By Agalby Morel
The majority of menstruators experience period trauma as a result of a patriarchal system that stigmatizes menstruation, and views menstruation as taboo, shameful, and disgusting. Period trauma can be defined as any psychological, social, or emotional injury/distress related to or caused by menstruation. And while the majority of people with periods experience period trauma, it affects Black menstruators disproportionately.
Here are some factors to explain why Black menstruators are disproportionately affected:
1. Black menstrautors may be more prone to or diagnosed with certain reproductive health issues compared to other demographics.
Black mentruators are than white menstruators to have uterine fibroids, and Black menstruators are more likely to have debilitating symptoms from their periods that can interfere with day-to-day activities, aka factors that cause period trauma.
2. There is a cross-generational lack of discussion among Black families
Our society is socialized to view periods as “dirty” and “disgusting”. This is why periods are a taboo topic among Black families, and this leads to not having discussions about periods and menstrual health.
3. Black menstruators may avoid seeking treatment for their period issues because of the history of medical racism.
Black individuals have a distrust in doctors due to the long history of medical racism, malpractice, and abuse of Black bodies. Most notably, James Marion Sims, known as “the father of gynecology”, infamously practiced his gynecological techniques on Black enslaved women without anesthesia. This is why Black people with uteruses avoid seeking medical treatment for fear that they’ll be subjected to racial bias or unjust treatment. A showed that medical students and trainees consistently believed that Black women felt less pain than white women. The medical treatment of Black individuals exacerbate the trauma of periods. Racial bias when seeking medical treatment leads to more radical diagnoses, receiving little to no pain medication, and irreversible treatments like hysterectomies for Black people with uteruses.
What can we do to confront this problem?
- Educate young menstruators on period trauma, which would encourage them to seek medical care from a provider if they are having period problems.
- Increase diversity in the medical care industry so that menstruators have access to Black gynecologists and providers.
- Improve access to organic and affordable period care products so that we can remove a factor that can cause period trauma.