To provide some real insight into flying on periods, we spoke to a Virgin Atlantic Air Hostess to understand how her periods have effected her job and life. Here, Emily tells us her story, as well as her top tips for a fuss-free flight if it’s your time of the month.
I am a Flight Attendant (or Air Hostess, as I prefer to be called). I started flying at the age of 24, and having flown for 20 years, at an average of five times a month, I have clocked up some significant flight hours along the way! Around 75 hours a month when I was full time.
Before I started working as an Air Hostess at Virgin Atlantic, I didn’t have a clue how flying would affect my body. We had training on how to look after our health but the impact of flying on our periods was never covered. The lack of sleep, jet lag, stomach problems and irregular periods very quickly just became the norm.
Over the years my menstrual cycle has become more and more erratic. I definitely think this is because of my chosen vocation. My period is alwayslate. Some months it’s by a week, others by five days and – on several occasions – I have missed a period completely.
The flying also affects the flow of my periods. If I am airborne during my time of the month, then my flow becomes very light. It’s almost as though the air pressure stopped everything from working properly (if you’ve ever seen a bottle of water during landing you’ll know what I mean!). It also lulls me into a false sense of security, thinking that my period has stopped. That is until I land, and then I have to make a dash for the toilet before a major knicker-incident occurs. Whilst on the ground, my flow is always very heavy. Again, I can only assume this is because of the changes in air pressure.
My doctor suggested I take the pill to regulate my cycle. This worked well but played havoc with my hormones and made me put on weight, so I didn’t stay on it for very long. In my younger days, being skinny and sane was more important to me than having regular periods. It wasn’t until I became older (and wiser) and started trying to conceive that I really began to pay attention to my menstrual cycle.
When you travel, where there is a significant time change your internal regular biological clock gets thrown off. This is called the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm influences the release of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone that play a key role in ovulation and your menstrual cycle. Your body may not get the oestrogen surge prior to ovulation or it may become delayed due to the change in your body’s rhythm, which will in turn delay your period.
Because my periods have been so irregular, trying to conceive became a nightmare. I went from practically ignoring and accepting my erratic cycle to completely obsessing about it. It soon became very clear that flying on such a regular basis, once maybe twice a week, was having a detrimental effect on my hormones and was unsustainable if I wanted to become pregnant. Luckily I was able to reduce my flying hours, which for the first time in many years regulated my cycle a little. I did fall pregnant, not naturally I might add, but through the help of IVF. I often wonder if a career flying contributed to my infertility problems. I know a lot of crew who have had problems conceiving, it’s talked about openly among us all. That could also be because of a predominantly female crew!
After my daughter was born, I became part-time and have been for the last six years. I now fly twice a month, as opposed to five times a month. My periods have become much more regular and somewhat lighter during this time. I’m enjoying my new found regularity!
Emily’s top tips for flying on your period:
- Personally I prefer to use a pad rather than a tampon while flying so I can keep an eye on my flow and adjust my changes accordingly.
- Conventional tampons and pads are available in aircraft toilets, however they are in relatively limited supply, not to mention the amount of toxins that are in these products. I’d always recommend taking your own with you, and use an organic cotton brand like TOTM.
- If you have an inkling that you are due on your period before you get on the plane then make sure you have a pad in your pants before you land. The drop in air pressure will potentially lead to a sudden heavy flow and you need to be ready for it.
If you enjoyed reading this article, be sure to check out Absolutely Lucy’s blog post here.