Women with Fibroids Movement: Part Two—Menstruation, the Last Taboo

Roughly one of every three women will suffer from abnormal uterine bleeding at some point in their lives, writes advocate and award-winning journalist Holly Bridges in The UnHysterectomy: Solving your Painful, Heavy Bleeding Without Major Surgery. She’s one of them, having suffered with uterine fibroids for almost two years. men

Holly is one of the 15 Canadian women who have kickstarted a movement to advocate for timely and appropriate care and treatment of uterine fibroids and other common causes of abnormal uterine bleeding. Although a small group, they represent the universe of women suffering physically, emotionally, socially and economically throughout the whole patient experience, from living with symptoms to diagnosis, treatment and followup. It’s a journey that begins with isolation and fear:

“If someone would have told me in 2007 while I was sitting on my toilet at 2 a.m. being up to my knuckles in blood clots and bleeding, crying my eyes out because I thought I had cancer, that I would be standing here in 2013 with other women who’ve been through the exact same thing as me, it probably would have given me a lot of hope. Because perhaps there would have been somewhere for me to go for information and I would’ve been able to fast-track my treatment. But there was nothing back in 2007.”

Why the wall of silence? Men’s reproductive health is now openly discussed in popular culture—think of that Viagra commercial with the guy dancing his way to work to the tune of “Good Morning” from Singing in the Rain—but menstruation really is “the last taboo” as Holly explains:

This societal bias against menstruation leaves women uncomfortable discussing abnormal bleeding even with another woman. So imagine telling a man.

In my experience, men generally recoil at the mere mention of menstruation. I’m pretty sure they have little desire to hear about painful, heavy menstruation. So for many women, it takes real courage to share their condition with the males in their lives–even those close to them. One of the 15 women took extreme measures to get her husband to understand the severity of her bleeding:

Although this woman can look back and laugh at her own story, at other times sharing the reality of these conditions—in the workplace for example—is no laughing matter, as two other stories illustrate:

The commonality in these two experiences-from the first job to the lost job-is women’s shame and embarrassment. The women behind the fibroid movement hope to foster women’s confidence in speaking up about abnormal bleeding conditions, whether with other women, or with men. As Mazal Kimhi explains below, being open about her own experience, even with her son, can only help other women.

Next time, we’ll look at the huge impact living with fibroids has on women’s lives.

To see all of the Fibroid Movement videos click here.

Illustrations © Leah Silverman, discoverydoodles.com, for Sandpile Inc. July 20, 2013  

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    Posted on by Lisa Ferguson with Zal Press

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