Menstrual blood. Most women either throw it away, when using a tampon or sanitary pad, or flush it through the toilet, in case of a cup. But what about re-using it for something else?
1. Monitor your health
Your menstrual blood provides information about your health. If it suddenly has another colour, smell or texture, chances are something’s wrong. A grey-red colour, for example, can be a sign of an STD or infection, whereas many big lumps might indicate a hormonal disbalance, which could be caused by the premenopause. Also if you suddenly bleed way more or less, stop menstruating altogether or lose some drops between two periods (spotting), it might be a good idea to schedule an appointment with your GP.
It’s always a good idea to monitor your own health by keeping an eye on your menstruation. There are also companies, like Droplet, who analyse your used pad or tampon and provide you with details about your physical condition. Because your menstrual blood doesn’t only contain blood, but also other cells and tissue, like endometrial lining, in a way your period is a natural biopsy, with every month new data about your physical condition and fertility. That’s why Qurasense has developed a Q-pad and NextGen Jane is working on a Smart Tampon to diagnose conditions like endometriosis, cervical cancer and PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Currently these femtech projects are still in the test phase. To be continued!
2. Fertilise your plants
Are your plants looking a bit sad? Cheer them up with a monthly treat. In the third episode of the hilarious series The Crimson Wave, Jess Beaulieu and Natalie Norman show how they pour blood collected from their cups over the plants on their balcony. Also the Dutch doula Iris Verstappen, who got a lot of negative publicity in 2018 when talking about free bleeding, adds it to her houseplants to make them ‘grow better, faster and healthier’. She could be right: just like normal fertiliser, menstrual blood contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. When trying this at home, do make sure to give your plants enough water. Even better: mix 9 parts water with 1 part blood.
3. Perform a magical ritual
Some cultures believe that menstrual blood contains magical properties. Perfect stuff for moon rituals, spiritual spells and of course love potions. Apparently, in Japan there are girls who add a drop to the homemade chocolate they give their lovers on Valentine’s Day, in the hope this ‘honmei choco‘ leads to lifelong love. Need more inspiration? Witchcraft fora are full of examples of rituals and ceremonies. Menstruating with full moon adds extra power to your spell or ritual.
4. Take a picture…
A Canon 5D Mk ll with a macro lens, a clean toilet bowl and some water. Plus of course a full menstrual cup. That’s all Jen and Rob Lewis needed for the series Beauty in Blood. The pictures look a bit like cloudy skies, but -obviously- in red instead of blue and white. Menstrual blood is also showed in Arvida Byström’s photo series There Will Be Blood. At first sight these images portray women in everyday situations: jogging, reading, waiting for the bus. It’s only after a closer look that you notice the red stains. Of course photography also includes self portraits: Dutch writer Heleen van Royen gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘selfie’ with her book Selfmade. One of the 200 pictures shows her removing a tampon, in close-up.
… or paint it on canvas
No paint? No problem. Menstrual blood also looks good on canvas. Vanessa Tiegs suggests mixing it with acrylic gloss to prevent odours or discolouration. Tiegs made 88 paintings with the stuff and called the collection Menstrala, which meanwhile has become the word for art made of or with menstrual blood.
Other artists who use their own blood instead of paint are Lani Beloso, May Ling Su and Sarah Levy. Beloso sat over an empty canvas and stayed there for 12 hours, which resulted in the first piece of her series The Period Piece. Afterwards, she made another series on plexiglass. Ling Su painted herself and pressed her used sanitary towels onto paper. Levy decided to make a portrait and drew the head of Donald Trump. The title of the piece, Whatever, naturally refers to the president’s remark about Fox News Channel moderator Megyn Kelly: ‘There was blood coming out of her wherever.’
5. Make a statement
How do you get attention? By doing something shocking. And since there are still people who shudder at the fact that every month blood (blegh!) is coming out of your vagina (iiiiieeeeew!), a fertile woman has the ideal weapon to make a statement. That’s why in 2014 the Spanish performance collective Sangre Menstrual protested against patriarchy by wearing white trousers with red stains in public.
In 2015, Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon on her period, without tampon or pad, to raise awareness for women without access to sanitary products. And in 2016, a movie went viral of yoga teacher Stephanie Góngora doing her yoga postures in a pair of white leggings, while menstruating. Góngora’s goal: get attention for the worldwide menstrual taboo. Also designer Chella Quint wants to stop the shame surrounding periods; her action Leak Chic aims to turn the leakage stain into a fashion statement.