Period Pioneer: Q&A with Founder of The Womb Room
It’s #MenstrualMonday, which means it’s time to introduce another one of our Period Powerful Pioneers! Introducing Saschan Fearon-Josephs, founder of The Womb Room.
Being #PeriodPowerful and learning about your menstrual health is so important. Your period can tell you a lot about your health. Saschan is helping people do exactly that by offering support, information and education for people with reproductive health problems through The Womb Room. We caught up with Saschan to find out all about The Womb Room. Let’s see what she had to say.
What is The Womb Room all about?
“The Womb Room engages with women of all ages. We provide spaces to allow people to be vulnerable, connect with each other and share their experiences to try to dismantle the shame and stigma associated with reproductive and menstrual wellbeing issues. I want to normalise uncomfortable conversations by having them in open and unorthodox places.
We don’t focus on one reproductive health condition. We’re open to people with Endometriosis, PCOS, Fibroids, Vaginismus, PMDD, Chronic Pelvic Pain etc. The reason we don’t focus on one alone is that we recognise that often these conditions co-exist.
We’re intent on changing the world for women and menstruators. We seek to equip our Womb Room community, businesses, education providers and young people with the tools and knowledge to advocate on behalf of themselves and others. The Womb Room is committed to empowering individuals to truly understand their bodies so that they’re not limited by issues surrounding their reproductive wellbeing.”
What things does The Womb Room do to help those with reproductive health conditions?
“We do a range of different things for those living with reproductive health conditions. Some of these include reproductive wellbeing events, education sessions for girls in schools and assemblies. We also do keynote talks alongside online information provision which we’re currently in the process of re-developing. The Womb Room also provides services to businesses to help them support women in the workplace from training, events, consultancy and talks.
We’re developing some new, exciting projects as well. Later this year we’ll be launching our Legacy Programme. I can’t tell you much about it now, but it’s going to change how we empower future generations of young girls and menstruators. It will change how we get them to establish a relationship with themselves, understand their bodies more and define who they want to be outside of their biological capabilities.”
Why did you start The Womb Room?
“In December 2010, I had a coil fitted which caused me to get Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. In May 2011, I underwent a lifesaving emergency surgery to remove my right ovary and fallopian tube after developing a fluid filled cyst on my right ovary. My consultant drained just under 5 litres of fluid from the cyst. The cyst had grown so large that it had wrapped the fallopian tube around itself, which destroyed it.
I continued having chronic pelvic area pain, inflammation and hormonal imbalances so, in February 2014, I underwent an investigative laparoscopy. They diagnosed me with stage 2 Endometriosis on my uterus and remaining ovary. A year later I was then diagnosed with Uterine Fibroids, Uterine Polyps and Suspected Adenomyosis.
In March 2017 I had another surgery where I was diagnosed with stage 4 Endometriosis. 6 weeks later in April 2017 I underwent excision surgery to remove my Endo, as it had fused parts of my bladder, bowels and uterus together.”
Wanting a space to share my journey…
“Initially, I started The Womb Room as a blog. I was 19 and had just undergone this life-changing and traumatic experience. This blog was a space where I could share my reproductive health journey with other young women, so they would recognise they weren’t alone. Blogging was a therapeutic way of working through my emotions and it just grew from there.
I wanted to provide a space where we could share information with one another, get advice on reproductive well-being and start to build a community of support. I never focused the work of The Womb Room solely on one condition because they often intersect with one another. The Womb Room was purposely crafted as a space for everyone.”
How has The Womb Room developed from this?
“We are now re-developing our website, re-branding and working with businesses, schools and youth organisations. The Womb Room now provides training and education to help increase awareness from an early age, with the hope of empowering young people to spot the signs and symptoms of reproductive health problems. We are encouraging them to self-advocate if they think they might have a problem, with the hope of reducing the length of time it takes to get a diagnosis. In the long run, this will help them to improve their quality of life.
The Womb Room provides events to connect women and menstruators with professionals across the reproductive health sector. We are working on building a community so that people living with these conditions can get a support that’s not just digital but physical. There is a lot of power in having an open discussion about issues, which surround our menstruation and reproductive wellbeing.”
What events has The Womb Room run?
“In September 2017 we launched our #REALTALK event series in partnership with Fc2 (The Female Condom). The #REALTALK series was created to provide women, girls and menstruators with a space where they could learn from experts across the reproductive health sector. They could share their stories in this space and connect with a community of other women who have shared similar experiences.
Since launching the series, 119 people have attended. For me, what has made the space such a success is the ability to be truly vulnerable. We have people share the most intimate parts of their reproductive journey from fertility struggles to mental health. We’ve laughed, cried and learned new things. We’ve leaned on each other for support and that’s priceless, that’s success.”
Do you have any other events lined up?
“This year we’re continuing the series in London, with 4 events across the year. We’ll be holding 2 special events. One of these is a Summer Social, where you can come down and meet panellists. You can have a chat with the medical professionals we work with and mingle with others who have reproductive health conditions. We also have a storytelling and healing event in partnership with Emerald & Tiger.
We are also launching the #REALTALK series in Birmingham, in partnership with The Lounge. This is a talk show which discusses difficult topics for women. Our first corporate event series is being run later this year, which I’m really excited about. We are committed to revolutionising the workplace for women and menstruators as part of our ongoing work.”
What are your thoughts on the taboo that surrounds menstruation?
“We live in a society which continues to uphold the narrative that the bodies of those who menstruate are messy, dirty and unclean. It’s time that we changed that. It’s harmful that we live in a society that continues to perpetuate the idea that discussing periods or menstruation is shameful and embarrassing.
We are discouraged from discussing the difficult parts of our womanhood and our bodies so that we don’t make others feel uncomfortable, but what about our comfortability? What about our quality of life?
We normalise the idea that pain is an integral part of womanhood and of periods, but it’s not. We teach young girls to ‘grin and bear it’ because it’s just part of being a woman and having periods, but that’s not true. Bleeding is normal, pain is not. Pain is a sign that something needs to change. It’s our bodies cry for help.”
What the period taboo means…
“For millions of us, the shame we feel surrounding our period is so internalised. Every month we’re acutely reminded of the stigma attached to our bodies and it presents itself at work when we hide our tampons up our sleeves or we bury our pads deep in our handbags.
46% of women feel they can’t be honest with their employer about needing time off due to menstrual and reproductive wellbeing issues because we don’t think we’ll be taken seriously. We say we have a migraine or family commitments to excuse ourselves when we should be able to say “I’m on my period”. It’s time we were able to define our identities as women, as people who bleed, outside of our biological capabilities.”
A huge thank you to Saschan for this blog! You can follow The Womb room on Twitter here, Instagram here and take a look at the website here. What are your thoughts on the period taboo? Do you still hide your tampons and pads? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @totmorganic and use the hashtag #PeriodPowerful