Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Endometriosis and feminine hygiene products: my campaign

On a recent trip to the supermarket, I noticed my pack of Libra pads had a sticker on it saying that they supported ovarian cancer research. This got me thinking - wouldn't that be a great avenue for endometriosis awareness? I searched the websites of feminine hygiene brands available at my local Coles supermarket to see if any of them mentioned endometriosis. I would expect that seeing as 10% of their customers have endometriosis, they would see it as a priority to address. The results were disappointing but not surprising. In each search I simply searched the word "endometriosis".

Number of results: 0.
Any significant articles on period pain (eg in FAQ)?: Short article on period pain suggesting that people with period pain should try a hot water bottle, or if the pain is really bad, a painkiller. Suggests to ask a doctor about painkillers, but has no mention of what to do if the painkillers don't work and no mention of there being a medical condition that could cause bad period pain. Also suggested that the person in pain should do more exercise. [Considering that elsewhere on the website they feel the need to weigh in on the discussion as to whether or not people should have Brazilians,  I think they have overlooked something here.]
Other causes supported: Ovarian cancer awareness/research.
Overall: On top of there being no mention whatsoever of endometriosis, I actually found the Libra website quite condescending and am now reconsidering buying their products at all. I do think that it is good that they are contributing to ovarian cancer research but I think they could go even further in that by including information on the packets about symptoms of ovarian cancer so it is caught early.

Number of results: 0.
Any significant articles on period pain (eg in FAQ)?: No, but there is a link to a similarly condescending "It's my body" website, sponsored by Stayfree/Carefree, with articles on periods clearly directed at girls going through puberty.
Other causes supported: None immediately apparent.
Overall: They don't have a huge amount of information up on their website, so I can understand them not having information up about endometriosis, but it is unfortunate that their linked sponsored website was so condescending.

Number of results: 9.
Any significant articles on period pain (eg in FAQ)?: Yes, most of the mentions that came up in the results were actually in the comments section, but there were also multiple direct references to endometriosis in other articles. There was a great article on going to the gynaecologist which I wish I had had before I went.
Other causes supported: None immediately apparent.
Overall: By far my favourite website. Photos of real people without any white pants, puppies or flowers in sight. Real medical information that is not condescending. Also has a comments section and forums that allow people to have conversations about any issues they might be having through all stages of a woman's life. Two thumbs up!

Upon further investigation - I discovered that the Kotex site was actually for a "worldwide" audience. I went to the Australian site and was disappointed to find that there was no mention of endometriosis. After a bit of digging I came across this sentence "It is not necessary to suffer period pain so bad that you can't function" followed by an instruction to go see a doctor about potential treatments and some great tips on natural ways to deal with period pain (eg fish oil, magnesium, chamomile tea, etc). A little better, but I still think that they could be more upfront about endometriosis and actually have a section on it.

Number of results: No search function, but from my browsing, no direct mention.
Any significant articles on period pain (eg in FAQ)?: Yes, an article on "Period Problems" mentioning that 2-6% of women have severe to incapacitating pain, but no mentions of endometriosis explicitly, despite articles in the "Health Issues" section on AIDS, amongst other diseases.
Other causes supported: None immediately apparent.
Overall: Not too condescending, but I find it odd that they have information on AIDS and eating disorders but not endometriosis. They also have a number of links to websites about chlamydia and ovarian cancer so there is definitely space to include information on endometriosis.

Number of results: 0. (No search function, but couldn't find any in my own browsing)
Any significant articles on period pain (eg in FAQ)?: There was one article on PMS.
Other causes supported: Butterfly foundation for eating disorders.
Overall: Not happy. I was thinking it wasn't so bad, until I found this little section:
"Periods vary greatly, and mean different things to different women – to some they are a minor insignificance, to others, an inconvenience or even a challenge. But they are always a sign that your body is working they way it should. 
Your body is incredible! This intricate chemical and biological event is actually very cool, and the monthly proof of your vast girl power. So cherish it, and make sure it’s as comfortable and as gorgeous a time as you can make it. 
Your period does not prevent you from doing anything and everything you normally enjoy. So no excuses. Eat right, stay fit, and get on with it."
These are the exact lies that were perpetuated to me in the 10 years that it took me to get diagnosed. The last thing we should be telling people with bad period pain is to "get on with it". My periods were always there but they were definitely not a sign that my body was working the way it should.

So now I've got a bright idea. I am going to write to each of these companies asking them to include information about endometriosis on their websites and/or packs, or even think about sponsoring an endometriosis charity. I don't know if anyone has ever tried this before - I hope I'm able to make some difference!

PS I will eventually have more outfit updates... just being lazy with my uploading of photos!


  1. I really like this post. It does suggest that the feminine hygiene product manufacturers don't think very hard about what they talk about. This one would seem to be a no-brainer for them.

  2. Nice one Lib! (Janet)

  3. This is an awesome blog, Libby. I've been reading your posts pretty much every day this month *stalks* but this is the first one I've commented on. Just wanted to say that reading this post made me reflect on how I first found out about endometriosis- through reading teen magazines such as Dolly and Girlfriend. Since reading your blog and about how endometriosis is so little-known, I was surprised when I reflected on this, that despite all the superficial stuff they also had in these magazines, there was also some really helpful information. I can't remember the exact details, but it did certainly state the facts about the disease and to speak to your doctor if you think you may have it. Not sure if they still cover it- looks like it's time to raid my little sister's room for her copy :P Also not sure if women's mags like Cosmo/Cleo cover it too- haven't bought a magazine in who knows how long! Laura :)

  4. Sorry- just realised my wording- I should have used 'condition' instead of 'disease'

  5. Hi there! Stumbled over here via the Thrifty Challenge and thought I'd let you know I appreciate this post. I don't suffer from endometriosis, but I have a surprising number of friends who do.
    Anyway, you may have already heard of these menstrual cups things(eg. Lunette) but I swear my cramps (which for me can be pretty bad, but not debilitating) are less severe since I've been using one.
    I don't believe there's any actual scientific documentation that periods are less painful with a cup vs. other forms of 'protection', though.
    Plus, I really like that I'm contributing just that little bit less to landfill in general. :-)

  6. Oh my god, I just read some more of your posts about endo and I realised my comment seems incredibly insensitive.... I'm really sorry, I really only meant to mention the Lunette so you could also compare it to the other products mentioned in your post.

    1. Hey, thanks for the apology, but don't worry. I'm pretty used to people trying to tell me what might help the pain. I definitely do appreciate you coming back and apologising though :). I'm glad that you've learnt some stuff about endo through my blog - that's the aim!

      I have actually looked into using a menstrual cup before, because it sounded pretty attractive to not contribute so much to landfill (I also looked into it because I object to the fact that feminine hygiene products are taxed and cost so much!). Unfortunately I have had too heavy a flow and too much pain/bloating to even think about using a cup recently. I would love it if I could use it though! It is such a good idea. Maybe I'll look into it in the future.

      Since you've pointed me to the Lunette brand, I thought I'd check it out. I found this quote on the website:

      "Sure, periods can bring some discomfort but that doesn’t qualify it as a curse. Think about it. Periods don’t restrict your life, unless you let it. Unlike the old days, you can do anything during your period."

      It's disappointing that a supposedly woman-friendly company like Lunette would be just as dismissive as the other companies. I'll have to add them to my list to contact!

  7. Great Work, I really like this post


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