the added pain of pushing a whole new human out of a small hole in your body, but in terms of the uterus contracting part — the pain is the same.

I can’t believe that in 2018 period pain is still being minimised and that this information isn’t widely known. So spread the news to your menstruating friends and next time someone belittles your pain you tell them that you are experiencing pain like labour pain and moreso you do this every single month.

Every person who menstruates in this world where the female anatomy is still widely misunderstood, where sanitary items are taxed as “luxury goods”, where many women can’t afford pads or tampons, where women are excluded from community life when they are menstruating, where women are considered unclean or dirty when bleeding and where our pain is regularly minimised — is a Bloody Hero.

Can you imagine your boss forcing you to work while in labour? Or having to look after your kids or entertain or even just be civil to other humans while in labour? We expect people menstruating to carry on as normal and we cut them no slack, even though they are experiencing the very same type of pain as people in early labour.

If you menstruate — I salute you, you’re amazing. If you don’t — please be more considerate of those of us who do. It hurts, it’s debilitating. It makes carrying on with normal life extremely hard for a day or two (even longer for some people). Be a decent human and cut us some slack — just as you would for someone in labour.

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