It’s A Problem: Period.

By Ella Gibson (she/her)

You know, it’s that time of the month that you just simply dread! PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is responsible for the changes in the body’s hormone levels before your period that can cause both physical and emotional irregularities. The most common physical changes are headaches, cramps, fatigue and, bloating to name just a few. Emotional symptoms can range from anxiety to mood swings, insomnia to appetite changes and, depressed moods. For all of this and more to occur once a month of approximately half of the UC population, it makes me wonder about the implications it must have on the university experience. Accordingly, I took to the UCSA Noticeboard and crowdsourced period experiences from the UC cohort. Specifically, I asked how periods have affected or are affecting the UC university experience. Sit back, relax, and let’s investigate this bloody predicament, period. 

I was overwhelmed with responses from the UCSA Noticeboard post. What was especially confronting to me was the extent of this problem and the number of people it affects. The diverse stories and experiences that I was presented with were simply astonishing. Personally, my periods arrive with their classic physical symptoms of sore stomachs and bloating; they sure do cramp my style (sorry, but you knew I had to do it). But more than that, their emotional and behavioural impact truly are the biggest hindrances to my ability to be at university. Whenever the dawning of my period ensues, I am undoubtedly reintroduced to my best friends: anxiety and mood swings. If I had to conceptualise my period experience, I would compare it to the likes of the most volatile liquid one could find that is constantly shaking and pouring out its contents everywhere. I feel for people that are graced by my period presence because I really can’t guarantee what type of gal you’re gonna get. 

Unfortunately, I am not the only one who endures such gloomy symptoms. An 18-year-old Bachelor of Commerce student informed me about how periods put “a huge f**king dampener on the university experience.” She explained that this is “because when you’re lying in bed in unearthly pains, can’t stand or leave [your] bed because you’re in that much pain it means you can’t attend uni. But what happens when you have tuts that are attendance marked? It’s either suffer in class for an hour and feel like trash or lose marks that can be crucial to your grades.” A 26-year-old Master of Arts student disclosed that she could not attend university at the time when she saw my UCSA post. “I literally have my period atm and am not going into uni. Because I usually bike, but sooooooo don’t want to do that right now. I would drive, but I don’t have a parking permit and am too skint to buy one,” she explained. These are the types of common conundrums that UC alumni with periods can face. 

A non-binary 21-year-old Student studying a Bachelor of Arts explained their period pains and experiences at UC. “My periods are extremely painful and so much so that during the time I have them, it is very hard to get on with my daily life. I just don’t want to get out of bed. And I have an extremely heavy flow, and I lose so much blood that I have to keep taking iron tablets to maintain the iron levels in my blood.” They also continue to explain the nexus between being non-binary and periods. “I am a non-binary person and uncomfortable with femineity, which means my gender dysphoria worsens during my period and often results in depression. Not an ideal situation when it goes on for five to six days,” they explain.  

So how about at the specific UC related period obstacles? A 22-year-old Mechatronics Engineering student explained that “in the engineering building they don’t have [sanitary] bins in every bathroom, even in the women’s bathrooms it’ll only be in one or two stalls. Having to think through which bathroom stall I go into is s**t.” This student then went on to reveal what happened when she was a part of the UCSA student executive and brought up the issue. “I tried to bring it up on my term on UCSA exec, but I wasn’t able to get anywhere with it”, she explained. 

These represent only a handful of the brave people who reached out to me. To conclude, periods suck. They suck immensely! Everyone knows that, and half of us are unfortunately graced with the opportunity to experience it once a month for a whole week! How good! It is essential that UC facilitates and acknowledges the period experience and how it can affect students. If one is unable to attend a tutorial or lab because of crippling period pain, that should be respected and understood. A natural process should not threaten one’s grade. It’s a problem that needs more addressing, period.