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#WCW: Period Poverty, Period Trauma, and Symptoms You Can't Ignore

Posted on July 21, 2021

Every woman will experience unwanted period symptoms at some point. Because, let's face it: sometimes having your period is a pain. Literally. You may get cramps. You may feel bloated or tired. But, as it turns out, some period symptoms should always be cause for concern. In fact, they may even lead to a condition known as period trauma, which disproportionately impacts black women.

Regardless of your period experience, the number one symptom to never ignore is universal. And its periods that keep getting longer! Or ones that put you in a position of financial hardship. The latter of which is an issue being tackled by Anisha Abraham, a teen in Tampa Bay, making her our Woman Crush Wednesday honoree!

What is Period Poverty?

Period poverty describes a situation in which women can't afford to buy feminine hygiene products. According to the University of Pennsylvania Nursing School, about two-thirds of low income women spend years unable to purchase their period products. And, in any given month, one fifth of all women can't afford to buy pads or tampons.

Many people think of period poverty as an international problem. After all, girls in Uganda regularly miss school since they don't have access to feminine hygiene products. But it's a problem here in the U.S., too. In fact, according to a Thinx survey, 80% of American teens know a girl who's had to miss school because of period poverty.  Young Australian women are also impacted by this concern. In a U by Kotex survey of 660 Australian girls age 10-18, 28% of students all across the country missed school because they lacked access to feminine hygiene products.

In fact, seeing these kinds of surveys is what moved Anisha to launch the Pink Power Project. It's a non-profit that allows her to donate thousands of feminine hygiene products to non-profits in her native Tampa Bay, FL. And it's also allowed her to blog about menstruation. Because she wants to remove period stigma, but also raise awareness of painful period symptoms. So that women don't consider period changes normal. And, instead, talk to their doctor about new or worse period symptoms. Including periods that suddenly become longer.

What is Considered a Longer Period?


On average, your menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days. (That count runs from the first day of one period and ends on the last day before your next one.) Still, cycles vary, so having a cycle anywhere between 21 to 40 days is normal.

When your periods are normal, bleeding lasts between two and seven days. You typically lose just three to five tablespoons of blood over those days. But sometimes, you bleed for longer. And, when that is the case, you often end up losing a lot more blood as well.

Of course, a longer or heavier period doesn't always mean you have a health problem. But, since periods that last over a week could be a sign of an underlying condition, you need to be seen by your doctor if long periods are becoming your new normal.

What Causes Long, Heavy Periods?

In some cases, a longer period means you've got an iron deficiency, especially when you're also dizzy or have chest pain or difficulties breathing.

One long, heavy period could mean you have a 'missed miscarriage,' meaning you lost your baby before you knew you were pregnant.

If your periods used to be shorter, then suddenly become long and heavy, you could have cervical cancer or even kidney disease. A more common cause of heavy periods, however, are fibroid tumors, non-cancerous growths that develop in or around your uterus. They could also be a sign of adenomyosis, a condition in which the inner lining of your uterus breaks through its muscle wall.

Basically, a long, heavy period could mean something really serious is going on with your body. Or it could mean nothing at all. But, given the possibilities, it's always worth discussing this, or any sudden change in your cycle, with your doctor. Especially if you find yourself traumatized by the experience of your monthly cycle.

Cramping in Between Periods

Experiencing cramps during your period is perfectly normal. Although the severity of cramping is typically different from woman to woman, the reality is that cramps are to be expected as your body gets rid of its unfertilized egg, and sheds your uterine lining.

The discomfort you feel during this process are referred to as "primary cramps" and typically resolve on their own after 48 to 72 hours after they first begin.

However, cramping in between periods, or "secondary cramping" can potentially be a symptom of fibroids that should not be ignored. If you are experiencing significant cramping but you're not on your period, it's worth bringing up to your doctor.

What is Period Trauma?

As The Period Doctor Charis Chambers explains to Well + Good, period trauma is, "any sustained psychological, social, or emotional injury/distress related to or caused by menstruation.” Which means that women who experience period poverty likely also experience period trauma.

But it also means that women who have to miss work because of longer periods, or who deal with impacts on their sex lives, are at risk for period trauma. Now, that applies to the 40% of young women in Western Australia who regularly skip school during their periods for fear of teasing or embarrassment. It also implies that women with fibroids are at increased risk for period trauma. And, since African American women have a higher fibroid risk than women of all other races, they're also more likely to deal with period trauma.

There are several ways women can address and find relief from period trauma. But, as Houston fibroid specialists, we believe the best way is to make periods less traumatic. And, since treating your fibroids reduces disruptive symptoms like long, heavy periods, we think that's a great way forward. So schedule a consult with our experts today, and make a move towards reclaiming your mental and physical wellbeing!

Sources: Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, Tampa Bay Times

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