Vulvani Release Free Stock Images on Menstruation.

Menstrual education platform, Vulvani, have released a series of free to use stock images that feature beautiful and accurate photos depicting all things periods!

Photo by Vulvani – www.vulvani.com

The collection eschews the infamous blue liquid completely, using realistic representations of periods. From moon cups to a person clutching a water bottle, this collection of images is a welcome addition to the growing number of photos and gifs available for period companies and campaigners.

As Vulvani say; “Pictures speak a thousand words”, and by creating this resource they can combat period stigma through the power of images. Seeing red blood, accurate depictions of menstruation and being able to normalise these, is an amazing project and will hopefully allow more people, like me, to talk about and destigmatise menstruation.

Photo by Vulvani – www.vulvani.com

The only thing the company asks is that you credit them with the images, because while they are free to use they are not free to make! So please include: ‘Photo by Vulvani – www.vulvani.comif you use their images!

Scotland to Provide Free Period Products to all!

Last week, Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free access to period products for all. After leading the way in period provision, providing products in schools from 2017, it has made a huge step forward for menstrual equality.

In a system that is not means-tested, meaning that anyone can access the products, this decision will make a huge difference in the lives of many people that struggle to access the basic products they need to feel comfortable while menstruating.

It is a huge moment to know that MPs discussed this issue at length in parliament, including debating aspects of menstruating such as sustainability. We can only hope that this leads to other countries following suit and providing period products for all.

Given the number of people that menstruate, the essential nature of the products, and the accepted right to access soap and toilet paper, making period products freely available is a no-brainer. It is unfortunately still considered a taboo subject in many places, but with continued campaigning to de-stigmatise periods, we can make change.

If you believe that England should follow suit, then sign Bloody Good Periods petition today. You can also write to your local MP on this issue or donate to one of the many charities tackling period poverty in England today.

Why does my period make me… CRAVE CHOCOLATE?

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“You can do it Brucie!”

This week On My Blob, I’ve been thinking about what questions I have about my periods that I’ve never actually asked. Given that I am currently craving all kinds of chocolate and sugary treats because of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), now seems like the perfect time to explore what’s actually going on in my body.

Why does PMS induce these major cravings?

The science

Lots of research has been done into women’s menstrual cycles trying to identify the cause of monthly food cravings, which is the most commonly reported PMS symptom. Craving chocolate, cakes and any number of sweet treats before your period is a perfectly normal part of your menstrual cycle.

There are a number of theories for this. Firstly, during the luteal phase (the second half of your menstrual cycle that starts after ovulation) hormone changes affect your appetite. Your progesterone, oestrogen and serotonin levels drop, while cortisol rises, causing an increase in stress. This hormone fluctuation may cause your cravings.

However, scientists also point to behavioural factors in our choices. Comfort eating is a common result of stress or discomfort, yet what and when we crave is a learned behaviour. A 2004 study into chocolate craving and the menstrual cycle showed that while American women craved chocolate due to PMS, Spanish women did not. This shows that craving chocolate before your period is a learned behaviour stemming from cultural habits.

Why chocolate?

For me, PMS means chocolate. I don’t care in what form, I crave the sweet, creamy, deliciousness of my favourite chocolatey treats. This is apparently down to the perfect combination of carbohydrates and fat found in our chocolate friends.

The high fat and sugar treat is a go to for many and when we are feeling tired and stressed in the lead up to our periods. It doesn’t seem to be down to anything special about chocolate though. The craving is likely a mix of physiology, psychology and cultural conditioning. Changing hormones and learned behaviours tell us to grab the sweet stuff!

Is this ever a problem?

Sometimes I do worry that eating too much sugar during this time is bad for me. My PMS can last longer than the standard few days, so I try my hardest not to eat ALL the chocolate straight away…

But given the changes happening in your body and the fact that indulging in your favourite treats may make you feel better, if not less bad, then there I wouldn’t worry about what you consume too much.

The key is to learn about your body. Keeping a diary of when your cravings start, what you like and how you feel, can help you to predict your monthly rhythms.

Every person is different, learning what makes you feel better during your menstrual cycle is important for your wellbeing and if that’s chocolate, welcome to the club!

Why is it called “feminine hygiene” anyway?

Last month New Zealand retail chain Countdown became the first international retailer to officially ditch the “euphemistic” language commonly used around periods in retail. Words like “sanitary” and “feminine hygiene” will no longer be used to describe the products and aisles, instead, the brand will finally call a period a period.

This landmark move shows that at least one retailer is listening to calls to de-mystify the language we use around menstruation. A spokesperson for the brand has said:

“We want to help normalise the language around periods and continence as well as making products like pads, tampons and menstrual cups much easier to find when our customers are shopping online.”

Kiri Hannifin, General Manager Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability, Countdown

But why do we use these words and phrases to refer to these products in the first place?

A blog by US company, Diva Cup provides us with some answers, although US specific. Their research says that in the late 1800s an anti-obscenity bill meant that companies could not talk explicitly about sex, contraceptives or anything deemed too explicit when advertising products. This lead to period companies renaming their products in a discreet way in order to get period products into pharmacies and stores.

By the early 1900s, the term feminine hygiene took off and was cemented by the popularisation of ‘germ theory’ that meant that everyday people took care to wash in order to prevent the spread of harmful germs.

Over time, advertisers have preyed on taboos and insecurities around periods in order to sell products. Focusing on discretion, covering odours, and stopping leaks to help women to hide their menstruation so they can continue to laugh and run in white trousers, the use of these terms directly links to society shaming menstrual cycles and renaming them to avoid embarrassment over a completely natural bodily function.

The words we choose today continue to embed this shame into our practices. As activist Chella Quint rightly points out, we continue to use language chosen by advertisers and product companies to describe our bodies, reinforcing old taboos that we are trying to break.

Words like “hygiene” and “sanitary” strongly imply that a period is dirty and needs to be cleaned up, which it is not. Note that we do not refer to toilet paper as “excretion hygiene” or as a personal care product instead it is called literally just “toilet paper”, the paper that is used in the toilet.

It is also important to recognise the impact of categorising products as “feminine”. For many, the implication of the word is dainty, discreet, pretty – for most this is the opposite of what a period feels like. Pastel colours and floral scents may try and make menstruation look more feminine, but the reality of popping your maximum ibuprofen for the day and laying crumpled on your bed in the foetal position waiting for the pain to subside does not fit this term.

Not every biologically female person menstruates, and not every person that menstruates would categorise themselves as “feminine”. This term excludes trans men, non-binary people and cis-women that do not identify as “feminine”, tying periods to a type of femininity that no longer (if it ever did) represents truly the people that need the products.

Countdown in New Zealand has chosen to confront the taboos around periods and have opted to take a stand, recognising its role in challenging the status quo. We can only hope that further retailers and period product makers follow suit and ditch the outdated language and branding used to sell us products.

So, let’s keep asking for better. Make it normal to refer to your chosen products as a period or menstrual product, and ask your retailers for the same.

I May Destroy You: Period Sex and Blood Clots on the BBC

**This blog contains spoilers for episode three: Don’t Forget the Sea**

Like the rest of the internet, I’ve been totally blown away by Michaela Coel’s ground-breaking new BBC drama, I May Destroy You. The show deals with sex and consent in a nuanced and multifaceted way. In particular, episode three explores period sex and brings this often-taboo subject front and centre.

I May Destroy You is centred around writer Arabella (played by Coel) as she deals with a drug-facilitated sexual assault. Masterfully written, the show explores consent from so many different angles, bringing the grey areas to the fore with honesty, humour, and an unflinching look at sex and rape. Coel’s script and performance takes us to places that I never thought I’d see on TV, let alone the BBC.

Which brings me to episode three: Don’t Forget the Sea.

This half hour episode provides the most honest depiction of period sex I have ever seen on TV. In a world in which period product adverts only started using red blood to indicate a period in 2017, and many depictions of periods are used to shame or horrify audiences (I’m looking at you Carrie), it’s amazing to see a period treated so normally on TV.

Without spoiling too much, the episode takes us back to Italy, where Arabella is writing and her friend Terry is visiting. In an upturned classic *girls getting ready in the bathroom before going out scene* we see Arabella putting in a clean pad on the toilet: with no fanfare, no “can I wear this short dress while menstruating” – she just does it. Puts the pad in and goes.

Later, following a drug and alcohol filled night out, Arabella ends up towel down on the duvet, preparing to have period sex with a guy she had met that day. This in itself was perfect. To see a woman enjoy herself, be escorted home by a guy that is respectful and non-judgmental, and to have period sex presented without horror, feels amazing.

But, again, this is not the peak! Coel keeps pushing boundaries and brings us a scene that was cut from the 50 Shades of Gray films for being too taboo, seeing her tampon removed by the guy who subsequently picks up a rogue blood clot that’s now on the towel.

This kind of period representation is so important as it normalises the actions of literally millions of people all around the world. We menstruate, we go out, we exercise, we have sex, we eat and we continue to live our lives while bleeding.

It is also the first time that I have seen period sex presented as something other than a moment of horror, or fetish, or shame. And let’s be real, have you ever seen a blood clot on the BBC? Let alone one in the hands of a man who does not recoil but asks questions and shows genuine fascination about this aspect of the human body that few people get to talk about?

Often conversations around periods focus on the people having them. Coel throws this on its head, bringing a man into the centre and shedding light on the lack of education and exposure to the realities of having a period that many men face.

The reality is we need all people to feel more comfortable talking about periods in order to de-stigmatise menstruation fully. If more men knew about period products, blood clots and all the other things we deal with each month, this would go a long way to foster understanding and tackle shame.

So, I want to join the chorus of people praising Michaela Coel right now and for bringing us essential period visibility and for bringing blood clots onto the BBC.

Popular Myths About Menstruation and How to Bust Them!

Period myths can be pervasive in our culture. Spanning from the somewhat logical to the downright outrageous, there are many strange ideas that continue to circulate around menstruation.

These rumours, myths and ideas contribute to the misinformation, stigma and shame we experience around periods.

Some of these myths are easily busted, with many of the ideas we had as children around what happens when you start on your blob being dispelled when it actually happens.

But what about those funny little myths that never seem to quite go away?

Well, I’ve picked out the top five common myths about periods that I’ve encountered and found the facts on each so that, together, we can bust those myths!

1. You can’t get pregnant on your period

I hate to break the news to you but YOU CAN GET PREGNANT ON YOUR PERIOD! I’d love this to be true so we can all enjoy some free-loving at that time of the month but alas, it is still possible.

Due to the variations in our cycles and the fact that sperm can live in the womb for up to seven days, there is no window during our periods when you can guarantee that you cannot get pregnant. And while it is less likely that you would conceive on your blob, it is not impossible.

So, make sure you use protection even when the risk of pregnancy is lower. If only we could expel unwanted semen like Zebras do… life would be so much easier.

2. You can’t exercise while menstruating

I remember hearing this when I was a teen – luckily a friend (and known clever person) told me the opposite and I decided to believe her instead of the rumour. Exercising while on your period is totally safe and there is no reason why you can’t continue to exercise while menstruating, in fact it’s recommended!

Exercise can help you beat bloating, may relieve period pains and will boost your energy and mood more than that extra chocolate(*s*) will.

However, it is also totally normal that you might have less energy, coordination or strength during your period. This is due to hormonal fluctuations throughout the month and it’s fine to adjust your routine to focus on gentler, restorative workouts, or to take a break if you need to.

3. Your period stops in water  

Ok so, this one is my favourite because I secretly want to believe that it’s true… But unfortunately, it’s actually false.

Your period doesn’t stop in water, but the pressure of the water does stem the flow meaning it is unlikely you will see a trail of blood in the pool behind you unless you sneeze or have a particularly heavy flow. If you want to go swimming on your period a tampon is enough protection against leaks and safe to use, just make sure to change it afterwards.

4. Bears and sharks are attracted by period blood

I get it, they are predator animals and it’s not absurd to think that they would be attracted to blood, right? Well actually wrong! Let’s tackle these one at a time:

  • The myth that your period attracts Bears is thought to have originated in Glacier National Park in the US in 1967, when two women were killed by bears, one of whom was on her period. Rumours began to swirl that the reason was due to their ‘menstrual odours’, and despite there being no scientific evidence backing up this claim, it persisted.
  • Sharks on the other hand is a rumour probably born from another common myth that sharks can smell blood from a mile away, which is untrue. Sharks sense of smell is similar to that of many bony fish and varies between species, and while they do use smell for hunting, a drop of period blood diluted in the ocean is not enough to get attention.

5. Men can’t get periods

This is not a trick question and the most important on the list of myths to busted.

Trans men can and do get periods – for anyone unfamiliar with the term, trans men refers to people that were born female but identify as male. They may make the gender transition through the way they present their gender (eg. Clothes), the name or pronouns they prefer to use (ie. he/him or they), and for some people (but not all) through hormone or further physical changes. To learn more, campaigning organisations GLAAD and Stonewall both have loads of helpful information to help you get informed.

For trans men, getting a period can be a varied and sometimes difficult experience, particularly if you experience gender dysphoria, a condition where a person experiences distress due to the mismatch between their biological sex and their gender.

While there are ways that periods can be stopped, whether through hormones or surgery, not everybody will want to choose these options and it is important to recognise that there are many trans men that are still managing periods in a world in which people don’t recognise or talk about this experience.

So, there we have it, my top five period myths and the truth we seek! While some of these myths are a bit funny once you know the truth, others can be harmful and perpetuate information that contributes to period shame.

By knowing the facts around menstruation, we can help to boost wellbeing and take care of ourselves better when it’s that time of the month, as well as supporting others. So why not join me in spreading some #PeriodTruths and sharing these myth-busting facts far and wide?

What myths have you encountered over the years? Tell us in the comments below!

What is in a name: Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020

Yes… there is a day for everything nowadays isn’t there? Menstrual Hygiene Day, celebrated on the 28th May worldwide, is a great one though. It provides a global advocacy platform for charities, government agencies, the private sector, and individuals to promote good menstrual hygiene management for all.

Can we talk about the name though?

Menstrual Hygiene Day, is informative and clear, however, the use of the word hygiene implies that a period in itself is un-hygienic – feeding into the narrative that the period is dirty or shameful. There has to be a better name out there that is less, well, hygienic. And I’m not alone in thinking this. There is a growing number of people that are questioning the language we use to talk about periods in the public domain.

The campaign group Health not Hygiene is one such organisation that is campaigning to end the social stigma around menstruation and focuses on the language that we use when talking about periods. It argues that the word hygiene in Menstrual Hygiene Day perpetuates menstrual stigma and does not encompass the whole experience of having a period. It suggests that the word health, on the other hand, encompasses both the physical and the mental experience of having a period, focussing on well-being over hygiene.

Would a rose not smell as sweet if it were named Menstrual Health Day?

This is not to single out Menstrual Hygiene Day. I think it’s an amazing initiative and I’m totally on board. I just agree that we need to re-think the language we commonly use around menstruation, and that Menstrual Health Day is a better alternative.

Another example is the phrase ‘sanitary product’, with many organisations beginning to use ‘period product’ instead. The factual nature of the new phrase is to the point and the removal of the word ‘sanitary’ disassociates periods solely with cleanliness and the idea that it is something that needs to be sanitised.

The words we use are important, particularly around periods, which can be either incredibly clinical or wildly elaborate (eg. *BLOB*). A period is a varied experience that encompasses many things, not simply something that needs to be ‘cleaned up.’ This perpetuates menstrual stigma that, in turn, makes it more difficult to reach people that need the education, support, and advocacy around menstrual health that these initiatives provide.

So, join me in celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day, find out more on global events and campaigns running this May HERE. Whilst also recognising that the language we use is important. You can join the Health not Hygiene campaign HERE or join the conversation in the comments below.

Better design, better periods?

You know the drill – you are on your period and need to change your pad, tampon or period product of choice. Maybe you’re at work, at school, a restaurant or another public place, and you don’t want everyone to know you’re on your period. Do you:

a) discreetly carry your bag to the toilet,

b) slip a tampon up your sleeve,

c) grab your pretty pouch full of your kit like it’s a purse and slide off to the loo?

But what if there was another option?

In the last few years a movement has gained traction that aims to de-stigmatise periods: baskets of period products have emerged in workplace bathrooms, often organised by staff and operating a give when you can take when you need system; period products have been made freely available to schools and colleges by the government; and campaigns such as Bloody Good Period’s ‘Walk of no shame’ are working to end the shame of having a period.

Yet, for a product that is as necessary as toilet paper for menstruating people, we should also be seeking solutions at design level. There are emerging products becoming available that can tackle the shame and stigma around periods through better design, as well as further tackling period poverty by making products free and available in toilet cubicles everywhere.

https://www.initial.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Vending-in-Cubical.jpg
Initial’s in-cubicle dispenser

Take hygiene services company Initial. It has developed an in-cubicle dispenser for tampons and pads that is discreet looking and easy to use. Much like a toilet paper dispenser, it hangs on the wall of any toilet and has a full range of product refills to be used privately in-cubicle.

It also has a charitable link, partnering with Freedom4Girls and donating £5 from each sale to the charity to support women and girls in the UK that are struggling to afford period products.

There are other organisations working to design effective solutions to the problem, for example a student collective at Edinburgh Napier’s School of Arts and Creative Industries has worked with Hey Girls to design an in-cubicle wall mounted or free standing product dispenser.

Imagine being able to go to the toilet and knowing that there are products readily available for you, just as there is toilet paper. No need to feel any embarrassment about taking from a basket, no need for elaborate hiding, no need to ask a stranger when you get caught short. Your period is thought of and accounted for at design level in public and private spaces.

And these product dispensers tackle more than just stigma. If they were publicly available everywhere from shopping centres to schools, we would be providing people experiencing period poverty with a real chance to manage their periods discretely and hygienically. Dispensers work hand in hand with existing measures such as hygiene banks and drop-ins to give people as many opportunities to access the products they need when menstruating.

We should have access to discreet and easy ways to access period products, without experiencing shame or stigma. We wouldn’t want a world without free toilet paper, so why do we accept a world without freely available period products? 

Do you think period product dispensers are a good idea? Tell us what you think!

Has the pandemic affected your period?

The last couple of months have been A LOT. The pandemic has thrown our routines, stress levels and for some, our periods, into disarray.

From the non-existent (like mine) to the heavy or more frequent bleeds, our menstrual cycles have become unpredictable and frankly straight up weird.

But what has caused your period to change?

Well, it seems that stress is the main culprit, with many sources pointing towards the stress and anxiety caused by the lockdown as the reason for the change in our cycles.


This is not uncommon. The NHS labels stress as a common cause of irregular or missed periods and lists many stress management techniques as ways of managing your missing, irregular or way over familiar bleeds.

So what’s happening?  

Here’s the science bit, according to Dr Sarah Toler, stress causes the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) that can suppress your reproductive hormones, leading to disruption in your cycle.

This makes sense, there is an underlying stress to our lives at the moment. From the changes to our routines, lifestyles, and lack of access to the usual activities that de-stress us, to the obvious stress caused by the virus itself and the possibility of us or our loved ones contracting it.

If stress is the problem, then what’s the solution?

There are many ways we can try to manage stress during this time and these methods may help you with your periods.

The NHS recommends exercise such as yoga, jogging and swimming. Unless you have your own pool at home, the first two are more likely to be manageable. There are plenty of free yoga videos online (Yoga with Adrienne is great) and if possible, you can start (socially distant) jogging in your area, no equipment needed just comfy shoes and clothes.

Breathing exercises, healthy eating and relaxation techniques could also help. I know that sometimes these are easier said than done: especially with a full household, monetary restraints or a lack of private space, but luckily, the breathing techniques can be done anywhere and combined with other activities such as washing up or lying in bed… It’s worth a try!

Last week I also found that stumbling upon a group of women on Twitter having a chat about how their periods had changed made me feel better. Yes, I lurked (because I couldn’t tell if they were friends and whether or not they would want a stranger chiming into their chat) but knowing I wasn’t the only one experiencing these changes made me feel so much less alone.

So, thank you to those women and all the other people out there talking about their periods during the pandemic. Thank you for sharing, I know it’s helped me and I hope it helps you too.

Tell me, has the pandemic affected your period? And what have you been doing to de-stress lately? Comment below!

Period *Poverty* Doesn’t Stop in a Pandemic

In the UK today as many as 3 in 10 girls are struggling to afford or access period products during the lockdown. This is according to Plan International UK’s latest report that highlights the extent to which the pandemic is exacerbating period poverty.

As of January 2020, period products have been made freely available by the government to all state schools and colleges across England and Wales. This follows the Scottish government’s landmark move to provide free menstrual products in schools, colleges and universities in 2018 – the first in the world to do so.

Yet, with schools and youth clubs closed, as well panic-buying leading to a lack of affordable products in store, many people are struggling to get access to free period products, or any products at all.

Over half of those struggling to access products have used toilet paper as a substitute in the past, with 1 in 5 girls finding it harder to manage their period due to toilet paper shortages. And shortages of painkillers, particularly the low-cost versions, contribute further to the problem.

And it’s not just young people that are struggling. There are around 14 million people living in period poverty in the UK, with asylum-seeking women having to choose between period products and food, homeless women lacking access to vital period products, and those on low incomes that make tough choices every month to manage their period impacted.

So, what can we do to support those that are struggling to get the essential products they need to manage their periods? And where can you go if you need help?

Below are just some of the amazing organisations continuing to fight period poverty throughout the pandemic. If you would like to learn more or donate please follow the links, and if you or someone you know needs help or support get in touch with these charities.

Bloody Good Period

Bloody Good Period provides menstrual products to those that need them through partnerships with 40 asylum seeker drop-ins around the country, as well as providing education and some bloody good campaigning against period poverty to boot.

During the pandemic, the charity is offering a take-what-you-need scheme at its Alexandra Palace warehouse to get products to people. It is also continuing to deliver bulk supplies outside of London and is working to keep supply to its partners.

If you want to, you can donate to Bloody Good Period HERE to help them keep up the amazing work. Or if you need to access support, you can by scrolling to the bottom of the page HERE.

Hey Girls

Hey Girls is a Social Enterprise that provides ‘no leak, super comfy, chlorine and bleach free, environmentally friendly’ period products. The real winner here though is that the social enterprise model means that all the profits from its ‘Buy-one-give-one’ scheme goes to tackling period poverty.

You can support their work by buying Hey Girls products in supermarkets such as Asda and online. The Hey Girls mission has not stopped during the lockdown, it has partnered with local councils to get period products out there and continues to get products to its partners.

Hey Girls take donations HERE, you could also become a corporate supporter HERE.

The Hygiene Bank

The Hygiene Bank is a network of collection and distribution banks that provide essential hygiene products to those in need. Through community partners such as food banks, it redistributes new, unused and in-date toiletries across the UK.

It also provides soaps, sanitisers, shower gels, and laundry care among other products, which, let’s face it, are as essential as pads and tampons for feeling clean and maintaining hygiene throughout your period.

During the pandemic it is continuing to distribute its products and has announced a major partnership with FareShare to get products to NHS frontline staff.

If you want to donate money or products to The Hygiene Bank click HERE!

Are you struggling to find products in the pandemic? Concerned about period poverty? Tell us what you think in the comments below.