I'm Writing About Periods. Deal With It.

Last month Heather Watson, British tennis player ‘crashed’ out of the Australian Open and explained her performance being off in the post-match post-mortem like this:

I think it’s just one of these things that I have, girl things.”

Heather Watson Australian Open 2015

... and the sporting world had a meltdown.  Did a female athlete just blame a poor performance on having *gasp* her period?

Yes, yes she did and here’s why that’s okay: us ladies, the creatures of mystery and intrigue that you sit next to on the tube, share a desk space with in the office, have periods. Lots of them, a good 450 of them in a lifetime. Some will go by with barely any blinking and some will bring the ceiling down around us – I think those were the days that Heather was referring to in her quote. They happen; it’s a fact of life. I get some spectacular symptoms; my blood sugar drops low and I get so clumsy that I walk into doors, tables and walls, I get a headache so fierce that the only thing that clears it is 10 hours of sleep and I am burning hot every night for 5 nights -  seriously, I wake up sweating, it's gross. 

I’d wanted to write a post about this for years, I’m almost 5 years into writing and I’ve toyed with writing about periods once or twice a year. As the sporting world is having a meltdown I figured now would be a wonderful time to see if I could cause a meltdown or two of my own volition. Just so you know, this article may get 'squicky', so if the concept of my biology freaks you out you may wish to stop reading. If not, strap yourself in, we’re going on a tour of my ovaries. Yeeehaw.  

I have a specific topic in mind; menstrual cups. I’m a bit of an evangelist about these things and I like to encourage people to use them. As I’ve talked to many women about these things I’ve had a lot of responses: discussion, many looks of abject horror, even more discussion, some personal questions and some who have flat refused to engage in the topic (women were my age, of my generation have done this the most and it’s weird, I can’t say anything else but that I find it weird; how can you not be accepting to something that’s happening to your body and is an essential part of life? Oh it’s weird.)

A menstrual cup is an item I got introduced to in my mid-twenties by a friend and I honestly wondered what I’d done without one for so long. It changed my life – I don’t say that lightheartedly, it changed shit. Suddenly I wasn’t having to fork out £3 a month on sanitary products. Suddenly I wasn’t having to change a tampon every 6 hours (or worry about it coming loose during strenuous exercise) and I never had to think about TSS again. Suddenly I had less cramping and no upset stomach during my period.  Suddenly a period was no longer a massive inconvenient chore. See? Lifechanger.

LadyCup Menstrual Cup Pink

Okay, it takes some getting used to. You have to become friends with your vagina and understand what it feels like, you have to get used to dealing with blood, you have to get used to having to put a cup into you (there are various methods, the punchdown always works best for me), get it in the right spot and pop it open (the last part it does itself, you don’t have to work hard for that). You also have to learn when your cervix is low that the damn thing will not go in (go to the loo, a bowel movement usually fixes this) and if you can feel it, it didn’t go in right and it’s best to whip it out and start over again.

I started with a Mooncup but I found it too big and switched to a Ladycup a little later down the line. Even over the 10 years I’ve been using them the market for these things has increased at a rapid rate. When I bought mine there was one brand in the UK. Now, and thanks to the internet, there’s even a comparison website for menstrual cups so you can find the size, capacity and price that’s right for you.

LadyCup and Mooncup
As you can see, I sized down. LadyCups are softer and smaller and come in pretty colours!

Let me tell you why I love these things:

  • They are environmentally sound as there is no waste to the landfill (also, less grumpy landlords as there's no more tampon-blocked toilets)
  • They save you a ton of money. I've spent £40 on 2 cups in 10 years vs £360 I would have spent on tampons. Over a lifetime that's an obscene amount of money!
  • There's a lot less mess.  I remove it and hot water rinse it twice a day; once when I wake up and once when I go to bed.
  • You get fewer cramps and stomach upsets. What else do you think happens when you insert a wedge of chemically drenched cotton wool into your body? Where do you think those chemicals go? Ever wondered why your stomach gets so upset on the first day or so? Ever wondered my towels dry out your skin on an already sensitive area? A cup stops all that. 
  • They last forever and clean up like new. Each month I sterilise it using a cup of kettle boiled water and a sterilising tablet from the baby section in Boots, leave the cup in it for 15 minutes and it comes out as new. 
  • They change your life. Did you not read the bulk of this article?

If periods are now a talking point, then let us be heard, ladies. Heather, your period is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign that we're human, we're women, our bodies can perform minor miracles and due to that, we have a bad day every now and then. Big deal. The fact that you said this has meant a there's been a huge discussion about this 'offensive' subject in the sporting world (words of National Country Coaches, not mine). Nutrition and training will change because of this, it's an exciting time for all female athletes out there. The playing field becomes equal once again. 

You know what the amazing thing is? A day or so after the crippling headache and bumping into stuff, I bounce back stronger. Every month.  Ladies, how awesome are we?

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  1. Great article. I'm 53 so my periods are almost at an end, but I wish I had tried these.


  2. I also recommend cloth sanitary if you can't face insertion (after child birth these can be a bit traumatic). Why have disposable plastic next to you when you can have lovely bamboo instead