Stigma and lack of awareness are leaving women without treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding, according to the inaugural report published by the Menstrual Health Coalition.
One in five women experience heavy periods, which can be associated with a host of other gynaecological issues. But research by the MHC found that one in three women affected by heavy menstrual bleeding have never spoken to their doctor about it, and 30 per cent of women who did seek help waited at least three years before doing so.
Jilly Neckar, 27, has struggled with heavy menstrual bleeding since her very first period, aged 12, which lasted for 12 days. Over the next three years, she says, things got progressively worse. “My periods got really bad, to the point where I was bleeding for 14 days. I’d have 14 days off, and then I’d bleed for another 14 days. I was using a pad and a tampon, and I’d bleed through both within an hour.”
“I used to get bloodstains all over my clothes, and I’d bleed through every night in bed. I’d sleep in the same bloody sheets every night for two weeks, because there was just no point changing them,” Jilly adds.
But for her, the most humiliating aspect was the impact it had on her at school. “The story that always stays in my head was going swimming once with school during my period. We were in the pool for 45 minutes and I realised I need to go change my tampon,” she recalls.
“I ran to the changing room, and left a trail of blood all the way from the pool to the changing room. It was so embarrassing. I changed my tampon, came back out, and everyone made fun of me about it. I just felt so terrible. But now, looking back, I think, why did none of the teachers say anything? Why didn’t anyone think ‘we’ve only been in the pool for 45 minutes, how has this happened?'”