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The Period That Wouldn't Quit

One writer reveals the bloody truth about her experience with Menorrhagia.

Sarah Kasbeer

Sarah Kasbeer

Photo: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

I was sitting at my fashion copywriting job, trying to come up with a pithy headline about pants, when I felt a droplet of something hit mine. I'd had my period for four days already, which is usually about when it starts to subside.

In fact, I'd been confident enough about my low-flow situation to wear white pants to work. When I looked down to confirm what I felt, I saw a giant red spot seeping through the back leg of my pants and onto my chair. Okay, bad wardrobe decision but no big deal. The corporation I worked for employed mostly women, so I figured I could just wash them out in the sink and wet-pants it for a few hours. I scurried into the shared bathroom and took off my trousers to evaluate the damage in a handicap stall.

Suddenly, I had a logistical problem. In order to wash out my pants, I'd have to stand at the sink wearing only a navy thong and a shirt that went just past my belly button. My underwear itself had been pretty compromised during the breach, so I disposed of it along with a blood-soaked tampon—accidentally pouring out a few drops of red liquid for my fallen soldiers before plugging myself back up.

But now I had an even bigger problem. I was nude from the waist down and would have to hand-scrub the red spot out at a communal sink where a company executive could walk in at any moment.

There is a reason I'm not a user-experience designer. Or an event planner. Or in any profession that requires forethought. I could have easily brought my phone in and sent an S-O-S-P-A-N-T-S message to one of my colleagues. We worked at a clothing company where samples were easy to find. I was considering fashioning a loincloth out of paper hand towels when Jennifer from HR walked in. "Oh thank god you're here," I said, poking my head out from around the stall door. "I have an, uh...pants emergency."  

She returned ten minutes later with two slouchy black pairs. I sighed in relief at the drop-crotch styling, a trend would keep my bare ass from getting all up in the fabric. At the time, I didn't think they would need to be dry-cleaned. I was wrong. Not thirty minutes later, back at my computer, I noticed my pants were wet again. I couldn't determine the volume of leakage on the black fabric, but when I stood up, I realized that my chair had also been hit.

This time, I went to the bathroom with my phone and pant number three. When I dropped my second pair, I heard them slap against the toilet like a soaked towel against concrete. Now I don't want to gross anyone out with descriptions of what my tampon looked like, so for the sake of keeping it highbrow, I'll go with whatever Mark Rothko painting is on display at the Whitney. I re-upped on cotton and went back to my desk where I sat on paper towels for the rest of the afternoon.

Truth be told, I'd experienced this before. Menorrhagia—in other words, a bloodbath—is heavy bleeding or menstruation that lasts over seven days. Because menorrhagia can result from uterine problems, hormonal issues, or other illnesses, the CDC recommends that you see a doctor if you need to change your tampon or pad in less than two hours, or if you pass clots larger than a quarter (the darker portions of the Rothko painting). Of course, I'd already told my doctor about this at my last visit, and said it was normal. She did give me a prescription for extended release Naproxen to deal with the cramps.

The next morning, the bleeding had subsided, and I was pretty sure my period was on its way out. But I wasn't taking any chances, so I decided to circumvent the whole pants situation by not wearing any. Instead, I wore a black shirtdress and got lost in a non-period related work project. I didn't notice any leakage until around 11:30 am, when another pair of underwear bit the dust. Also, I was out of tampons. 

Okay, at this point you're probably wondering,  Why doesn't this person just buy maxi-pads? Because I'm cheap and my gym has free tampons that I scoop up by the handful every time I'm there. Another solution would be those fashionable period-absorbing underwear, except that they're only sold online, and it never occurs to me to order them until I already have a mess on my hands, which—to be fair—only happens a couple of times a year.

So I headed to the nearest drugstore find triage supplies. Since I was wearing a dress, at the very least, I needed underwear, but they didn't have any in my size. Instead, I scanned the shelves for some kind of hybrid solution— maybe a pad that's attached front to back with a plastic elastic band... you know, like a bikini brief? When I realized I was essentially looking for a sexier adult diaper, I resigned myself to buying pads, tampons, and paying a visit to the nearest store that carried underwear I wouldn't mind throwing out: GAP Body.

 I returned to my office with $40 of underwear, $25 of feminine hygiene products, and a $12 dry cleaning ticket from the previous day's debacle. But by the time I got back to the bathroom, my period had mysteriously evaporated. My giant shopping bag of provisions would therefore go unused for at least another month.

Apparently, my problem is not unusual. One in five women deal with bleeding so heavy it interferes with their daily lives, although it's more common for teenagers or those approaching menopause in their 40s or 50s. 

 If you suffer from the occasional bout of menorrhagia, it's probably better to prepare for your period like The Hunt for Red October—with as much stockpiled in your naval arsenal as possible. Because there's no way to know when or where it will strike, only that at some point in the future, there will be blood. The last thing you want is to be caught with your pants hanging over a bathroom stall.