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Seeing your Doctor for your Period shouldn’t be a scary thing!– By Candice Chirwa, Minister of Menstruation

Let’s be frank, we dread getting the notification that our period is about to come. For most people who menstruate, cramping and bloating are typical symptoms of Aunt Flo’s visit but for others, the pain can be extreme, coupled with excessive bleeding, fever, or other intense symptoms. But, some people try to continue to go about their day even when they should see a doctor.

I’ll be honest, I only went to my first gynecologist appointment at the age of 22. I realized that you as the reader might be shocked it took me so long, but I’ve never had any problems with my menstrual cycle, so I just never felt the urgency to go. Younger me crudely viewed going to the gynecologist unfavorably, my young mind saw it as someone poking around my vagina, not realizing that there was more to the poking around. The very thought of baring my private parts to a stranger here was the cause for a lot of awkwardness during that the first visit, but in using it as an opportunity to ask questions and get a better understanding of my body, I now prioritize tracking my menstrual cycle, doing my annual pap smear and pelvic exam and most importantly prioritizing my own reproductive health. My gynae made me feel comfortable and walked me through every single step… My gynae went out of her way to warm up the speculum and reminded me to not tense up and before I knew it, it was over in the blink of an eye. That first visit helped me realize that seeing your gynecologist is a preventative measure so that if you do have any issues with your vagina or reproductive system that wouldn’t present themselves immediately, your doctor can catch them early.

But I know, it’s easier said than done.

Part of the period stigma is that young menstruators should keep their periods to themselves and that they should not tell anyone about it. And as we grow up, this stigma continuously exists and even when we experience severe period symptoms, we carry this shame to not speak openly about it and even get help from medical practitioners. But even when we make it to the doctor, there is an element of shame in these spaces where we are meant to feel safe and validated. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard about doctors not listening to menstruators’ grievances. Some menstruators I know have walked out of medical offices because they felt they were not being heard.

This is why we’ve got to put a stop to the period stigma because it also exists in spaces where we require medical help. Abnormally heavy bleeding or consistent and severe cramps are often dismissed as “just part of life” but they could be indications of endometriosis or fibroid development. Missed or irregular periods can also signal underlying issues. There is a crucial need for education for young menstruators, we need to start seeing the menstrual cycle as a critical biological function that we as a society have nothing to be ashamed of. We need to ensure that the first point of contact for young menstruators in medical spaces does not have many barriers to entry and a dismissive environment, but rather an embracing, kind, and understanding space. We also need to make sure the access to reproductive health services is accessible and affordable. But beyond that, our reproductive health issues should be treated with the respect they deserve.

While we complain about our periods coming, a regular menstrual cycle is an essential part of our health. By monitoring our symptoms, if something is ever wrong, you must seek medical help instead of suffering in silence. The moral of the story is that if you have not been to a gyno or a doctor regarding your menstrual health, you should go. Even if there’s nothing wrong, you’d rather be sure that all is okay instead of waiting for something not to be okay. The more we talk about our periods and inform ourselves, the less shame and stigma we’ll have around menstruating.

Signed,

Your Minister Of Menstruation

Salome Menstrual Pain

Managing menstrual pain & discomfort

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