Last week, I dropped my bag on the tube. Five sanitary pads fell onto the floor, and as I rushed to pick them up, while the man sitting opposite me worked extremely hard not to look, I felt that familiar embarrassment creeping over me. Despite my feminism, my campaigning for abortion rights, my tweet storms demanding better treatment of women’s health issues, I was still deeply humiliated at the thought that this group of strangers, who I would never see again, would know I was on my period.

 

Don’t ignore the blob

 

It’s been this way as for long as I can remember. Not even just around men - at my single sex school, we hid pads up our sleeves when we asked our teacher's permission to go to the toilet, or passed tampons to friends in need as discreetly as if we were performing a drug deal in a below-average gang movie. We learn from day one to talk about periods in hushed code - “I’ve got the painters in”, “Aunt Flo is visiting”, “She's on her TOM”. 

It’s drilled into us that our bodies are something to be ashamed of, rather than something to take ownership of. Not being able to take ownership of our bodies and talk about them means that, all too often, issues with our bodies are ignored. 

After 15 years of symptoms and misdiagnoses, my mum was only conclusively diagnosed with endometriosis when a doctor spotted the damaged tissue during an operation for something else. I first went to the doctor about my similar symptoms over seven years ago,and I'm still waiting to have a laparoscopy.

 

It all starts with blood

 

Repealing the Eighth Amendment was, undoubtedly, a great step forward for women’s health. But we need to keep the conversation going - especially in the North where abortion is still illegal - and if we are going to talk about women’s health, we need to start with the basics. We need to be able to utter the words, “I am on my period”in public, without us and the people around us turning a colour oddly reminiscent of the subject matter.Without that most simple starting point, how can we talk about the bigger issues?

 

By Aimee Richardson, Game of Thrones actress & women's rights activist