Monthly Hugs update

  • By Chloe Tingle
  • 18 Sep, 2017

Hi everyone,

Today we have an announcement to make. We have decided to put our Monthly Hugs subscription service on pause. We absolutely love Monthly Hugs and have put a lot of time and energy into making it happen, so this hasn’t been an easy decision and it’s taken us some time to reach.

The reason for the pause is that even though we have had a really amazing reception to the boxes, a lot of positive feedback and even featuring in the Independent’s top 10 self-care subscription boxes, we’ve had less subscribers than we expected following the launch.

Given that we are such a small organisation with limited resources, we’ve come to this difficult decision to put Monthly Hugs on pause for the next few months until we can source significant investment or a partner which can support us to cover the overheads of building a larger customer base.

Nonetheless we would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who has supported us during the Crowdfunder in June and beyond to get Monthly Hugs of the ground, it has been a pleasure and we are so pleased with our Endless Summer box that went out in August.

This journey has given us invaluable experience and the resources we so desperately needed to carry on with our Tackling Period Poverty project working with low-income vulnerable women right here in Bristol, which we couldn’t have done without the support of Bristol Green Capital.

We would like to emphasise that funds have been used exactly as allocated through the Crowdfunder, particularly those that were for workshops and donating boxes to the vulnerable women we work with. With this, we have already managed to conduct 3 workshops, 2 period clinics and give out 9 boxes, each with a reusable sanitary product.

We are solely putting Monthly Hugs on hold for the next few months due to the huge amount of resource needed to create each month’s Monthly Hug. As a small not-for-profit with only a few members of staff, we have taken the strategic decision to put our energy into forwarding the Tackling Period Poverty Programme for the time being until funding or a partner is established for Monthly Hugs.

If you love the Monthly Hugs idea and would be interested in becoming a subscriber in the future after we re-launch please submit your email here . Please note this is non-binding and your details will not be shared with any third-parties. 

The more people we have register their interest the more likely we are to be successful in our search for external funding and/or a partner to take on Monthly Hugs.

Once again, we would like to thank you for all of your support and we are really sorry that we can’t keep Monthly Hugs going at the moment, but we promise we will do everything we can to get it up and running again in the near future.

If you have any comments, concerns, questions or feedback please get in touch with Chloe .


Lots of love,
NMT Team x

No More Taboo

By Catherine Blom-Smith 04 Jan, 2018

With 2018 in full flow, we thought we’d look back at what we learned about periods and how things have changed in 2017. From ground-breaking scientific discoveries to stigma-busting art, here is a review of a few things the period world got up to last year.  What are your period goals, and what change would you like to see in the coming year?

In March , researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago developed the first ‘ menstrual cycle in a dish ’, simulating the body as it menstruates. It comprises of different compartments containing 3-D models of ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, vagina, and liver. After years of only testing new drugs on men and having untested effects on the female body, this new device aims to make it easier to test drugs in a system that mimics the female body. Because of hormonal differences between men and women, medicine can affect them differently. The hope is that eventually, many different synthetic systems could be linked up to create more realistic simulations, reducing the need to experiment directly on people or animals.

In May , ActionAid released the findings of a YouGov survey they commissioned about menstruation and found out that ¼ of women in the UK aged 16-39 don’t understand their menstrual cycle. The poll asked 2,140 men and women in the UK aged 16 and over about their attitudes towards periods, and uncovered some interesting findings. For instance, one in three (37%) women in the UK said they would not feel comfortable discussing periods with male friends, yet only 17% of men would find discussing periods with female friends uncomfortable. This shows us that there’s still a lot of work to do around breaking period stigma and the unwillingness to talk. These taboos especially affect the lives of women and people who menstruate in poverty, stopping them from accessing the information and sanitary products they need. So get talking!

In July , the artist Cass Clemmer broke taboos by making art with their menstrual blood . Cass, who is trans, is working to beat stigma, especially for trans men and non-binary people, and show the world that you don’t have to be a cis woman to experience a period. They use their Instagram account as a form of trans activism, and share the hashtag #bleedingwhiletrans. Trans people face many access and safety issues during menstruation, such as bathroom use, access to products, and lack of disposable bins in men’s bathrooms.

Also in July , a new study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience showed that menstruation doesn’t change how your brain works. With a large sample size that followed participants over more than one menstrual cycle, they found evidence that levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone in one's system have no impact on the working memory, cognitive bias or ability to pay attention to two things at once. The team behind the study emphasise that there’s a lot more work to do to provide a fuller picture of how the menstrual cycle affects the brain, and for now, the study is a good step towards changing perceptions about menstruation. Finally, proof that women in power won’t go nuclear-button-trigger-happy on their periods! 

In October , Bodyform released the first advert to show red period blood, a symbolic move forward in showing periods as they really are. This is a great example of the power of the media to change attitudes and improve education. Here’s our blog about it.

In November , the Fitrwoman period-tracking app for sports enthusiasts and athletes was released. It was developed to try and help keep women in sport, minimise the impact their period has on training and inform people about their periods. It gives information on the best exercises or regimes to do at certain times in the cycle, as well as which foods help when - iron and carbohydrates during menstruation, for example, healthy fats towards the end of the cycle. One of the app’s developers, Grainne Conefrey, said "You don't want to go into that quarterfinal thinking 'oh crap, I'm on my period'. I definitely want to change that mindset."

Looking forward to 2018 – a new exhibition called ‘Period Piece’ explores periods through poetry, film, art, holograms and a specially commissioned piece of music. It aims to explore the natural rhythms of women’s bodies and how they are controlled and manipulated by others and by growing technology. The music was created from the daily temperature charts of four women, translated into musical notes, harmonies and cadences, which created songs based on the ‘interior rhythms of the women’s bodies’.

Despite all these advances in science and peoples' understanding of menstruation, there's still a lot of work to do to break period stigma and end period poverty. Let 2018 be the year of #nomoretaboo.  

By Catriona Dickie 23 Dec, 2017

A quick Google search will reveal millions of articles on what not to eat on your period, and there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that all of the fatty, sugary and delicious foods that are bad for our bodies will probably be present in a well-stocked kitchen over Christmas. But that doesn't mean that we can't be kind to ourselves and make sure we get plenty of energy-giving nutrients, too.

Tis the season to indulge, and I am definitely not saying anyone should miss out on the joys of overdosing on Cheeselets, chocolate coins and mince pies. But if Aunt Flo does turn up uninvited, reaching for unhealthy snacks may not be the answer. Fitting all these nutrients in may seem overwhelming, especially over Christmas, but the good news is that many of the specifics our bodies need during this time of the month are part of our traditional turkey (or nut roast) dinner already:

Turkey

During each cycle, women (and people who menstruate) lose 30-80ml of blood and we need iron in order to replenish this. When our iron levels are depleted, we become tired more easily – this explains that sluggish feeling when it's our time of the month. It's common knowledge that red meats are full of iron, but turkey is rich in iron too.

Nut Roast

For the vegetarians and vegans among us, the main event is likely to be a nut roast. Nuts and seeds are full of omega 3 and fatty acids which can help reduce cramps. If you've used the unsalted variety, even better – excess salt is one of those aforementioned foods to avoid.

Leafy Greens

Leafy green veg are packed full of iron which gets lost when we are menstruating. Foods like spinach, kale, collard greens and Swiss chard are the best, as is the omnipresent Brussels sprout. Not only are they rich in iron and B vitamins; their high fiber count also can help with digestive issues often associated with your menstrual cycle.

Chocolate

Okay, there is a caveat to this one – I'm not talking about fun tubs of mini chocolate bars that will inevitably be hanging around during the festive season. Dark chocolate with the highest percentage of cocoa you can find is what you need, because it won't be as full of sugar. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and magnesium which reduces mood swings and helps regulate serotonin.

Salmon

Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast, anyone? Like nuts, salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids that not only have heart benefits, but can also provide menstrual relief.


Of course every woman's body is unique and our bodies need different elements to stay healthy and balanced, but there are some core nutrients that could literally ease the pain of being on our periods.

By Catherine Blom-Smith 01 Dec, 2017

If there’s one thing my period can do, it is to totally ignore any and all plans I have. It comes exactly when it is most inconvenient – if I’ve planned a long train journey, a swim in the sea, or an evening on the climbing wall, it will sense my plans, and like a spiteful gynaecological gremlin, it announces its presence. Periods don’t stop just because it’s an inconvenient time, and this is also true in the run up to 25 December. Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and statistically one third of women and other people who menstruate will get their period during the festive season. That’s 1/3 of households experiencing real-life Die Hard at any one time, 1/3 of households feeling Pre-Mistletoe Tension and Post Mince Pie Sleepiness.

Which is why No More Taboo has put together a special Christmas Hug Box to help you or your loved one through the festive menses. It’s just what it says on the tin - designed to feel like you’ve been given a virtual hug and let you enjoy the season in peace and goodwill (not guaranteed during family Monopoly night). It contains surprise treats including something chocolatey, something to pamper yourself with, and something for your mind. It also will contain a beautiful custom message greetings card, and a branded No More Taboo pen, perfect for writing thank you notes. There’s also an info booklet with more details on your goodies and festive period facts!

Not just that, your box will help vulnerable people in Bristol. A period is for life, not just for Christmas, and No More Taboo is dedicated to ending period poverty, which is why this is a ‘buy one, give one’ gift. Every box bought provides a vulnerable person access to one of our period clinics along with their own box, which includes a reusable sanitary product and some other period support in the form of goodies, as well as important information and guidance around their own gynaecological health. Each box bought will make such a difference to the people who need it and spread the season of good cheer.  

We want everyone to have a safe, healthy and happy festive season, and by ordering a box or donating in another way, you can help make this happen. So get pulling those crackers, mulling that wine, and generally treat yourself, happy in the knowledge that your Christmas menses could be helping somebody else. You can even take the enjoyment to another level, and try making your own menstruation-themed decorations, like this adorable angel from tamponcrafts.com . I for one intend to deck the halls for my festive period.

Order your box here !

By Chloe Tingle 15 Nov, 2017
We feature in this 8min story broadcast on the BBC Inside Out's Programme on 16th October 2017 as a follow up to their first Period Poverty story which broke the media's silence on the topic. It also has footage from the BreaktheBarriers event we co-hosted with Freedom4Girls and Plan International in Leeds on 14th October.
By Chloe Tingle 15 Nov, 2017
Our Limited Edition Christmas Hugs are available in our store: https://www.nomoretaboo.org/store/The... All money raised through this campaign will go towards Tackling Period Poverty in the South West for homeless and vulnerable people.  Blatantly using our beautiful dog Kibibi as click bait :-)
By Chloe Tingle 15 Nov, 2017
Vote here: https://swarm.typeform.com/to/H4X8RU We're down to the final three to recieve a whole evenings support from the good people of Exeter, less talking more doing for an entire evening. Visit  www.goodfornothing.com  for more info on what the idea behind it all is. We love the idea of a community coming together to put their ideas, networks and skills together to make something happen in one night!
By Chloe Tingle 07 Nov, 2017

To start my internship with No More Taboo at the Breaking the Barriers event in Leeds was the best introduction that I could have asked for. Walking into Leeds Civic Hall and seeing dozens of round tables filled with chattering activists made me excited about the day ahead and the conversations that I would have. With introductions from Plan International UK who run the world’s largest girls rights campaign, from Paula Sherriff, the Labour MP for Dewsbury who has vehemently pushed for the abolition of tampon tax, and Bryony Farmer, the 20 year old blogger who created Precious Stars Pads, I was immediately captivated. This introduction was followed by a panel discussion with Shailini Vora, Director and UK Programmes Coordinator at No More Taboo, Sally King, Founder and Director of Menstrual Matters, and Robyn Steward, author and trainer helping people to better understand autism. The discussion was fascinating as each speaker offered incredible perspectives on a variety of issues, producing a rich dialogue about the need for more holistic menstrual education so that our ideas about menstruation are no longer based on myth and assumption. The most interesting points raised drew our attention to the need for more specific situation based education on periods that is specialised to people’s varying needs, as well as the absurdity of euphemistic language used by medical professionals when discussing periods and the all too common occurrence of people who menstruate being misdiagnosed with anxiety and depression, leading to the prescription of medication, medication, and more medication. But in reality, we should be encouraging people who menstruate to track changes in their moods and experiment with lifestyle changes before turning to medical help.

With an incredibly exciting list of workshops that we had the opportunity to attend, including Period poverty in the UK context , Building actions in the UK using case studies from the Global South, Changing attitudes and taking action: the No More Taboo model and Reusable products: what’s available and how can we teach others about them?, it was a difficult choice. After much deliberation, I decided to go to Chella Quint’s workshop on #periodpositivity for the morning session and Plan International UK’s workshop on creating a Menstrual Manifesto for the afternoon session. Chella Quint’s interactive and engaging workshop was a riot! We spoke about moving past the binary of tampon/towel by learning the Menstrual Product Mambo (which we did in a conga line around Leeds Civic Hall), about questioning whether education on periods is inclusive, fun and taboo challenging, and we each developed our own advert for STAINS™, “a removable stain to wear on your own clothing as you see fit. A fashion statement that really says something” (quote taken from http://www.stainstm.com/ ). Chella created a space where we could simultaneously laugh and learn, where we could sit down together and discuss the danger of branded products which take possession of our bodies. Follow Chella’s work and be inspired!

Following on from lunch, we were in for a treat of an informative panel discussion on what we can learn from the Global South. Mandu Reid from The Cup Effect, Janie Hampton from World Menstrual Network and Tina Leslie from Freedom4Girls shared their experiences and their research, warning us about the risk of using culture as an excuse to not make change. Between them their experiences show the need for access to menstrual products in certain rural areas. The Cup Effect’s work has recognised the success of menstrual cups, with family members of people who had received the cup also asking if they could receive one. They also found that men were some of the most captive listeners, and therefore warned us against making assumptions and to place the importance on the individual voice and experience.

To finish my afternoon, I then attended the Menstrual Manifesto workshop with Lucy Russell and Kerry Smith from Plan International UK, where together we created a manifesto which Paula Sherriff will take forward to parliament. With closing talks by Plan International and plenty of tea and coffee being drunk whilst we shared our appreciation for such a beautifully inspiring day, I left feeling so unbelievably excited to be a part of something so important. The people who I met at Break the Barriers were truly incredible, each person having their own story and their own motivation. With all of this positive energy in one room, it was impossible to leave feeling anything but elated! 

Make sure you get down to the next Break the Barriers event and I guarantee that you will feel inspired, and keep up to date with all of the amazing work that this incredible network of activists and organisations are doing to challenge taboos and create period positivity on a global scale. But while you’re waiting for the next one to come around, what can you to do challenge period stigmas and tackle period poverty? Talk to somebody – a friend, a family member, a colleague about period poverty and stigma, to raise awareness of the issues. Why not tweet your local MP and ask them what they’re doing to tackle period poverty? There are so many ways you can get involved on a grassroots levels. Join the fight!

By Chloe Tingle 07 Nov, 2017

Periods and contraception are intrinsically linked, at No More Taboo we believe everyone should have choice and know all the options before making their own informed decision. In our chats at different events we have heard a lot of talk about natural contraception and period tracking as a form of contraception and wanted to find out more. One of our volunteers, Catriona, talks about her own experiences here:

“I first heard about the fertility awareness method from a girlfriend. We’d met for a drink and the talk turned to reproductive health, as it is want to. I’d stopped taking the pill after almost ten years, and this had left me embarrassingly unacquainted with my body’s natural monthly cycle. While I knew that it was normal for my periods to be erratic after going cold turkey on the progesterone pills I’d been popping for such a long time, this knowledge didn’t help the feeling that my body was suddenly out of my control.

For all its flaws, the pill was great in some ways too. My period arrived predictably at the same time every month. I also felt secure knowing there was virtually no chance of me getting pregnant so long as I remembered to take it every day. The problem was, my mental health was suffering, which I’ve since learned is the case for many girls and women in the UK  . This was a problem that outweighed the benefits and I finally came off the pill as a result.

So far, so liberating. But this was just the beginning of my journey. I still needed to figure out what to do about contraception. Although there are quite a few options out there, none of them were appealing to me, especially as I was completely ruling out hormonal methods. The other consideration was my period. I’d become used to it arriving at the same time each month, and knowing when it would make an appearance gave me the power to plan around that. Without controlling my cycle artificially, it could arrive at any time.

Enter the fertility awareness method (FAM). Not to be confused with the rhythm method, FAM involves tracking your monthly cycle to work out when you’re ovulating. Women are only fertile for a few days each month, so working out when this fertile time falls is the key to predicting your next period. It also means you can avoid sex (or use barrier contraception) during those fertile times if your aim is avoiding pregnancy. Couples trying to conceive can do the opposite.

So how does it work? Simply put, by taking your temperature every morning and recording the changing quality of your cervical fluid. The term 'cervical fluid' may sound gross at first, but its really not. It's totally normal and plays a crucial role in our fertility. You can find out more about the ins and outs by reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler (or as I like to call it, the Bible. It even lives in my bedside drawer).

For me, tracking my monthly cycle is about so much more than contraception. It’s about feeling empowered and in charge of my body. It’s about recognising what’s normal and healthy so that I’ll be able to identify anything that isn’t. It’s about knowing why I feel a certain way at certain times of the month and knowing that it’s just part of my body and its quirks. FAM may not be for everyone, but I’m so glad my friend introduced me. If you have £8 to spare on a thermometer and a smartphone to download a free app, I’d recommend giving it a go.”

What sorts of contraception do you use?

How does your contraception affect your periods?

Do you trust methods like the Fertility Awareness Method?

Nb. No More Taboo do not recommend one form of contraception over another and recommend each individual to conduct their own research into effectiveness and appropriateness for themselves.


[Picture courtesy of  sandiegohomebirth.com]

By Chloe Tingle 20 Oct, 2017

This week, Bodyform released a new advert for its range of sanitary products. So far, so uncontroversial, right? Except this advert features realistic red blood poured onto a sanitary pad, making it the first ever advert shown in the UK to depict menstrual blood for what it is.

It has taken until 2017 to get to this stage of openness about menstrual health, which seems ridiculous, because this sort of story shouldn’t be shocking. It shouldn’t be news. Women (and trans/nonbinary people who menstruate) have been bleeding red blood out of their vaginas since before advertisements, the internet and probably before television (except then they did it in black and white). What this advert represents, however, is the banishment of the infamous ‘blue liquid’ that used to feature as a smurf-esque stand-in. I say good riddance. My friends have told me of younger siblings or even partners who used to genuinely think period blood was blue, because that’s all they’d seen and nobody had taught them otherwise. This sanitisation of the period has led to a lack of awareness of what periods are actually like, which in turn leads on to the stigma, the culture of silence and the idea that a period makes a woman ‘unclean’. Blue gives the impression of sterility, coldness and science. Blood is red, visceral, dark, thin or thick, a sign of vital life. Denying this reality is denying cis women’s natural functions, denying their very vitality. As we moderate and censor periods, the more we strengthen this taboo in society.

The wider question raised here of course is the issue of how much we sugar-coat women’s bodily functions (that way lies a yeast infection, dear reader). It is hilariously absurd the way some companies market tampons and towels – like some sort of mysterious miracle product that will change you from a sad woman who cannot go out to a laughing woman who can skip about and sail and wear white trousers (oh brave person!). All these things are of course possible on your period but to look at these adverts you would think their products contained an unhealthy dose of caffeine.

I have to admit I was nervous thinking about how my partner would deal with this part of life once we moved in together. His acceptance of the messy, emotional, irritable, bloody reality of my period was a relief – but I shouldn’t have been nervous in the first place. Honestly, it cramped (sorry) my style. Acceptance was literally the absolute least he or anyone could do: actually developing an understanding by asking questions and talking frankly is what is now needed.

We should normalise and educate about periods, and hopefully this advert will make more people who live with and around menstruation comfortable talking to each other about it. Ultimately it’s about education – the more education, the better the lives of many millions of women around the world. This is what No More Taboo stands for. It’s one small red drop for woman, one giant leak for womankind.

By Chloe Tingle 18 Sep, 2017

Hi everyone,

Today we have an announcement to make. We have decided to put our Monthly Hugs subscription service on pause. We absolutely love Monthly Hugs and have put a lot of time and energy into making it happen, so this hasn’t been an easy decision and it’s taken us some time to reach.

The reason for the pause is that even though we have had a really amazing reception to the boxes, a lot of positive feedback and even featuring in the Independent’s top 10 self-care subscription boxes, we’ve had less subscribers than we expected following the launch.

Given that we are such a small organisation with limited resources, we’ve come to this difficult decision to put Monthly Hugs on pause for the next few months until we can source significant investment or a partner which can support us to cover the overheads of building a larger customer base.

Nonetheless we would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who has supported us during the Crowdfunder in June and beyond to get Monthly Hugs of the ground, it has been a pleasure and we are so pleased with our Endless Summer box that went out in August.

This journey has given us invaluable experience and the resources we so desperately needed to carry on with our Tackling Period Poverty project working with low-income vulnerable women right here in Bristol, which we couldn’t have done without the support of Bristol Green Capital.

We would like to emphasise that funds have been used exactly as allocated through the Crowdfunder, particularly those that were for workshops and donating boxes to the vulnerable women we work with. With this, we have already managed to conduct 3 workshops, 2 period clinics and give out 9 boxes, each with a reusable sanitary product.

We are solely putting Monthly Hugs on hold for the next few months due to the huge amount of resource needed to create each month’s Monthly Hug. As a small not-for-profit with only a few members of staff, we have taken the strategic decision to put our energy into forwarding the Tackling Period Poverty Programme for the time being until funding or a partner is established for Monthly Hugs.

If you love the Monthly Hugs idea and would be interested in becoming a subscriber in the future after we re-launch please submit your email here . Please note this is non-binding and your details will not be shared with any third-parties. 

The more people we have register their interest the more likely we are to be successful in our search for external funding and/or a partner to take on Monthly Hugs.

Once again, we would like to thank you for all of your support and we are really sorry that we can’t keep Monthly Hugs going at the moment, but we promise we will do everything we can to get it up and running again in the near future.

If you have any comments, concerns, questions or feedback please get in touch with Chloe .


Lots of love,
NMT Team x
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