Before I got my first period, before I really knew what a menstrual cycle was, I imagined that, once a month, blood would spot onto the toilet paper for a few days, run its course like a cut on my finger, and that would be that. Little did I know, menstruation often comes with things like stomach cramps, bloating, swollen boobs, and ravenous cravings for chocolate-covered everything. In a recent interview with InStyle, Dakota Johnson opened up about her period, and how she feels “totally scandalized” by these drastic changes, among the many others, that can happen every single month — and not always like clockwork, might I add. Basically, Johnson is just not a fan of the rollercoaster ride that is menstruation — but, I mean, is anyone?
What started off as a seemingly lighthearted Q&A about Johnson's new fragrance collab with Gucci and her go-to drugstore buys, abruptly turned into a discussion about periods and the importance of reproductive health education — both of which the 29-year-old actor is evidently very passionate about. The conversation took a turn for the hormonal when InStyle asked the Fifty Shades of Grey alum if she had any unanswered questions about beauty she’d like resolved. Instead of pondering something like, you know, which shade of red lipstick would best match her complexion, or the magic of dry shampoo, Johnson went another route and admitted that she doesn’t fully understand how reproductive hormones can have such a significant impact on a woman’s body every month (same, though).
“If I’m honest, my hormonal changes during my menstrual cycle are ruining my life. Every month,” Johnson told InStyle. She then went on to describe the experience as “unbelievable,” “really f*cking amazing,” and something she just “can’t get a grip on.” Johnson, if you’re reading this, you are preaching to the choir, my friend.
Though, personally, I like to think that after almost two decades of regular menstrual cycles, I have at least a general idea of what I can expect from my period. That being said, however, every body is different, and no two menstrual cycles are ever going to look exactly the same. Some women experience different symptoms every month, and it can almost feel like a frustrating guessing game trying to navigate what’s happening and what’s to come. From the looks of it, that’s the kind of murky experience Johnson’s putting up with on the regular. She told InStyle,
Every time [I get my period], I’m totally scandalized about what happens to my body and my brain. My boobs are like eight times the size they normally are. It’s really a traumatic thing, and it happens every month. I just can’t get used to it.
Obviously, I’m not a doctor, so I’m not at liberty to give Johnson or anyone else advice on what considered “normal” in terms of menstrual cycles because, again, everyone’s different, and I’m not a professional. What I can tell you is that you are the only one who knows your body best. If something feels off or just plain wrong, it’s always a good idea to speak with your gynecologist to either rule out, or identify an issue.
For reference, Dr. Jessica Shepherd, OB/GYN and U by Kotex partner, told Elite Daily back in April of 2018 that, on average, a person's menstrual cycle will be at its heaviest on days one through three of the actual period. This is also when symptoms tend to be most severe, Dr. Shepherd explained, but if your flow gets noticeably heavier or irregular, or if you experience things like shortness of breath and dizziness with heavy bleeding, she told Elite Daily that these are definitely tell-tale signs that you should consult your OB/GYN, ASAP.
As far as period symptoms go, though, per the Mayo Clinic, “normal” is a broad term, because it’s kind of subjective, and it depends on the person's body. Physical PMS symptoms can range from fatigue, bloating, acne flare-ups, constipation or diarrhea (aka “period poops”), headaches, and muscle pain. Your emotions might take a hit, too, as the Mayo Clinic also lists anxiety, feelings of depression, low sex drive, high sex drive, mood swings, and social withdrawal as possible symptoms.
So, in a nutshell, Johnson definitely isn’t wrong: Periods are kind of unbelievable, and they definitely aren’t all sunshine and rainbows, that's for sure. Fortunately, something positive has come from the actor's frustrations with her period; it's inspired her to team up with Global Citizen, an organization striving to end poverty and bring attention to humanitarian issues.
"This is something that, again, I’m advocating with Global Citizen: Reproductive education," Johnson told the outlet. "What it means to have a woman body, and how do you honor it the right way? How do you not jam chemicals into your brain in order to feel good? It’s a remarkable thing. I really would like to understand and be able to manage things a little better, know what’s happening in my body, and know what I’m putting into it."
It sounds like a noble cause, not to mention an important conversation that needs to be had. Johnson even gave out her phone number on Instagram (it's now the only image on her profile) for people to reach out and share their stories.
If you, like Johnson, are struggling to understand your body, and would like more information on the options available to you, don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor. Remember, menstruation is normal, but living in a constant state of discomfort is not.