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Let’s talk about period health, with pharmacist Laura Dowling
Sponsored

Let’s talk about period health, with pharmacist Laura Dowling

Sponsored By

by Shayna Sappington
15th Jun 2023
Sponsored By

There are still many misconceptions surrounding our periods. In a warm and open conversation, pharmacist Laura Dowling clears things up, providing what we need to know and red flags to watch out for.

An accomplished woman of many skills, Laura Dowling (aka @fabulouspharmacist) is a pharmacist, a mum, a CEO and an influencer. She has made it her mission to pass on her wealth of knowledge on female health to not just her patients, but to her 70k+ social media followers as well.

One of the topics on her agenda is period health, an issue, she says, that is still shrouded in misinformation. In this Q&A in partnership with Always, Dowling debunks common period myths and empowers us with the knowledge we need to take control of our menstrual health.

What are some of the misconceptions about periods and period health?

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding periods and period health. Some of the most common misconceptions include the idea that periods are “dirty” or shameful or that they should be hidden away or not talked about. This can lead to feelings of shame or embarrassment around periods and can make it harder for women to seek the care and support they need. Another common misconception is that periods should be painful or debilitating when in fact, severe pain or other symptoms may be a sign of an underlying condition like endometriosis or PCOS. It’s important to talk openly and honestly about periods and period health and to seek medical care if you have concerns or symptoms that are affecting your quality of life.

Another common misconception is the idea that women can’t get pregnant during their period. In reality, while it’s less likely, it’s still possible so it’s important to use contraception. It’s also vital to remember that everyone’s period is different and that there’s no “normal” when it comes to period length or symptoms.

How can we demystify periods and help educate women of all ages on menstrual health?
  • Normalise conversations around periods. Encourage open and honest conversations about periods and menstrual health, and help break down the stigma and shame surrounding periods. Talk to your friends, family, and healthcare providers about your period experiences, and encourage others to do the same.
  • Provide accurate information. Educate yourself and others on the facts of menstrual health, including period symptoms, menstrual product options, and common period disorders like PCOS and endometriosis. Share reliable sources of information, like medical websites or menstrual health organisations, to help spread accurate information.
  • Create safe spaces for discussion. Provide a safe and supportive space for women to discuss their period experiences, ask questions, and seek advice. This can be in the form of online communities, support groups, or even informal gatherings of friends.
  • Advocate for menstrual health education. Push for comprehensive menstrual health education in schools and other institutions. Encourage educators to provide accurate and up-to-date information on menstrual health and to promote an inclusive and positive attitude toward periods.
  • Empower women and people with periods to take control of their menstrual health. Encourage women and people with periods to take an active role in their menstrual health by tracking their periods, learning about their bodies, and seeking medical care when needed. Promote self-care practices like exercise, stress management, and healthy eating that can help support menstrual health and well-being.
If you have heavy periods or period pain, what are the first steps you can take to find answers and relief?

One thing you can do is keep a menstrual diary – this just means tracking your periods and any associated symptoms, like cramps or heavy bleeding. It may seem a little weird, but it can actually be really helpful in identifying patterns or changes in your cycle and can give your healthcare provider important information to work with. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and concerns. They can help determine if there’s an underlying condition causing your heavy periods or pain and can offer treatment options.

In addition to medical treatment options, there are several non-medical interventions that can also help with heavy periods or period pain. Things like heat therapy, exercise, and stress management can be really effective and can be used alongside medical treatments. Medicines such as OTC paracetamol and ibuprofen for pain and inflammation and buscopan for cramping can help with symptoms. Prescribed medications such as mefenamic acid (ponston) can help to reduce flow and craping if taken a couple of days before your period is due.  Always ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.

What are some common menstrual health issues, and what are the usual warning signs of these?

One of the most common is premenstrual syndrome or PMS. This can cause a variety of symptoms, like mood swings, bloating, and breast tenderness, in the days leading up to your period. If you notice these symptoms occurring regularly, it may be a sign of PMS.

Another issue to be aware of is polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. This hormonal disorder can cause irregular periods, weight gain, and acne, among other symptoms. If you notice that your periods are irregular or absent, or if you experience other symptoms of PCOS, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider. Endometriosis is another common menstrual health issue. This condition occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus, causing pain and discomfort. If you experience severe menstrual cramps or pelvic pain, especially during your period, it may be a sign of endometriosis.

Lastly, heavy bleeding is another issue to be aware of. If you notice that you’re bleeding more heavily than usual during your period or if you’re changing your tampon or pad every hour or less, it may be a sign of heavy bleeding. This can be a symptom of several different conditions, so it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis. They can also help you get a treatment plan so that you can feel your best.

How can we learn to remove the stigma surrounding our periods and celebrate them?

We need to start by talking openly about periods. Let’s be real – periods happen, and it’s time to stop treating them like they’re a secret or something to be ashamed of. So, start the conversation with your friends and family and don’t be afraid to share your own experiences.

Another important step is to use positive language. Instead of using negative or derogatory terms like “gross” or “disgusting,” let’s use neutral or positive language like “menstruation” or “monthly cycle.” It might seem small, but changing the way we talk about periods can have a big impact on the way we think and feel about them. Education is also key. By learning more about the biology behind menstruation and reproductive health, we can help break down the myths and misconceptions that contribute to period stigma. Share your knowledge with others, and encourage them to do the same.

Let’s also work to normalise period-related products, like pads. Period products are just everyday items that everyone with a menstrual cycle needs, so why should they be treated any differently?

Finally, let’s celebrate menstruation! Host a party, create a hashtag, or share your positive period experiences on social media. By celebrating menstruation and encouraging others to do the same, we can help create a more positive and empowering experience of menstrual health.

In our partnership with Always, ‘Go With Your Flow’, we’re on a mission to empower women and people with periods to use the appropriate period products; understand how our moods might be affected; how our relationships might be impacted and ultimately allow us to give our bodies and minds a chance to thrive. Learn more at always.co.uk.

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