Period blood baths, operations & what I wish I knew earlier!

Every month, for a couple of days I am struck by a melancholic funk that I can’t get out of. A few days ago I tried more healthy ways to cope. I went for an hours swim, did yoga for an hour, walked in the woods but none of these helped me in the slightest. I didn’t think I could be sad swimming, but there you have it, I was. I was practically in tears doing my lengths and I couldn’t for the life in me figure out what had changed. It wasn’t even due to a hangover since I’ve been limiting my booze intake! 

It was strange being so sad, especially as I spent my sabbatical addressing deep routed problems. Normally, in such situations, I would fall back on past trauma and that’d explain my emotions, but now in a much healthier mindset, I could look at them and accept that they had nothing to do with my current state of being. 

I’m sure that you have guessed it, I suffer from PMT. I keep a diary of when it starts and was expecting it, but for some reason, I always forget the emotional turmoil that comes just before. Are four weeks really enough to reset my expectations? It’s then always accompanied by pain which I do not forget. I hated having a period since the first day it started when I was 9 years old! The only period that ever surprised me in that it was manageable, was after I had my fibroids removed because it only lasted 7 days! I hate women who have a light period for 3 days! I hate them so much; nearly as much as hate the adverts for period products that show extra happy women in white frolicking! Mine are like a murder scene, a blood bath if you will.

My periods had always been a terrible painful mess, and as I got older they got heavier. From 2014 to 2016 they had evolved until eventually, I had a constant period, the only difference being how heavy the flow was. Some days I’d have to change at least every hour. I’d gone to the doctors so often throughout that time, but each time I was dismissed. I was dismissed because female problems are not seen as critical, I was dismissed because being black my pain is also not seen as critical. I was in the garden of my friend’s house, complaining as I always did when they suggested I lie. They told me that each time they needed to be taken seriously, they add a fictional male and say it was affecting them. My lesbian friends told me to say that it was affecting the sex life of my boyfriend. 

The next day I made an appointment, complained as always about how constant my period was, but this time I explained that I was unable to perform my womanly duties of having sex with my boyfriend. This worked. They sent me to the clinic then and there, took my blood and had me scanned. A few days later they had me back in the doctors’ office where I was prescribed iron tablets for my severe anaemia and given a hospital appointment to see the extent of the fibroids that had developed. These bastards were the cause of my near 2-year constant period, and it could have been prevented had they paid attention the first few times I visited them! I was so relieved that there was a solution but so angry that I had to involve a man, be it a fictional one, for my womanly bodies health to be taken seriously. 

I had multiple fibroids, the largest measured 11cm x 5cm x 7cm- so a grapefruit. I had two the size of oranges and others smaller, all amassed in my uterus making me bleed all of the time. I could make this post an “I’m Not Racist But…” since it’s well established that 9 in 10 black women develop fibroids before they are 50 which is up to 3 times more than white women, causing the symptoms I went through. Black women are also just as susceptible to endometriosis as white women but are less likely to be diagnosed with it. It is another field in which the discomfort of black people are overlooked. A lot of black people don’t trust doctors because of ingrained discrimination and/or being overlooked.

” 9 in 10 black women develop fibroids before they are 50, which is up to 3 times more than white women”

The iron tablets were a godsend because they allowed me to have clarity in thought rather than spend the days in a half-dazed state. The tranexamic acid and mefenamic acid controlled my period enough so I had breaks but it was the operation that was the game-changer. Having the fibroids removed meant I could have a life again and not be at the mercy of my period. The anger that I have for the near loss of any social life, the embarrassment I had when I had to walk out of a meeting with my CEO to change because I could feel the blood start to run down my leg an hour after my last change and the constant pain that ensued from the cramps, let alone the costs for the period products can’t be taken away. However, it taught me to be stronger when faced with doctors and not give up because I alone know my body. 

Pictures of my fibroids the doctor took during my laparoscopic myomectomy (keyhole removal of the fibroids)

I urge you, or if you are the parent, partner etc of a woman, to seek medical help from a professional healthcare provider (doctor, gynaecologist etc) regarding your period if you think that something isn’t right. Women experience symptoms in many different ways but always seek advice. It’s not normal to be in constant pain. It’s not normal to be constantly exhausted. You should not spend your time feeling dazed as if you exist in a dreamlike state. If you crave ice cubes to crunch, that’s a huge sign of anaemia. You should not spend more time on your period than off it in a month. I wish I’d known all of this when I was younger. Please seek help if you have the following:

  • Period cramps so painful that you are nauseous and bed-ridden for the first 1-2 days of bleeding.
  • Period cramps that radiate through your lower back and/or extend upward into your abdomen from your pelvis.
  • Bleeding so heavily that you are routinely anaemic during your bleeding. 
  • Frequently spotting between periods, quite heavily for only a day or so.
  • Bumhole/ anus cramps.
  • Bowel movements that are painful while on your period.
  • Constant period or ones that are so heavy you have to change every 1-2hours

PMS and Periods evolve during life: Periods at 9 or 19 don’t last the same amount of time, and there is not the same amount of blood as at 39, also the pain change, you can have spotting before/after that appears, and so on, it’s normal (but you should never bleed outside the periods unless you have some spotting during ovulation or egg implantation)

PMS can be: being depressed, sore breasts, being constipated or diarrhoea, acne, insomnia, general uncomfortableness…and so much more.

Menopause isn’t just the sudden lack of periods : (I’m not concerned yet but we better be informed beforehand) You enter perimenopause when you’re periods come at weirds times and you can suffer from hot flash, insomnia, inability to focus, memory issues and so on. You’re considered on menopause when you go 12 months without having a period in a row.

Ovulation usually occurs at half your cycle (the first day being the first day of periods), so if you got your period every 30 days, ovulation occurs usually around the 15th day after the first day of your periods (that said don’t use this information as BC since sperm can live like 5 days, and that your body is not an exact science and influenced by a lot of factors.) some women can feel it, some other don’t.

I’m lucky in that I have been able to get access to the medical help needed. Periods are hugely problematic globally for many women, and so I urge you to donate. Regardless of any crisis, education around periods as well as access to clean hygienic products are very limited.

Please do consider donating to the following:

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