A study into the effect menstruation has on sport has found that over half of women slow down or stop altogether when on their period. What is it about that time of the month that keeps us away from the gym? We hear from the women who want to challenge the period taboo.
This survey, carried out by FabLittleBag, a sanitary disposal bag company, raises questions on how accessible fitness really is. Many in the survey highlight issues of not having any way to dispose of tampons or pads and many fear embarrassment over leaking.
68 percent of the women who participated in the study also felt they could not discuss periods with gym staff, sport coaches or even their own teammates.
This comes in the wake of the Lionesses’s success in the women’s world cup. The findings suggest the next generation of female athletes may be put off by the fear of playing while on their period because of a lack of sanitary bins and tampon machines and a lack of understanding from male coaches and gym users. Only four percent of those interviewed felt their period did not affect their involvement in sports at all.
“In the gym, I bled into my clothing. Some guys took great delight in pointing out very loudly,” reveals one woman. “I bled through my white shorts on a rowing camp because our coach made us do extra training. He wouldn’t give us toilet breaks,” says another.
“At the end of a ten-mile race, the nearest toilet facilities were nearly 2 miles away and my period had started to show through my clothes”. Situations like these seem difficult for those with periods to avoid. Even if you remember your pads, it’s no good when you’re not allowed to go to the toilet.
However, it appears the stigma surrounding menstruation is felt by women just as it is men. 59 percent would rather invent an excuse than be honest about their period. 60 percent incorrectly dispose of sanitary products down the toilet, rather than in a bin due to a “dislike” of the process.
Former England netball captain, Ama Agbeze MBE, admits she has feared leaking during a game. “You might have an accident which could end up being visible to everyone. I’ve had those horrifying daydreams and I know plenty of other who have too.”
Martha Silcott, inventor of FabLittleBags believes she has the answer. Her creation is a biodegradable bag that allows women to dispose of tampons in any bin, not just sanitary bins (any without the need to wrapping it in ten layers of tissue paper – we’ve all been there). This summer Martha launched the “Blood, Sweat and No Fears” campaign. This encourages those with periods to have an honest chat about their experiences. It could end what she called the “outdated taboo around menstruating”.
“It is a tragedy that a significant proportion of women are held back unnecessarily. Be it through lack of facilities or understanding by coaches.” says the inventor and CEO.
While this may be a step in the right direction, it will also add another cost to menstruating. Sanitary products aren’t free. Adding a £2.29 pack of 5 disposable bags might be a frustrating price to pay for the lack of facilities in the gym. However, Martha’s Blood, Sweat and No Fears campaign has got people talking about periods.
And it’s in our best interest too! One of the reasons team USA say they bested us in the women’s world cup is that they ended their team’s period taboo. With this, coupled with women’s sports being at the forefront this summer, perhaps we’ll see changes in the changing rooms.
Read our answers to all your period queries here!