Resolutions and [Period] Revolutions: Overcoming Worries About Exercise During Your Cycle

Happy New Year! In the spirit of new beginnings and the season of resolutions, many of us consider ways to take better care of ourselves and practice healthy behaviors like eating well and exercising. Some days it can be a real struggle to get to the gym, and periods pose unique challenges—the cramps, the fatigue, the mess—that can potentially break our stride. Be a Rose is on a mission to encourage healthy choices for women, so let's talk about healthy periods and your exercise routine to foster a community of support for and among women.

During your period, the thought of sweatpants, ice cream, and a Netflix binge may sound more appealing than an hour on the elliptical. However, did you know that exercising during your period is one of the best ways to relieve all those pesky symptoms dragging you to the sofa? In addition to the release of feel-good endorphins that curb irritability, exercise increases the blood flow to ease cramps, headaches, back pain, and fatigue. Plus, increased heart rate and sweat help keep the digestive system on track, warding off constipation and bloating.

These key benefits should boost your confidence and motivation!

Now, what are the best exercises during your period? There are several perspectives on this topic. Some studies have indicated a correlation between menstruation and exercise-related injuries such as ligament tears in the knee (ACL tears), which is, in part, attributed to lowered motor control. Also, some assert that due to ligament strain during menstruation, vigorous exercise should be avoided. Consequently, these perspectives urge a more gentle exercise routine during your period, such as yoga or walking.

In contrast, others argue that low levels of estrogen and progesterone at the start of menstruation lead to more powerful workouts. Thus, women are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to add a few more reps to their weightlifting routines or add a greater incline on the treadmill. Fitness blogger Jennifer Blake shares that during her period, she feels empowered to “lift hard and often” and sees “the most consistent progress” in her training. Blake has found that tracking her cycle to manage her workouts has been an “invaluable” tool in getting to know her body well and planning her workouts to make the most out of hormonal fluctuations.

In addition to free apps available for tracking your period, there are innovative new products for managing your menstrual hygiene during exercise. If the thought of rogue tampon strings slipping out of your swimsuit or pads bunching and shifting in your shorts have kept you from the gym, we hope you’ll be encouraged to hear that feminine hygiene products have undergone drastic improvements to meet the needs of today’s women. Kotex now offers the “U by Kotex Fitness” line, which promises greater protection and comfort while the body moves. THINX has introduced a “sport” line of period panties designed for comfortable, flexible, leak-free protection. Menstrual cups, such as DivaCup, offer up to 12 hours of hassle-free protection, designed to “handle the various angles of your body movement.”

So, embrace your body and explore your options! And whether you choose to try a more intense workout or instead opt for a gentle practice during your period, the most important behavior is to listen to what your body tells you and respond to its needs. You know your body better than anyone else, and you are in charge of your own health. We hope that you stay well, keep encouraged, and continue to Be a Rose through 2018!

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Photo Credit & Model: Emma Ombogo, Fitness Junkie

When she isn’t intensely evaluating financial risk as a professional auditor, Emma is intensely exercising to stay fit and active!

“Regular exercise doesn’t just make you stronger; it helps you get healthier, gives you more energy and I have experienced drastically reduced cramps and migraines.”

By: Aanee Nichols

Branching Out: An Inspiring Woman Stands Tall in Struggle, Strength & Solidarity

Photographed: SPC Ngungiri (2015)

Photographed: SPC Ngungiri (2015)

At Be a Rose, we strive to expand the conversation on menstruation in a way that reaches all portions of the population, especially those who have been marginalized by society. We appreciate and celebrate those who give voice to their experiences and share their perspectives authentically and with enlightenment, honoring the complexity of their journeys.

Jane Ngunjiri carries such a voice. Her powerful story speaks to menstruation management under the most challenging circumstances, finding her purpose, recognizing what motivates her, and overcoming incredible obstacles to achieve her goals. Jane also emphasizes the value of a support system and finding strength through open, honest dialogue.

Born in Kenya, Jane immigrated to the United States when she was young and worked hard to adapt to an entirely new environment and culture. Despite her incredible strength and heart, Jane faced heavy challenges in her life, including a struggle with homelessness. However, she was determined to rise above her circumstances to give a better life to her son.

“My son is my life,” Jane said. “He pushes me to work hard.”

This love and commitment to her son, as well as her hunger for adventure, motivated her decision to join the United States Army Reserve. She was anxious, though, to tell her family in Kenya, fearing they would not understand and that it would cause them to worry. In fact, it wasn’t until she graduated from basic training that she told them! Although they indeed expressed concern, Jane ultimately found support and understanding from her family.

In basic training, Jane was again challenged to adapt to vastly different practices and behaviors than she was used to. Eating became one of the most immediate struggles. Jane—who had always been a slow eater—was forced to consume entire meals within five minutes. There was such great stress and pressure to learn to eat quickly that she “didn’t even taste the food—just chewed and swallowed.”

Another challenge for Jane was heavy cramping during her period. She was not permitted to keep medications with her belongings, so when she needed pain relief she had to visit the nurse at a scheduled time each day. There, she would need to give detailed descriptions of her cramping, which was a challenge in itself as Jane had always tried to keep her period private. This routine, however, caused her to become much more comfortable talking about her period, as it was the only means to access the pain relief she needed.

Jane shared the struggles of menstruation in the military, beginning with the difficulty of accurately tracking her cycle due to changes in diet and exercise. Menstruation was especially difficult to manage in the field, where there were no toilets—only bucket latrines—and where it was often dark and the lack of proper hygiene resources made it difficult to keep clean and prevent infections. Women primarily used feminine wipes to clean themselves as thoroughly as they could under the circumstances. The process of cleaning herself or changing her pad was made especially difficult by the weight of the gear and equipment layered on her small 115 pound frame. “Everything had to move quickly, but this process took so long,” she shared.

Although these challenges weighed on Jane, she discovered a great sense of support among the women with whom she served. She explained, “In the military, you’re trained not only to help yourself but to help each other.” These women were comfortable venting about their cramps or asking each other for pads as needed. Jane expressed that although these women have come from different countries, cultures, and life journeys, they were able to lean on each other and “act as a family,” sharing from their own experiences in the military and exchanging advice on menstruation management. They were also able to have fun and make jokes with each other, helping to foster this sense of camaraderie. Jane found encouragement in hearing the experiences of women who had been deployed, demonstrating the value of women sharing, lifting, and supporting one another.

“You become so strong just listening to those who have been deployed,” Jane reflected. In fact, her experience in the military has helped her to realize her own strength and potential. With the help of the army, Jane has studied for a career as a behavior analyst and is close to receiving her board certification.

“I have made it this far because I believed I could,” she said. She encourages women who are facing hardships of their own to maintain hope and be brave, and urges people to push beyond their comfort zone and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. She exemplifies this inspirational mindset and model of behavior each day.  

Be a Rose is truly honored to share her story, and we hope that it will inspire you to persevere through life’s challenges and draw you to participate in a network of solidarity and support. To learn about ways in which you can support women in the military, we encourage you to visit the Service Women’s Action Network.

By: Aanee Nichols

Photographed: Roy (Jane's son, 2015)

Photographed: Roy (Jane's son, 2015)

We Are All Wonder Women: Roshie Anne on Confidence and Community

Image Source: Arthur Hylton | Model: Roshie Anne

Image SourceArthur Hylton | Model: Roshie Anne

Confidence is a seed within each of us. If we recognize its presence in our hearts and treat it with care and kindness, the confidence has potential to grow into a fabulous flower—one that produces new seeds, spreading and scattering them as they settle within the hearts of others. Fostering one’s own confidence and using it to help lift and support other people creates a chain reaction that makes the world bright, beautiful, and FILLED with wildflowers.

We are honored to introduce you to Roshie Anne, a woman who truly exemplifies confidence in all she does. Roshie’s passion shines through every facet of her work, and she strives to help others recognize and care for the seeds of confidence within their own hearts, appreciating beauty in themselves and others.

Roshie is a fashion designer living in New York City who manages a powerful lifestyle blog in which she shares her designs and inspirations, as well as insight into living well. Recognizing the value of a support system, Roshie expresses immense gratitude for her family. Growing up in Kenya as one of seven siblings, she built strong relationships with her brothers and sisters. There was a solid sense of support and appreciation of individuality within her household, and Roshie reflects, “It’s always been like that in my family. We will clap, cheer you on, and celebrate your quirks. I am proud to say that my siblings encourage me to be who I am.”

Having established an incredible eye for fashion, Roshie Anne describes her eclectic style as unconventional, which inspires the name of her blog: Anneconventional. In her work, Roshie challenges restrictive societal definitions of beauty and expands the concept of beauty in a way that promotes inclusion and empowerment. This year, Roshie collaborated with The Baldie Movement, which lifts bald women—whether by choice or circumstance—and supports them to embrace all aspects of their beauty, including their baldness.

Roshie asserts that beauty is not restricted to a certain hairstyle or the fashion trends of the times. Rather, it lies in trusting one’s gut, finding personal identity and style, and allowing that authentic identity to shine. That is where true confidence is born, and when that sense of self is recognized and appreciated by others, confidence is shared. There’s a section on Roshie’s blog called “Words from Wonder Women” in which she shares images and quotes from strong, influential women, serving as a source of inspiration and support. Roshie’s drive to lift others and foster empowerment as a community speaks directly to our mission at Be a Rose. There is tremendous value to be found in women serving and connecting with one another, and we strive to continue spreading seeds of confidence. At times, we are called to not only embrace our own beauty and confidence but to care for the seeds within others. This is how the full garden becomes the most beautiful.

“Beauty is everywhere,” Roshie says. “My hope is that whoever sees my work or reads my blog posts is empowered to be themselves and finds the courage to follow their dreams.”

We are inspired by Roshie Anne’s journey and applaud her efforts to lift other women and encourage them to embrace their authentic selves.


By: Aanee Nichols

Turning Noise Into Knowledge

Image Source:Communications Manager Aanee Kai

Image Source:Communications Manager Aanee Kai

In social media, we face a flood of content each time we look at our screens. There are certainly advantages to the platforms at our disposal, which let us stay up to date on the most current news and have immediate connection with others. However, a key disadvantage is the sheer amount of NOISE on social media. When people have the liberty of exploring myriad topics and newsfeeds are flooded with clickbait, it can be difficult to stay afloat in a thoughtful and socially responsible manner. 

Further, although people have opportunities to connect with others through technology, there seems to be a disconnect in the human aspect of these interactions. Perhaps we forget that the receiving end of our comments is not the keyboard on which we type them but the eyes, minds, and hearts that will be exposed to them. I define “noise” as those comments that are simple, uninformed, and abrasive in approach. Often, these are in the form of personal attacks, which triggers a chain reaction of antagonistic and divisive rhetoric until one party eventually “gives up.” Thus, productive and thoughtful dialogue is severely inhibited.

In our line of work, Be a Rose is constantly researching issues of women’s health and menstruation. These subjects are still widely stigmatized and considered taboo in many cultures. We see many controversial articles and stories and expect a varied range of responses. While a difference of opinion is certainly appreciated in terms of an informed debate, I am stricken by the comments fueled solely by sexism, ignorance, and hate. These comments are simply noise. Often, I feel compelled to respond to these comments but believe there are more meaningful strategies to challenge the stigma than engaging in fruitless online debates.

I want to challenge “noisy” comments in a way that fosters research and respect: two things that issues of women’s health severely lack and desperately deserve. I’ve selected two articles that address menstrual stigmatization and pulled samples of their Facebook comments My hope is that an examination of these reactions may expand the conversation in a purposeful way, addressing the stigmas and inequities that stifle conversation about women’s health. We aim neither to engage with internet “trolls” or antagonize those with differences of opinion. Rather, our mission is to open hearts and minds in a way that extends compassion and empowerment to women.

Context of the Source Material #1: An artist, Lili Murphy-Johnson, has crafted a collection of jewelry inspired by aspects of a woman’s period. This collection features a charm bracelet of feminine hygiene products and ring varieties laden with bright red crystals, including a ring design in the shape of a maxi-pad. This artist was inspired to “explore the idea of female bodily shame and debunk the taboo around menstruation.”

Facebook Comments:

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Context of Source Material #2: A yogi, Steph Gongora, was shooting a video of her hour-long practice when she experienced a leak. With heavy periods, leaks are common, and to demonstrate the normality of this experience—an experience that many women have faced—she chose to continue shooting the video and rather than hide her leak, she highlights it. Gongora explains that the ultimate purpose was to challenge period shame and “show that this is a subject that needs to be discussed and brought into the open.” She asserts that “in order to bring any attention to a subject, sometimes you need a little shock value.”

Facebook Comments:

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What are the common themes within these criticisms?

#1 – Period shaming doesn’t exist.
It does. These Facebook comments serve as substantial evidence, as they refer to periods as “gross,” “unsanitary,” and “disgusting.” For women within marginalized populations, the stigma can raise serious barriers in terms of access to resources. Period shaming exists to even greater depths on a global scale, as in some cultures menstruating women are exiled and isolated because they are viewed as “impure,” “dirty,” and “untouchable.”

#2 – A menstrual leak is equivalent to semen, urine, and fecal matter.
The fact is, yes, exposure to nearly all bodily fluids carries risk. However, to argue that a menstrual leak is the equivalent to knowingly and intentionally exposing others to fecal matter is both offensive and wildly incompatible. First, these fluids have entirely different chemical composition and bacteria content, and the chances of spreading rotavirus by carrying fecal “smears” on your clothing far outweigh the chances of spreading a bloodborne pathogen through a menstrual leak. On average, a woman’s menstrual flow falls between 1-2 fluid ounces and is composed of blood, uterine tissue, and vaginal fluid. It’s important to note that for woman without blood-related illness "menstrual blood is harmless and no toxins are released in the blood flow."For women carrying a blood-related condition such as HIV, though the pathogens may be present in menstrual blood, the likelihood of transmission through a leak is incredibly low, as the fluids would have to make direct contact with a mucus membrane of another person. Further, if the woman in question is receiving proper treatment for HIV, transmission becomes "virtually impossible" (which further illustrates the importance of awareness and accessibility to quality health care).
Lastly, we need to shift this perspective that menstrual leaks are an intentional scourge on society and shameful act of women. A recent study found that 86% of women have experienced an unexpected leak in public without necessary supplies to manage it. Perhaps we should reframe the perspective so that we are not asking “How dare she?” but rather, “How can we help?”

#3 – Women who challenge menstrual stigmatization are doing so for a sense of self-importance.
Women, such as Murphy-Johnson and Gongora, are challenging menstrual stigmatization in a way that lifts and supports other women by showing that yes, periods are natural, normal, and sometimes messy, and that it’s OKAY to talk about it. Kiran Gandhi raised awareness in 2015 by running the London Marathon during her period without using feminine hygiene products. Gandhi shared that while this was a personal choice she made for comfort, she recognized that for many women, free-bleeding is not a choice but an inevitability. She explains that she did this "for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist."

To be fair, there were also positive comments on these articles, demonstrating that awareness and compassion are not entirely lost in social media. There is hope, and we must continue to lift and support these voices of kindness and empowerment. 

Not for me personally......jpg

Women are stepping forward and standing up for each other, and efforts to raise awareness should be met with appreciation or at least thoughtful discussion, not hateful criticism. If anything, the noisy negative comments illustrate the need for us to continue to fight the stigma. Let’s work together to dial down the NOISE on our Facebook feeds and turn up the KNOWLEDGE. By spreading awareness of issues of women’s health and supporting increased accessibility to feminine hygiene products, you can BE A ROSE.

By: Aanee Nichols

Making PAP a Priority

Image Source: Photographer Precious Dandridge. Model: Communications Manager Aanee Kai

Image SourcePhotographer Precious Dandridge. Model: Communications Manager Aanee Kai

Taking ownership of your health is a key aspect of self-empowerment and wellness. This sense of ownership carries responsibility and accountability, including regular check-ups with your doctor and keeping up to date on health screenings, such as the Pap test.

The Pap test (also known as a Pap smear) is the examination of cervical cells to detect abnormalities that could lead to cancer. With over 12,000 new diagnoses each year, cervical cancer remains a critical issue of women’s health. Early detection is essential to prevention, and the Pap test has been proven the most effective protection for women against cervical cancer.

What does the Pap test entail? At the doctor’s office, you lie on your back with your feet in the stirrups at the end of the table. Typically, you’ll feel warmth from the doctor’s examination lamp. The doctor will insert a speculum, which is a tool (often metal or plastic) that widens the vaginal walls, allowing visual inspection and access to the cervix. Then, the doctor will insert a swab to collect cell samples that will be placed in a liquid container and sent to a lab for examination. Results are typically returned within less than a week.

Myth: Pap tests are unnecessary for women without a family history of cervical cancer.
Truth: The majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have no family history of it.

Myth: Women should douche before their Pap test.
Truth: Douching can trigger inaccurate test results by masking abnormalities. In fact, douching is not recommended at all, as it may actually increase the risk of certain infections.

Myth: Pap tests are painful.
Truth: During the test, you might feel pressure or pinching but certainly no substantial pain.

Yes, it’s a slightly uncomfortable test. However, there is good news! The test generally only takes a couple of minutes and is covered at zero cost by most health insurance plans; for those who are uninsured, there are providers with highly affordable, accessible options.

Be a Rose facilitates workshops at HQThe Hispanic Center of West Michigan, refugee centers, as well as partner group homes and schools. These workshops provide a safe and comfortable space in which Be a Rose founder Christine Mwangi educates women and answers their questions about feminine health and hygiene. Further, Christine helps participants connect with local providers, emphasizing the importance of establishing a relationship with an OB/GYN and scheduling regular check-ups to maintain wellness. 

To learn more about Pap tests and cervical cancer prevention, we encourage you to check out the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. See VeryWell for a nationwide list of providers offering free or low-cost screenings.

Here are several providers within the Grand Rapids community that offer affordable care, particularly for those who are uninsured:
Cherry Health                                                              (616) 965-8308
Exalta Health                                                               (616) 475-8446
Planned Parenthood                                                     (616) 459-3101              

Interested in supporting not only your own health but the health of your community? Visit the websites linked to each listed provider to learn about the ways you can support these organizations through donations and/or volunteerism.  

Remember, no one has control over your health and body but you, so treat yourself with kindness and responsibility. Be a Rose encourages you to own your health and schedule your Pap test today!

By: Aanee Nichols

Menstruation and Homelessness: A Call to Action to Preserve Dignity and Spread Compassion

Image Source: Photographer Precious Dandridge. Special thanks to model Hailey Jones.

Image Source: Photographer Precious DandridgeSpecial thanks to model Hailey Jones.

A woman’s period does not stop when she is terminated from employment. A woman’s period does not stop when she faces domestic abuse. A woman’s period does not stop when she struggles with addiction. A woman’s period does not stop when she is evicted or kicked out of her home by her family.

A woman’s period does not stop when she is homeless.

The cost of menstruation is substantial, estimated at over $18,000 throughout the course of a woman’s lifetime. For homeless women, pads, tampons, fresh underwear, pain relief, and soap are often devastatingly inaccessible, forcing them to resort to unsanitary and dangerous methods to manage their menstruation. Bustle writer Janet Upadhye reports that women have resorted to using “socks, paper towels, plastic bags, toilet paper, towels, cotton balls, or clothing in place of hygiene products.” This can cause serious immediate and long-term damage to their physical as well as mental and emotional health.

In a compelling exposé video posted on Bustle, viewers catch a glimpse of the raw daily experience of homelessness through the perspectives of several women. These women face struggles that likely would not even occur to the majority of the population, including the mandatory and heartbreaking choice between food or tampons. One woman, Donna, shares that upon arrival of her period she’s had to “just sit still until [she] came up with something” to manage the bleeding. Resorting to public restroom sinks for makeshift showers and splashing water from cups as they straddle them in order to clean themselves, these women all express a desire to maintain dignity through hygiene. Donna shares, “You just want to feel clean like everybody else.”

For women within this vulnerable population, the challenge to escape the vicious cycle of homelessness becomes agonizingly difficult when compounded by the monthly costs thrust upon them simply for being a woman. On average, packages of pads cost $5.84 and tampons cost $7.62. Dignity and confidence become an unaffordable privilege in contrast to a human right.

This has to stop.

There is good news! YOU can make a difference and help lift women who are struggling with homelessness. There are several opportunities for you to provide support:


Dégagé Ministries, a friend and partner of Be a Rose, supports those struggling with homelessness in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dégagé serves those in need by providing hygiene facilities, low-cost meals, and assistance with a wide scope of personal needs, including transportation, prescription co-pays, clothing, and applying for employment. Please consider donating to this noble mission.

Distributing Dignity partners with organizations and shelters spanning twelve states to provide vulnerable populations of women with news bras and feminine hygiene products. We invite you to visit their website and contribute to this meaningful cause.

Helping Women Period (HWP), a nonprofit organization based in Lansing, MI, has made incredible efforts to serve homeless and low-income women. In 2016, HWP distributed over 120,000 feminine hygiene products! Be a Rose is thrilled to partner with HWP under the common goal of providing relief to underserved populations of women. We encourage you to get involved!


Create “Health and Hygiene Kits” to distribute personally. Please check out this list of suggested guidelines for these kits, which highlights the most useful items, as well as meaningful ways to foster compassion and dignity through this approach.


Issues of homelessness are already widely neglected and unrecognized as a priority. When compounded with the largely stigmatized subject of menstruation, the conversation becomes yet even more hushed. Pretending these issues do not exist does nothing to solve them. Speak up and speak out! We encourage you to research, share, and spread articles that address these critical issues. A simple “share” on Facebook can reach hundreds of people within your own network. This helps to normalize these issues and bring them to the forefront of people’s minds and conversations, further encouraging a collaborative effort to take action.

Be a Rose is committed to continue breaking barriers, challenging stigmas, and providing much-needed support to women in need. We firmly believe that as human beings, we are all deserving of health, compassion, and dignity. We invite you to subscribe to this blog to keep abreast of issues of women’s health, and we hope you’ll also consider showing your support through a donation to our cause.

When people unite through kindness and generosity, amazing things can happen!

By: Aanee Nichols



Let’s Talk! Bridging the Chasm between Women's Health and Health Care

Image Source: Original collaboration between Be a Rose Communications Manager Aanee Kai & Photographer Precious Dandridge. Special thanks to models Roberta Swingler (left) and Jody Vo (right).

Image Source: Original collaboration between Be a Rose Communications Manager Aanee Kai & Photographer Precious DandridgeSpecial thanks to models Roberta Swingler (left) and Jody Vo (right).

Health care—it’s a hot button issue that has been subject to heavy debate within recent months. There are many dynamic perspectives, and people tend to stand firmly by their individual viewpoints. Though passion and civic engagement are certainly to be appreciated, the current polarized state of politics in the United States has generated a friction that makes candid, thoughtful dialogue about health care more difficult. As asserted in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “future changes in health policy are related more to the extent of political polarization between the parties on health care issues than to the importance of the issue itself.” Thus, there seems to be a rush to both criticism and defense of proposed legislation along party lines, rather than a comprehensive, objective examination of the plan.

Politics aside, one notion that we should all be able to agree on is that healthy individuals lead to an overall healthier, happier, and more productive society and that all portions of the population are deserving of wellness. Having said that, let’s take a closer look at how the current proposed legislation—The American Health Care Act (AHCA)—affects women. The Be a Rose mission is to improve women’s access to health and hygiene resources and education. We seek not to exemplify partisan divides that hinder dialogue and disparage opposing viewpoints. Rather, Be a Rose aims to expand the conversation around women’s health. By challenging stigmas and shedding light on areas of inequity, we hope that people may feel empowered and encouraged to participate in a collaborative effort to address and resolve these issues, regardless of political affiliation.

Let’s first examine effects of pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) denied states from charging higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions. The American Health Care Act removes that stipulation, and though the law maintains that coverage may not be denied entirely from those with pre-existing conditions, it allows states to deny coverage for many of the treatments required to manage these conditions while subjecting the premiums to unaffordable rate increases, essentially removing those high-risk individuals from the market. This means that many common medical conditions, experiences, and needs faced by millions of people could prevent them from receiving affordable, quality care. For women, these conditions include pregnancy, fertility treatments, Cesarean sections, breast cancer, uterine cancer, menstrual irregularities, and physical and mental care resulting from domestic or sexual abuse.

Next, let’s talk Planned Parenthood. With the understanding that this is an area of controversy, this fact is important to make clear: abortion is already excluded from federal funding, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger of the woman’s life. “Defunding” Planned Parenthood means denying Medicaid reimbursements, which places low-income women at risk of losing access to birth control, preventive care, and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases. For these women, as well as their children, there may be devastating (and costly) effects on their long-term health.

In addition to the effects on individuals’ long-term health and quality of life, it’s important to consider the long-term effects on the United States workforce. Women comprise nearly half of the United States labor force and are projected to continue expanding in participation. However, with the restrictions the AHCA places on women, the impact on the workforce may be seen first within those statistics.  A healthy and thriving economy depends on healthy individuals within the labor force, and this affects all portions of the population. While the AHCA might initially show economic expediency, those savings may be offset by losses in productivity and participation in the workforce.

Ultimately, what we at Be a Rose are asking for is a more open and thorough conversation around these (and other) important issues of the AHCA. If this is an approach to save federal dollars, are we considering the long-term effects of these changes on our economy? Are boundaries and barriers being placed disproportionately on different portions of the population? Is our government demonstrating the values we want to embrace and reflect as a country?

Let’s talk! Talk to each other. Talk to us. Talk to your senators.

We at Be a Rose appreciate the opportunity to connect with you and encourage you to subscribe to our blog and follow Be a Rose on Facebook to continue engaging in the conversation on issues of women’s health.

 By: Aanee Kai

Endometriosis: A Challenging Journey. A Powerful Voice.

Image Source: Original collaboration between Be a Rose Communications Manager Aanee Kai & Photographer Precious Dandridge.

Image Source: Original collaboration between Be a Rose Communications Manager Aanee Kai & Photographer Precious Dandridge.

There’s a quiet, painful condition that lurks among women throughout the world. It’s a condition without definitive cause or cure, affecting approximately 176 million women worldwide, not to mention the many women—particularly of adolescent age—who have not been properly diagnosed.  
Endometriosis: it is largely overlooked due to “a lack of understanding in the medical community,” as observed by Dr. Grace Janik in an interview for the New York Times. However, to the millions of women battling this condition, its effects are very real. Endometriosis is the growth of uterine tissue on the outside of the uterus, causing intense pain, fertility complications, heavy periods, severe fatigue, and gastrointestinal issues.  

Jennifer Flores of Kentwood Michigan serves as a powerful advocate for endometriosis awareness, and we at Be a Rose are honored to have an opportunity to share her story:

Endometriosis affected every piece of my life. I was constantly tired, nauseous, and hurting. Every month, I spent one week in a constant, blinding pain—for seven years before I was diagnosed. The first time I experienced symptoms, I was in eighth grade. The cramps came on so fast and so painful that I literally crawled on my hands and knees to the [school nurse’s] office, crying the entire way. I fainted from pain multiple times in high school, which was humiliating. I would sweat so much from the pain, it would leave my desk wet. For so long, I felt angry, alone, and scared. As I grew up, I realized it wasn’t my parents’ fault, because they just weren’t educated about endometriosis. And my pediatrician wasn’t prepared or educated enough to handle a 13-year-old patient with that kind of problem. 

I was tested for lupus, diabetes, appendicitis, and at one point, they told my father it was potential kidney failure. I was misdiagnosed nearly a dozen times. When I was 15, one doctor told my parents that I was a drug addict seeking attention. Aside from ibuprofen, I had never taken drugs in my life!  After that, I completely shut down. I dealt with the pain on my own and stopped talking about it. This was a nightmare. I was too embarrassed to go anywhere when I had my period because I was petrified of the excess bleeding. I was a thin girl, but the bloating would be so severe that it would look like I was pregnant, which, again, is very embarrassing for a teenager. The pain alone would cause me to see spots, and I would get dizzy and incoherent. 

At 17 and out of high school, I was still in significant pain and missed a lot of college classes. My work performance suffered each month because I could barely walk, and as a waitress, that’s a fairly essential job function. My boss at the time had recently been diagnosed with endometriosis, and upon overhearing a conversation with my coworker about my symptoms, she actually called my mother—who she knew as a previous coworker—and told her to get me to an OB-GYN right away.

Because my symptoms had been misinterpreted and ignored for so long, it took me two years to finally open up and tell my doctor the entire story. Once I shared my entire background, and how severe the pain really was, she skipped any additional testing and scheduled surgery. She truly saved me—not because this disease is fatal but because I was so disheartened by the lack of support.

I was finally diagnosed at 19 years old, and around the same time, I was told I could never have children. I wasn’t considered infertile, but the damage to my uterine wall was so severe the doctors didn’t think I would be able to carry a baby to full term. This caused a lot of turmoil. Not only is that difficult to understand at 19, but the man I was living with and planning on marrying left me shortly after I was told, telling me he didn’t want to be with someone who couldn’t give him children. As a teenager, that was incredibly overwhelming and hurtful. In addition to the pain and the anger of receiving a diagnosis only after so much damage had been caused, the person who was supposed to be there for me didn’t want me anymore. 

The medical expenses of endometriosis are extortionate. To date, I’ve had five surgeries to excise the endometriosis, as well as tubal ligation. I was lucky enough to have insurance because I would be bankrupt without it. When I was 20, I was put into “chemically induced menopause” by a drug called Lupron Depot. It essentially shuts down your ovaries and stops your body from producing estrogen, which is what causes endometriosis to grow. This meant that in the middle of summer, at 20 years old, working as a waitress in a pizza restaurant, I was having full blown hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. The drug also didn’t wear off the way that it was supposed to. I ended up needing hormone replacement drugs for a brief period of time in order to restart my ovaries, which sent me through another round of “puberty” at 21 years old. 

The surgeries are done laparoscopically, so the incisions aren’t terribly large, but I do have scarring. I incurred an infection during three of the six surgeries, which landed me back with the doctor and on antibiotics. This is yet another cost, and another consequence that stems from this disease.

When I was 22, I became pregnant for the first time. Unfortunately, around 11 weeks into the pregnancy, I had a miscarriage. The day of the last ultrasound, when they turned the monitor away from my husband and me, so we couldn’t see the screen because there was no heartbeat, was the worst day of my life. It felt like I had been hit by a truck.

Unfortunately, my body didn’t seem to recognize that my baby hadn’t survived, so I ended up needing a dilation and curettage. One thing that people don’t seem to understand is, once you’ve been diagnosed as having a miscarriage and have to schedule a procedure to have the baby removed from your uterus, it means you have to walk around carrying the baby until your procedure. In my case, it took three days.

It’s such a loss, and it hurts so very deep. At that time, it felt like endometriosis had chipped away and taken every piece of me that it could. 

Early detection could have saved me from a very serious case of depression. Although I have no regrets, and I am glad to have become a very strong person because of this entire situation, I still struggle with the anger of what happened to me. I overcame the lack of understanding from my loved ones, but I have a seriously difficult time trusting doctors. I still cannot understand how a group of educated pediatricians never knew to check for this disease and never referred me to an OB-GYN because of my age. They very nearly took my ability to have children.

The doctor who diagnosed me is my doctor to this day. She has performed all of my surgeries, including the dilation and curettage, and also delivered the two babies that I was able to carry to term. She is the only doctor that I trust because she was the first person to hold my hand and say, “No, you are not crazy. There is something wrong here.”

Today, Jennifer speaks out and shares her voice on endometriosis as often as she’s able in order to “keep it in front of people” and remind them that this condition is very real and very deserving of our support, research, and awareness. Upon reflection of the painful and invasive surgical options currently available to “manage” endometriosis, Jennifer asserts:

The best way to challenge this and to support more research is to DEMAND more research. Stop asking women to allow their bodies to be cut open and to accept these violent attempts at relief instead of providing a cure.

How can you help? Support endometriosis research through the World Endometriosis Research Foundation. Further, sharing stories such as Jennifer’s helps to challenge the stigma and spread awareness. For Jennifer, her pain and turmoil was ignored, misjudged, and underestimated for far too long. Women and girls deserve BETTER. Now is the time to speak and lend support!

Be a Rose is honored to share Jennifer’s voice on this important issue of women’s health. Through our research, blogs, and women’s health workshops, we at Be a Rose are privileged to engage the community and create a positive impact in women’s lives.  Please consider joining the conversation by following Be a Rose on Facebook and visit our invitation to take action with Be a Rose!


By: Aanee Nichols with Jennifer Flores

Expanding the Conversation: The Intersection of Feminine Hygiene & Autism 

Image Source: Original collaboration between Be a Rose Communications Manager Aanee Kai & Photographer Precious Dandridge. Image History: On a nationwide level, the Puzzle Piece symbol reflects the mystery and complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Also, since every puzzle piece is different in some way, a puzzle piece accurately represents the diversity of the individuals affected.

Image SourceOriginal collaboration between Be a Rose Communications Manager Aanee Kai & Photographer Precious Dandridge.

Image History: On a nationwide level, the Puzzle Piece symbol reflects the mystery and complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Also, since every puzzle piece is different in some way, a puzzle piece accurately represents the diversity of the individuals affected.

Let’s be honest: the female body is complicated.  Even for women with adequate education and resource accessibility, the female anatomy, reproductive organs, and cycle can be difficult to comprehensively understand on one’s own (no, the term “vagina” does not encompass everything you see when you look “down there,” and yes, there are three holes), let alone explain in detail to someone else.  In addition to the complicated anatomy, there’s a deeper, crucial conversation about menstruation and feminine hygiene that has to happen so that all females fully understand their bodies’ natural processes and the options available to them to maintain health, hygiene, and confidence.  Experts assert that having this conversation “early and often” for girls approaching puberty reduces anxiety and instills a sense of appreciation and ownership of their bodies.  The value of this conversation is inarguable; however, there are several factors that may obstruct ease and access to this information for young girls, including but not limited to stigmatization, socio-economic status, familial structure, and physical or mental impairment.  While these factors may encumber the conversation, the necessity for it remains.

For young women with autism, education about their bodies and appropriate training on the skills necessary to maintain health and hygiene can have a significant positive impact by providing these young women the possibility of  “greater privacy and independence, heightened community access, and less illness and unnecessary medical intervention,” as asserted by behavioral experts.  Thus, the “period conversation” becomes even more critical to a higher quality of life.

Parents and caregivers of girls with autism can use several strategies and tools to best serve these young women and prepare them for menstruation.  One such approach is the use of chaining, which involves breaking an objective (such as changing a pad) into small concrete tasks and providing guidance, repetition, and re-ordering of steps until the objective has been mastered.  Another tool is the use of a “period kit.” The parent may work with the child to put together a package containing items such as pads, pantyliners, a spare pair of underwear, and a reference guide.  This activity encourages a positive outlook by allowing the girl to help pick out the items, as well as a stylish but discreet container for these necessities.  Again, a sense of appreciation and ownership of her changing body and her own health and hygiene is key to female empowerment, so encouraging this positive perspective before puberty paves the way for a healthy transition.  

If young women with autism are granted these vital conversations with their parents, caregivers, doctors, and/or therapists, menarche can be handled as a welcome milestone in their lives, rather than a shock or struggle.   By recognizing the needs of women with autism and extending necessary resources to them, their self-esteem, independence, and opportunities may be expanded significantly. This, in turn, leads to a healthier and more productive society, exemplifying the notion that issues of women’s health should matter for everyone.  No portion of the population should be overlooked when it comes to health.   For more information on autism and ways in which you can get involved, please visit the Autism Speaks website.  

And, as always, we hope you’ll consider our invitation to get involved with the Be a Rose mission. Together, we can open and embrace the period conversation in a powerful way! Follow us on Facebook for more updates on all our community efforts!

 By: Aanee Kai