This week, the Queensland government announced that period products would be available to all students in state schools. It’s a welcome gesture considering the rising cost of living, but it’s also a powerful conversation starter about the menstrual cycle.
I’ve interviewed over 300 women about their pregnancy and birth experiences on my podcast, Australian Birth Stories.
The conversation always starts with their fertility journey and there’s a common theme in many stories.
Countless women start menstruating in their teens with a basic understanding that they’ll bleed every 28 days, they then commence hormonal contraception in their twenties and when it’s time to start a family, they start thinking about their menstrual cycle for the first time in their life and realise they know very little.
Watch: If your period was a person. Post continues below.
For those of us that grew up in the nineties, period talk was relatively taboo. Sex ed classes involved the demonstration of a pad and a tampon and a few flyaway comments on feminine hygiene.
Of course, it was all hush-hush and period talk never did make the cut for dinner table conversation.
I’ve got three young boys now and while I won’t be preparing them for their first period, I have every intention of teaching them about my cycle (although I’m pretty sure they can already tell when I’m premenstrual).
I do this by telling them when I’ve got my period and reminding them that I’m making a choice to go a little slower and rest. It’s not a big deal because I’m intent on normalising it. And perhaps that’s what we need to do in schools - normalise period talk and have a good, long discussion about the phases of the menstrual cycle.
Granted, there have been significant public leaps forward in the past few years; period products are no longer advertised with blue liquid to demonstrate absorbency, the major supermarkets have changed "feminine hygiene" signage to "period products" and with the arrival of period underwear has come a sigh of relief for those of us who bleed and don’t want to contribute a bin’s worth of plastic to the environment every month.