My first set of menstruation as a teenager ran for an average of 7 days. I would bleed heavily for about 5 days and then mildly for the next 2 days. Sometimes, for more days. Sanitary pads were expensive and there was no special allowance for this aside from the 2500naira pocket money that I got from my parents every term. 2500naira was not a lot but, in 2005 through 2010, it was worth more than it does now. The Christmas holidays were the best. During this period, I got more money from uncles and aunties and my pocket money sometimes doubled.
When my menstruation began in 2008, I did not tell my parents because, at the time, I had already made the decision not to ask them for anything. So, I bought my feminine products from my pocket money or any amount which I was given for provision shopping before school resumes. There was only one pre-menstrual or menstrual symptom that I noticed at the time; cramps. My stomach would hurt in a way that seemed intense for a teenager. However, looking back now and comparing the intensity of this pain to what I feel now, that series of menstrual cramp was mild.
Over the years, my body has changed so much and it feels like every year comes with a new menstrual symptom. About three years ago, I had severe malaria which troubled me for days and I got treated, tested to confirm no trace of malaria but fatigue and mild fever persisted. I could not afford to go for a test just one month after being treated for malaria. So, I did not do much about it. One day while my colleagues and I were discussing at work, I mentioned that I was feeling sick and they were surprised because they knew I had recently been treated for malaria. Then, out of the blues, the oldest lady in the office asked, “are you sure this is not related to your period?” I never expected to feel malaria symptoms in my menstrual cycle and so I had no answers to give her.
However, I began to study the time of the month when these malarial symptoms appeared and I noticed a trend of one to two weeks before my period. Sometimes, this sick feeling runs into my period. Months later, I went for a comprehensive check-up because I thought I was feeling too sick to be healthy. I had a cervical screening and was tested for STDs. The only thing found was yeast. I was excited that nothing more complicated was found but, I couldn’t yet fathom why my body continuously put me under so much stress.
My body has remained that way and so, coupled with the intense cramp I get during the five days of my menstruation, I get to also have fatigue, fever and sometimes lightheadedness before my period. These are only the physical symptoms I get. There is also the mood swings that come at will with anxiety, aggression and over-sensitivity after my ovulation.
I thought I had seen it all but as I sit by my computer to write this submission, I discovered a new symptom yesterday which has been persistent for 4 months- itching and resultant swelling of my eyes. It is a side-effect of the NSAIDs which I recently began using to relieve me of the cramp and disability that comes with the gushing of blood every month. It often begins with this crazy feeling of having something poking my eye, I would think it is the lashes and try to brush it off. It would persist and before I know it, I am rigorously brushing my eye.
The next minutes that follow, the eyelid would feel inflamed, I would walk to my mirror to see what is happening and find that my eye or eyes had become swollen. This would usually stress me for the rest of the night and gradually, over hours, the inflammation would reduce and my eyes return to normal but, it saddens me to know that coupled with all the symptoms I already have, I have to choose either to stay disabled in bed for days because of an intense menstrual cramp or deal with itchy and inflamed eyes because of pain reliever.
I don’t know what else to expect from this female body of mine but I hope that some other girls out there have it easier on them.
Also, I have been really scared of going to the gynaecologist for a contraceptive procedure because of all the stories of body changes that come with getting contraception. I feel like, I have gotten enough surprises and I do not want any more of them. Can you girls reading this probably share your experience of getting contraception or your own body changes as a result of menstruation in the comments to this post?
Submission by: Name withheld