We are living through an uncertain and challenging time right now. Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) met to evaluate the ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus (COVID-19). They warned it is likely to be “lengthy”. With measures prolonged and ever-changing, the pandemic effects every part of our lives. I have seen the phrase “periods don’t stop during a pandemic” more times than I can count, but just how is the pandemic impacting periods globally?
The pandemic is making access to period products harder for some
This pandemic has led to people panic-buying, with many reporting being unable to buy essential items such as toilet paper, nappies and period products. We have seen that those who can afford to hoard will, which leaves those on lower incomes without basic essentials. Plan International reports intentional inflation of prices in some countries too.
At the start of lockdown China initially failed to list period products as essential, which led to suppliers facing shipping problems. People in hospitals and quarantine centres are struggling to access period products too. One person in particular noted that individuals needed more than they were provided. Many charities have called for more donations during this time as well.
Access to information is difficult to obtain as well
The pandemic has led to disruption and closures of schools and health services. For many, this means basic information about menstrual health and hygiene is simply unattainable. In addition to this, people who seek information elsewhere will likely be exposed to myths and harmful traditions. For example, in some parts of the world menstruating folk are told they will become infertile if they wash or touch their genitals or that they can pollute water sources, toilets and even food.
Myths regarding periods and COVID-19 are alive too. United Nations Population Fund reports rumours circulating in Tanzania include that menstruation is a symptom of COVID-19 or that are menstruating people are more likely to transmit the virus. They also reported that some people in China believe menstruation increases a person’s vulnerability to the virus. There is no medical evidence that suggests this is true and these myths only increase the stigma surrounding periods.
Sometimes periods in a pandemic do stop
If you have noticed a change in your periods in the pandemic, you are not alone! Stress is one of the most common causes of disrupted cycles and all this uncertainty is incredibly stressful! Life in lockdown is hard, we’ve all had to adapt to some form of a new normal (I’m sorry, I hate this phrase too) and our bodies definitely pick up this. Your body can sense things like changes in sleep quality, exercise, diet, lifestyle, etc. It’s all linked!
Personally, my periods stopped for three months just as lockdown was implemented. I was so stressed I felt my body was stuck in limbo with the prolonged PMS symptoms I was experiencing. I cannot tell you the relief I felt when I finally bled.
The pandemic has shown us that access, education and open conversation is vital. People who already face barriers will continue to struggle and face difficult challenges. Governing bodies across the globe cannot exclude period products from essential items anymore. Safe access to period products is a human right.