Covid-19 has highlighted the absence of media coverage of women’s sexual and reproductive issues

The most common symptoms of Covid-19 (we all know them by now): a high temperature, dry cough, and loss of taste and smell. For those without underlying health conditions these last for a maximum of around seven to ten days. Then, an endless list of long-term effects, including fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain or tightness. There is, however, a gaping hole within this record: the voices of women across the globe talking of long-term damage to their menstrual cycles who are simply going unheard.

Bombarded with the more obscure Covid-related media coverage, I’ve heard enough about Covid toes and Covid tongue. I don’t want to know Susan’s whacky theory about contracting the virus from a broccoli she bought in the big Tesco. Yes, it’s very interesting to hear household cats have been testing positive. Does this directly affect me? No. I’m allergic to cats.

Mere bruised toes and mild skin rashes have garnered national press interest while the effect the virus has upon the menstrual cycle has been allowed to fall by the wayside. The difference, you may ask? It is not considered to be of public interest and thus, issues exclusively experienced by those who menstruate are not assigned the same level of prominence in media coverage.

The data available on the correspondence between Covid-19 and the menstrual cycle is damningly limited. Unfortunately, I’ve uncovered more from group chats and Facebook pages, via personal experiences, than any media outlet or medical journal, which can only be put down to a shameful ignorance of women’s sexual and reproductive issues.

Though sparse, data suggests Covid-19 can result in long-term disruptive effects such as irregular periods, unusual clotting of period blood, and worsened premenstrual syndrome. However, the website I took this information from managed to skip oh-so-gracefully over the horror stories of women suffering extreme stabbing pains while menstruating up to a year after contracting the virus, with many still either experiencing disrupted cycles or missing cycles entirely. And even then, we have no idea what the real long-term effects may be on the female reproductive system.

But how can we support further research into this crucial topic if the media are blatantly ignoring its existence? How can we tell women across the world we are on their side if they are left to feel as if they are struggling on their own? Menstruation is already a taboo topic. Forcing it out of media representation is only going further in damaging the already fragile discourse society has constructed around it.

It is no longer a ‘want’. The media NEED to change the way they report on this issue, encouraging the larger mainstays of the industry to report on women’s issues in the same way they report on men’s issues: allocating equal representation to both.

We owe it to our fellow women, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, and anyone else who may not identify as female but still menstruates. The change starts with recognition of a problem. Women’s sexual and reproductive issues deserve recognition. We deserve to be addressed. We deserve more.

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Dolly Carter

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May 2022
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