Managing your periods
We thought the most helpful advice we could give would be from someone who’s managed periods and sight loss themselves.
Emily Davison, an influential voice from the visually impaired community, tells us what it’s like to have periods when you have, in her case, a severe vision impairment. Here are her top tips for getting organised.
Learning about periods at school
I remember when I had my first lesson back at school about periods. It was one I’ll never forget, although not for the right reasons. It was a Tuesday afternoon and the teacher was showing us different types of period products – although I had no idea what was going on because I couldn’t see. Being a severely sight-impaired student in any other lesson, I would have simply raised my hand and asked for some further assistance, but the subject of periods made me too embarrassed.
I also could hear my classmates laughing nervously throughout the lesson and I didn't want to draw attention to my awkward situation. So, my hand stayed firmly by my side and I remained silent.
A few months rolled by and on one Saturday afternoon, I started my period. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. I had no idea how to use a tampon or what kind of sanitary pad to use. My mother was at work and I had no other family member on hand to ask for help.
How will I know when I'm on my period?
Being visually impaired was something that I was used to, but throwing a period into the mix added a whole new set of monthly challenges to the equation!
One question you might ask yourself if you’re visually impaired and have never had a period before is: “how will I know when I get my period?” The honest answer is you’ll just know – your body goes through a lot of changes when you start to menstruate. You can get cramps, tiredness, changes in your skin, breast tenderness, headaches, cravings and other symptoms. You'll physically know when your period has begun. Nobody, sighted or not, sees their period when they first get it. You just notice a change and that’s often enough for you to gauge that you’ve started your period. So, don’t worry!
Yet sighted people often ask me: “how do you know if your period starts?” which now seems like an odd question. Because I genuinely don’t have anything to respond with, other than “you just know.”
Tips for when you're on your period
Talking about periods
Society has a long way to go when it comes to broaching the subject of periods and how different people deal with them. People with sight loss are often underrepresented in period adverts and media portrayal, this can lead to feeling self-conscious because maybe your period story doesn’t ‘fit’ the norm.
The best thing you can do as a person with sight loss is to be open and honest about your lived experiences. Help start the conversation around periods and disability to end the stigma that surrounds them.