It affects half the world’s population. Its impact can immobilise us. It can cause unconsciousness and send us into a shivering, feverish wreck. And it happens, on average, 13 times a year.
Periods. There. I’ve said it. I have no qualms talking about them, but many people do. So just why am I writing about them? Because women + periods + adventure = a whole lot to consider before you set off (and during your trip).
There’s the hygiene issue while camping, pains, PMS, an aching body, stocking up on sanitary supplies. Not to mention your body readjusting to such physical pressure.
I have come up with makeshift hot water bottles. I use gel hand or toe warmers on my stomach. If water is in surplus supply, I boil some up and put it in my aluminium bottle.
It’s a pain in the backside (not to mention the ovaries) to be perfectly honest. I considered stopping my periods for this year-long hike, but was worried what long-term effects that would have on my my body. There’s the coil. I couldn’t face the pain of that, nor something going wrong in the middle of nowhere. Then there’s the pill injection with its myriad side effects (which I can’t take anyway). My options were limited. So I’ve done what I always do. Dealt with them.
A Total (Period) Pain – And How to Try and Deal with Them
I have come up with makeshift hot water bottles. I use gel hand or toe warmers on my stomach. If water is in surplus supply, I boil some up and put it in my aluminium bottle. I take vitamin tablets with iron in them. I make sure I have a pharmacy’s worth of painkillers and hope I catch the gremlins in time. So far, so good. By that, I mean I haven’t gone into my feverish, vomiting, passing out phase yet. And I have no idea what I’ll do if that happens. In a tent. In the middle of nowhere. But I know I can deal with it.
I don’t want to tempt fate, but I think I might have made my body more resilient to the pains. I’ve strengthened my abdomens massively thanks to using a hiking buggy that I pull by my waist, and while I have no idea if medically this has any effect, my pains haven’t been as intense.
Impact on Adventures
I could try and work out my route so I stay in a bed and can rest for a night or two. Or camp where there are toilet facilities. But hey, that’s in an ideal world. In reality, it’s not going to happen. My days are much shorter if I think I can hike. My legs ache. My back aches. I stop a million times. The buggy is hauled along by its handles because I cannot bear anything going around my bloated stomach. Before the buggy, I took all the weight of my bag on my shoulders, not being able to cope with the hip strap around me.
I was terrified my body would go haywire with the physical exertion on this mammoth hike, causing periods to happen far more often (this has happened in the past). Thankfully, our bodies are amazing things. It got the message that this was going to be its new life for a while and sorted itself out. And even though my diet has been dire for the past year of camping, I never once skipped a period. The pains have lessened by about half, too, which is an absolute godsend as doctors were unable to prescribe me painkillers that actually worked.
My days are much shorter if I choose to hike. My legs ache. My back aches. I stop a million times.
As for hygiene, well, it’s not so bad. There are wet wipes. You can have a separate bag for used sanitary items, and keep them in a separate pocket till you pass a bin. You might choose to use a moon cup. You become adept at sorting yourself out when there are no loos.
For women who suffer from PMS, I’m not sure how that would impact your adventure. Maybe, just maybe, being away from the hassle of everyday life might help that feeling of doom. But I honestly can’t say.
What I can say ladies, is that as someone who can squeal in pain like a squished cat every month, adventures can be had. It is an inconvenience. It is painful. But don’t let them put you off. Go out there, stocked up to the eyeballs with sanitary items and painkillers, and see how you get on.
I’d love to hear women’s stories of their experiences and how you cope. You can leave your comments below (you don’t have to include your real name). Your tips might be the prayers we’ve been waiting for!
Jane Batchelor has just finished hiking 3,500 miles through Britain, camping being her main accommodation. For more photos, follow her Facebook and Instagram pages. To find out more about her journey, click here.