It is a subject that women don’t talk about enough: our uterine health.
It is easy to place uterine health front and center at the onset of puberty, or during our family planning years. However, as time goes on, the completion of family or the anticipation of menopause can result in making our uterine health more of an afterthought than the priority that it should be.
This doesn’t change even when there are issues. Things such as heavy periods and severe cramping might be signs that there is a problem, yet is simply accepted as ‘the new normal.’ We oftentimes convince ourselves that there is no need for concern, or even for a consultation with a doctor. In fact, we don’t even share our body’s happenings with our close friends and loved ones. While the reason why women stay so mum about menstrual cycles could be the thought of our experiences being unimportant, it could also be shame or embarrassment.
To become free from the stigma that surrounds the topic of uterine and reproductive health issues, we as women must begin to speak up. We need to have the bravery and confidence to have conversations about what goes on below the belt – and a safe space in which to do so.
That is exactly what took place with Change the Cycle during Blogalicious Weekend 2016.
Change the Cycle is an online community where women with heavy periods share struggles and find solutions. They strive to raise awareness of heavy periods, its causes, and potential treatment options by sharing content that is both fun and empowering. The community partnered with The White Dress Project, an organization that seeks to bring awareness to uterine fibroids, to create an opportunity for women to get information about their uterine health during the weekend and share openly about their experiences and concerns in a safe and welcoming environment. Their #DaretoWearWhite initiative during Blogalicious weekend was all about empowering women to dress with confidence by wearing white while addressing the ‘below the belt’ topics that are still mostly considered taboo.
The weekend included several informative Q&A sessions for attendees featuring Jessica Shepherd, M.D., MBA and Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project. Women were welcomed to ask questions about a multitude of women’s health topics, with emphasis on Fibroids, noncancerous tissue growth in the muscle walls of the uterus¹, and Abnormal Uterine Bleeding (AUB), A gynecological condition marked by heavy, excessive or extended menstrual bleeding.²
The statistics shared about Fibroids and AUB were startling to me. Dr. Shepherd revealed that AUB affects 1 in 5 women³, and up to 80% of women will have fibroids by the age of 504. It was in that moment that I began to see the facial expressions change across the room each time. It was as if in that moment, the women in attendance realized that they were not alone in whatever issues existed with their uterine health, and the apprehension began to fade.
Another powerful moment came with when Tanika shared her health story of struggling with the heavy bleeding, cramping, bloating, and conceiving difficulties resulting from having fibroids for most of her adulthood; and how these challenges have impacted her life and overall health. One by one, women around the room began to raise their hand to ask question about their own uterine health issues, and share their personal health journeys. Some women even went into depth about medical procedures they’ve had, and how living with Fibroids or AUB has impacted their quality of life. It was beautiful to see each woman receive words and expressions of support and encouragement from each other as well as Tanika and Dr. Shepherd – the elevation of confidence in each woman present could be felt immensely.
Out of everything discussed during the sessions, the topic that stuck with me the most was the importance of taking time to fully know and understand your body, and working hand in hand with Healthcare Professionals to manage uterine health and to select the care and treatment options that are best for you.
Tanika Gray Valbrun is a champion for sharing her fibroids story. Dr. Jessica Shepherd is a champion for the sacrifices she makes in her family and professional career to travel across the country to educate women on uterine health. The women in the room who stood up to share their health stories are champions, as well as the other women in the room who took an important step in making their uterine health a priority by attending the informative sessions throughout the weekend.
I am glad to have been present for the Change the Cycle discussion during Blogalicious weekend. It is wonderful to see that Change the Cycle is changing the way women converse about their periods. Being that African American Women are three times more likely to experience fibroids than other races5, it is a health topic that cannot remain silent any longer. After hearing the important and relevant information from Dr. Shepherd and the personal health journey of Tanika Gray Valbrun, I believe that every Change the Cycle session attendee left the weekend feeling empowered to become an advocate for their uterine health just as I did.
Join me and #DareToWearWhite to raise awareness about uterine health. Visit www.changethecycle.com to learn more about the signs and symptoms of heavy periods, as well as when to talk with your doctor about possible treatment options. There’s also a symptom checklist printable for use during your next office visit. Additionally, communicate online with other women who are living with—and want to manage—their heavy periods by connecting with Change the Cycle on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and by following the hashtags #ChangeTheCycle and #DareToWearWhite.