Macey spends up to a fifth of her income on coping with her heavy periods caused by a bleeding disorder.
Living independently on a fixed income, Macey, 18, says it is “degrading” to constantly deal with the stress of whether she’ll have enough money left every month to cover the cost of her periods.
Even if she has managed to save enough money, there are days when she cannot leave the house due to her heavy bleeding, which can be isolating and has had a big impact on her education.
Macey said: “I get my money through at the beginning of the month, my period usually comes between the 24th and the 26th so throughout that month I am always panicking that I have not saved enough money to be able to buy the stuff I need. It’s not just pads, it’s constantly buying new bedding or buying protective covers for your mattress or buying new pants.”
Macey has lived with heavy periods since the age of 11 and experienced nosebleeds as a child. She was put on the Pill at the age of 14 in an attempt to deal with her excessive bleeding but the treatment led to feelings of anxiety and nausea. When a routine eye check showed up blood clots in her head her treatment was stopped and she was diagnosed with von Willebrand Disease soon afterwards.
Of her bleeding disorder, Macey said: “It is like an annoying child, it’s always there. I’m always cautious about doing things that might sustain an injury. However now I feel like I manage my condition, my condition doesn’t manage me.”
Coping with a bleeding disorder at school can be very difficult and Macey remembers crying because she was too scared to ask teachers if she could go to the toilet. Aged 14, she was humiliated by classmates after leaking during a lesson and refused to return to school for two weeks.
She said: “It was one of the hardest times of my life because at that age you already feel different to everyone else, you’re a bit more self-conscious and then I had my periods to deal with. I felt paranoia of leaking, paranoia of the smell, paranoia that people think I’m a bit gross, that I’m a bit disgusting. It’s not nice.”
Recently Macey has gained the confidence to speak about her periods and feels strongly about the need to tackle period poverty and break down the stigma of discussing periods.
Macey said: “When I first left home, I didn’t have any money for six weeks and I remember for three or four days I used rolled up socks, pieces of paper, tissue paper, anything that I could get. In the past I’ve walked around the house picking up 1ps and 2ps so that I can go and get a box of tampons which will only last me a few hours anyway. It makes me feel a bit worthless.
“If a man was bleeding from his genitals, he’d be able to go and get the stuff he needed to stop it for free, but as a woman that has to endure this every month, I can’t. It is degrading in a way because you can get all this help from the NHS but for something as natural as a period I can’t get the stuff I need to get through this.”
Macey, who had to drop out of her A’ level studies last year, is about to start a BTEC in business and law believes pads and tampons should be freely available for those who need them.
She said: “If you can get condoms on the NHS you should be able to get pads and tampons. No girl should have to stand in a toilet cubicle rolling up a piece of paper to put in her pants. It’s not right.
“Just because you can afford pads and tampons doesn’t mean everyone else can. We should respect and stand up for women who don’t have the money to buy these things.”