Menstruation can often be a taboo topic for adults and children alike. While periods are a normal part of life for half of the population, education surrounding the menstrual cycle and what to expect is often lacking. Like many others, for Carolyn Handke her period was a source of shame and embarrassment.
But during her graduate program in public health, as she learned more about the body and menstruation, she felt a change in her view of menstruation and her body, creating a fire in her to inspire change in others as well. She now works with adults and children to facilitate conversations and education around the topic and help reduce the stigma of it.
“Most kids will mimic the emotions and reactions their parents have about their first period. If the parent is awkward and struggles to talk about it, the child may as well. I advise parents to unpack their own emotions about menstrual health. Our society has morphed menstrual health into being a taboo topic, but it’s not,” Carolyn tells Love What Matters.
“Start talking about periods early on with your child, well before they hit puberty age. By starting the conversation early, your child will know that it will come and that it’s nothing to fear. By talking about it in public, you will show your child that there is nothing socially wrong or shameful about having a cycle. There is no reason to wait to talk about it until the first period. The sooner a child knows that this is a normal, healthy part of life, the better!”
Carolyn’s work has not only shifted the way she thinks about periods, but also has given her knowledge in how to expect and manage pain or discomfort around her cycle. While pain is common for many people, Carolyn emphasizes that it’s not normal. By opening up conversations, she hopes that more women will be able to have pain-free cycles.
“We are not meant to suffer, as in having to skip school or work because of cramping, bleed through a super absorbency tampon every hour, or have terrible mood swings just because we have a menstrual cycle,” Carolyn says. “These are all things our society has normalized. Educating people on the way they can adapt their life to their cycle will decrease the pain and solve the root issue.”
Solutions can be as simple as understanding what kinds of foods to eat, what workouts to do, and how to listen to your body throughout different parts of the menstrual cycle.
“Our menstrual cycles are powerful and influence us more than we have been told. By understanding what is happening inside your body, you can adapt your life to go with the flow of your cycle, instead of against it,” Carolyn tells Love What Matters. “Holistically, the menstrual cycle can be broken down into four phases. Adhering to the phases can help balance your hormones, which can eliminate menstrual health pain, and make your life easier.”
Social Media Education
In order to help make this knowledge more accessible to the average person, Carolyn uses her Instagram, @periodwellness, and creates educational programs about menstrual cycles. Her job has allowed her to connect with people and businesses across the country, creating a space and community for people to share their experiences.
“Because of many influences, such as the patriarchy, women and people who menstruate have had to disconnect from their own cycle in order to survive. When I hear that someone has connected to their body and feels confident and empowered by that, it makes my heart sing,” Carolyn says.
The stigma and lack of education around periods has caused many people to not fully understand their own bodies. By opening up the dialogue around the menstrual cycle and giving real and tangible solutions to common problems, Carolyn shows the impact that a single conversation can have.
This article was written exclusively for Love What Matters by Anna Steingruber. You can follow Carolyn Handke of Minnesota on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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