To bleed or not to bleed: Women have been bleeding for years. For generations. For millennia. It's been an intrinsic part of life, of reproduction, of how our bodies function.
Only now it doesn't have to be.
Women can choose not to bleed anymore. If one so chooses, periods can now be optional as modern science has found ways of successfully suspending cycles. A recent piece on NPR said the number of women opting of menstruation has been on the rise. Continuous birth control pills, IUDs, implants and hormone shots are now available to make sure bleeding is kept to a minimum with the goal of eradicating it altogether.
No more tampon/pad purchases could mean thousands of dollars saved. No more panic about unexpected bleeding. No more risks of unplanned pregnancies. No more scrambling for supplies, washing stains out of underwear, second guessing a bikini, PMS, cramps.
So, shutting off, or at least long term pausing a natural, normal bodily function is an interesting possibility to ponder. I started thinking, if people are willing to turn off the menstruation faucet, what about other things—like peeing, for example. Urination is another process during which the body is eliminating something that's not needed. It's natural. Inevitable. A sign that things are working properly.
Would you stop peeing if you could? If someone said there was a pill or a shot or a device that meant it would stop, would you try it? No more port-o-sans. No more standing on long lines at concerts. No more sitting in someone else's spray or standing at rancid urinals or late night toilet paper runs. But what would choosing not to pee do to you? How would your kidneys and your bladder be affected? What about side effects to your bloodstream, which impacts every aspect of your body? How about having nonstop chemicals in your system? Would there be long-term side effects? In spite of the convenience would you feel like something was missing? Would everything go back to normal once you started peeing again? Would your new normal same as your old normal? Has anyone done research on all of the above?
Never peeing for months or years is a radical idea.
So is not menstruating.
When birth control pills were first available (for married women only) in the early 1960s, they were significantly stronger than they needed to be. Manufacturers wanted to be able to guarantee no pregnancies. But, the onslaught of additional hormones led to strokes in some women and dosages were significantly scaled back. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) had a similar story. Promised as a fountain of youth, estrogen therapy left millions of women battling breast cancer. Back then, new drugs only required 8-12 weeks of testing by the FDA, long-term effects were never tested.
Douching with Lysol and forms of bleach was the norm for decades. Women were sold by advertisers, even by the government, that their bodies weren’t hygienic and needed industrial cleaning. In the 1980s, Rely Tampons led to toxic shock before they were taken off the market. These days there’s a rise in vaginitis and vulvavaginitis, which can be caused by the very femcare products sold to help women. Unidentified chemicals and scents—companies aren’t required to list on packaging—in scented tampons, pads, and feminine wipes are thought to be causing this rash of vaginal issues. Quick aside: menstrual blood doesn’t have an odor until it leaves the body and mixes with oxygen. So why are scented tampons even a thing? They introduce chemicals into a highly absorbent part of the body when there’s absolutely no need for an internal air freshener.
Health and wellbeing don’t always come first when it comes to women and their reproductive systems. Far too often, it’s pharmaceutical and manufacturers, along with advertising dollars creating new mindsets and status quos. From the beginning of femcare, which is now a billion dollar business, women have been sold fear and shame along with pads and tampons, guaranteeing manufacturers repeat customers. And history has proven over and over that when it comes to menstruation one can’t assume that products available have been well researched or even researched at all. So before casually popping menstrual suppression pills or inserting that implant and choosing to live blood free, perhaps a little more thoughtfulness should be part of the equation. Girls and women have been taught to demonize periods for so long that feeling negatively about them is generally accepted as normal. Marketing from by that mindset, that woman would no longer have to "suffer" through all that's associated with menstruation, is a huge selling point.
But really, in the end, it might be just selling our bodies short.
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