Welcome to Period Routines, where we spotlight different members of the LOLA community to learn how they manage their period. We want the ins and outs of their monthly routines — how they feel, how they deal, and what they can’t live without.
Want to share your period routine? Leave a comment below.
Today, we’re talking to Grace Ouma-Cabezas, a marketing executive based in New York City. Grace talks to us about how her period routine has changed in recent months, due to uterine fibroids and the coronavirus pandemic.
Occupation: marketing executive
Industry: digital media & commerce
Location: New York City
First Period Story
My mom was an OB/GYN nurse, and I have three older sisters, so I grew up in an environment where we were constantly talking about our periods. When I got my period at age twelve, I was totally prepared.
You know in around 6th grade, when the school takes girls into one room and boys into another, and you watch this video about how your body is going to change? Well, I remember the video saying that your period was the last step of puberty. So when I got my period I was bummed out because I was still flat chested, and only four foot eleven. The video said, “It all culminates in your period, and then you stop growing,” and I was like, “This can’t be true, I’m not even five feet tall yet!” I can’t say that I grew to be much taller — I’m five foot three today — but it ended up not being accurate information. I really hope they’ve updated that video by now.
My Period Routine
I’m pretty regular. My period comes every 28 days. I have uterine fibroids, which I’ve always known, but they’ve only started bothering me in the last six months. One symptom is that my periods have gotten longer. They went from four days, which is how long they’ve been for most of my life, to seven days. It’s been a bummer, and my period routine has changed as a result.
My flow has been a lot heavier recently, and I’ve had more heavy days, which has been disruptive. Work keeps me busy and running around, so I have to remember to take a break every hour and a half during my period…to go to the bathroom, change products, make sure there’s not a leak. That’s been a change I’ve had to make.
When my period changed, I noticed I was becoming increasingly fatigued. I found out that I was actually very anemic from the heavier bleeding. My periods gave me anemia so severe it sent me to the ER in February, and I ended up needing 3 pints of blood.
Now I take iron supplements and make sure I’m getting enough green leafy vegetables, especially during my period. One thing I learned from my doctor is to take iron supplements with Vitamin C, because it apparently helps with absorption. So I take a Vitamin C supplement at the same time.
I make a green smoothie every morning because it’s a good way to get an extra serving of spinach. Since I’m working from home these days, I’ve been able to try new recipes to get my iron in, like kale ricotta toast and chickpea salad. Eating a healthy, iron-rich diet is my main focus around self-care that’s related to my period. It boosts my immune system overall, which is an added bonus during the pandemic
I also avoid drinking alcohol during my period. I noticed that it makes me feel worse the next day.
I use Clue to track my period, pretty religiously. It’s basically become my life tracking app! I will put any cycle or symptom changes in there. Clue was how I was able to realize my period had changed — I was able to look back and see that the average length of my period had gotten longer, and stayed longer. It helped me realize something was different, and that I needed to go get it checked out.
Right before the COVID-19 quarantine hit NYC, I got surgery to remove my most menacing uterine fibroid (which was causing my extremely heavy periods). It was a same-day procedure and my recovery was about five days…though the doctor told me it would be two or three days! I’m lucky because if my surgery had been scheduled for even a week later it would have likely been cancelled due to the pandemic.
My husband is naturally a very energetic person, so there’s been a lot of compromise and ongoing conversation around my energy levels during my period. He is so aware of my period because of how tired I get…I think he probably knows when it’s coming before I do!
I’ve had to do more negotiating with the people in my life, and tell them I’m less available during my period. I feel like sometimes women are made to feel bad, or like being on your period is just an excuse. It can be hard to have to say “Actually, it’s really heavy and I get really tired and don’t feel well.” I have increasingly learned to be honest with people about when I’m on my period, and what I can and cannot do as a result.
Actually, it’s really heavy and I get really tired and don’t feel well.
I never used to be stringent about wearing all black during my period, but for the last few months, on heavy days I’ve made sure to wear black pants in case I leak. It’s been an adjustment, having to think that through and plan outfits for certain days. I have this black jumpsuit from H&M that’s become a go-to period outfit that I wear every month. I love jumpsuits because you look really put together without having to do much. The fit is great, so even if I feel bloated it always looks good.
I’ve still enjoyed experimenting with fashion while working from home. Now that my period is more manageable post surgery, I’m no longer relegated to all black. This will be really fun once we’re out of quarantine.
— as told to LOLA. Illustrations by Eugenia Mello.