Revolutionising period education with Bright Girl Health
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;
Story

Revolutionising period education with Bright Girl Health

Stories/661 , Issues/Women
NSW
24th Mar 2020
Revolutionising period education with Bright Girl Health
Demi Spaccavento knows menstrual health is not the most comfortable topic of conversation, but she is changing that.

Talking about periods will often dreg up complaints of pain and PMS, dread for ‘that time of the month’ and negativity towards this aspect of womanhood. The statistics state that 80% of women suffer period pain at some stage in their lives, and we often swap stories of our shared experiences like monthly cramps, bloating, fatigue, bad moods, and tender breasts. Discomfort and pain around periods have become so common that, for the most part, we have accepted these symptoms as normal because we’ve been conditioned to.

One Aussie woman is changing that for young people.

Demi Spaccavento is the Founder of Bright Girl Health, a one-woman show revolutionising education about menstrual cycles in school. The concept was born when Demi was looking into contraception for herself in her early twenties. As a health-conscious person, she wasn’t comfortable with taking a daily hormonal contraceptive with a list of side effects longer than most people realise or are warned about. She started researching alternative methods and discovered fertility awareness. Learning about hormones, their role in the body and how they can be used to our advantage, she started to understand how our menstrual cycle actually works. 

“I hadn’t learnt all this information as a teen or in my twenties. I was kind of angry — angry that no one taught me this basic and really helpful information about my own body!” Demi says.

Once Demi learnt about hormones and the menstrual cycle in greater depth, it completely transformed the way she related to her own menstrual cycle. The knowledge she learnt helped her to accurately predict her period and balance her hormones through lifestyle choices, allowing her to minimise PMS and period pain. 

“I now had a love and appreciation for my body that I didn’t have before. I believed that this knowledge needed to be taught in schools to teenagers. As a teacher myself, I decided I wanted to develop a program where students learn the skills to appreciate their body and have better hormonal health.”

Bright Girl Health conducts menstrual and reproductive health education presentations for teenagers in schools across NSW. The presentations equip teenagers with the tools to understand their bodies and make better health choices. Some of the topics Demi covers include how the menstrual cycle really works, why we get period pain, PMS, acne and heavy or missing periods. She also educates students on how to use diet and lifestyle choices to support hormone balance and have better periods, the impact of hormonal contraception, how to identify PCOS and endometriosis and how to get the best help from medical professionals and advocate for answers.

“Something that I personally think is a huge concern is how often [young girls’] period symptoms are dismissed as being ‘normal’, or ‘just the way it is when you have a period’. These comments are often made by parents or doctors when young girls do the right thing (and the brave thing) by speaking up and reaching out to an adult for help. Period pain is a way our body speaks to us. Extreme PMS symptoms are ways our body tells us it needs more support.”

According to Demi, menstrual health is not the most comfortable topic to talk about and this can pose a challenge in schools. She often speaks in schools where students have parents who are not willing to discuss the topic with them, ingraining the idea that discussing this aspect of our health is shameful.

Demi will often begin Bright Girl Health school presentations by making jokes or listing a lot of shocking facts or phrases. When students realise she is comfortable talking about the topic, this sets a great tone to be able to dive deep into the topics that they really want to learn about.

“Some students are often happy to talk about the fact that they have their period, which is great! But the more taboo topics they often shy away from with their friends are things like discharge, infections, cervical fluid, structure and details of anatomy, and when anything starts to look a bit out of the ordinary. My presentations break these down to make them simple to understand and less scary.”

Bright Girl Health stands for a movement of health education urging women everywhere to listen to their bodies and pay attention to these key indicators of health that the body gives us. Importantly, Demi wants students to realise that just because something is common, it doesn’t mean it is good. 

This new education around menstrual health is emerging more in the online space and in schools. Schools are making an effort to include more sustainable menstrual hygiene products into their lessons, and there is more information online than ever before for teens to learn more about their period. According to Demi, this can be very positive, but can also mean they might have access to inaccurate or unreliable information.

“We never want to replace human support and conversation around the menstrual cycle, including teens having an open dialogue with their parents around menstrual health.”

We need to stop accepting period symptoms as “normal” so that young women can take control of their health and make lifestyle changes that will benefit their hormones. Education about our menstrual cycle shouldn’t be something that we don’t learn about until we already have problems and it’s too late. Bright Girl Health is leading the way in showing that this imperative knowledge should be included in health education in schools around the world.

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