Beth Rich is a queer educator and lifespan doula who works at the thresholds and intersections of menstruation, family-building, pregnancy, birth, loss, and other life transitions. She's a non-binary human who's excited to talk about bodies, periods, birth, and sex in language that holds space for all of us. Discover more of her work at thebethrich.com or on Instagram @thebethrich.
As the period positivity movement grows, we see blood in ads, on social media accounts, and elsewhere more and more frequently. In February, the Unicode Consortium announced that Emoji 12.0 would include a drop of blood emoji, which many celebrate as a symbol of period positivity. Period or menstrual blood is nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to be scared of, right?
Well, yes. But for people who are averse to blood, whether it’s because of a phobia, bad experience, or just isn’t their preference, all of the focus on embracing the bloodiness of menstruation can be overwhelming and even exclusive.
If that’s you, I am here with some good news. You CAN be period-positive and not love blood.
Here are some ways that you can embrace and celebrate your body and cycle without focusing so much on your menstrual blood.
Cycle awareness. Your cycle is more than your period. Learning about the rest of the menstrual cycle, which includes four phases or events—menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase—can help you understand and even enjoy your cycling body. If your bleed is a struggle, identify other parts of your cycle that feel good. Celebrate when they happen, and use that energy to prepare for your next bleed.
Examine your feelings around blood. Looking into your fear or discomfort may help you better understand what exactly it is about blood that bothers you, equipping you to feel more comfortable around your menstrual blood. Many people who dislike blood or have hemophobia (the fear of blood) say that sometimes period blood isn’t as bothersome or triggering to them because it often has a different color, texture, and smell than blood that comes from other parts of the body. Others have said that taking an anatomy class or learning more about blood and the body helps lessen their discomfort.
Choose language that feels good to you. The words we use matter. If there is language around menstruation that doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, find something else. Some people choose not to use the word “period,” often preferring “bleed.” We’ve all heard “Aunt Flo,” but there are a number of alternatives like “moon time,” “shark week,” or even the German “Erdbeerwoche,” translated to “strawberry week,” that may feel more fitting for you and your body. You can choose language that makes you chuckle, helps you feel powerful, or helps you remember what you value or enjoy about your menstrual cycle. If you can’t find words and phrases that feel right, get creative!
Find period products that work for you. There are a number of ways to collect your menstrual blood, and some are more hemophobic-friendly than others. Experiment and find what feels best for you. It may change from cycle-to-cycle, and even day-to-day on your bleed. Whether you’re into period undies, menstrual cups, cloth pads, or (yes) disposable tampons, finding period products that feel good for your body and mind is a huge act of self-care.
No matter what, you’re not gross. Even if you feel uncomfortable or afraid around your menstrual blood, you’re not gross. This is a both/and situation. You can feel that discomfort (all of your feels are valid!) AND your body isn’t gross, it’s pretty cool actually, as is your cycle. Learning to hold both of these truths at once can help you rock period positivity and be open, honest, and gentle with your blood-related discomforts and phobias.
Every person and every cycle is different. If you want to be more excited about your cycle and period, but struggle because of an aversion to or fear of blood, you’re not alone. By expanding your understanding of your cycle, your feelings, and your blood, you can move towards a version of period positivity that resonates with you. You can appreciate your body and your cycle, phobias and all.