As said to Nicole Audrey Spector
From the start, my periods were abnormally long and heavy and often debilitating. As a teenager, I would sometimes bleed through my clothes, even when wearing a pad and/or tampon. In ninth grade, I embarrassed myself with a new friend who lent me her jacket to tie around my waist after it bled through my clothes.
After high school, my periods remained long and painful. To date I have profuse bleeding, as well as severe cramps and back pain. I am also inclined to anemia. For so many years, these symptoms seemed like an unlucky but normal part of being a woman. I wasn’t worried because my health care provider and my OB-GYN weren’t worried.
When I got married and converted to Islam – an independent choice I made nearly a year after marrying a Sunni Muslim, inspired by watching him practice his faith – my rules became even more problematic.
In our faith, there are certain restrictions regarding prayer and intimacy when a woman is menstruating. These periods were designed to provide relief to women, recognizing that periods can be physically and emotionally taxing. But some interpretations give these rules a negative sound, like punishment or impurity. They are often misunderstood, even within the Muslim community.
There are five obligatory daily prayers, but when we have our period we cannot pray, have sex, or participate in fasting rituals (like those in the month of Ramadan). Having a heavy period that lasts a week or more and can include spotting afterwards is a huge disruptor. It was hard to get into a prayer routine and I felt disconnected from God and my husband.
And then there are just the day-to-day issues of living with horrible periods. I always keep extra clothes with me and most of my wardrobe is black so if I bleed it won’t be as noticeable.
Alyssa and her daughters, 2023
Long, heavy periods are also hard to live with as a mother of three young girls who want to go swimming and play outside. I have to balance their needs with mine and schedule plenty of bathroom breaks. Most of the time, I try to do whatever I do when I’m not on my period, but at reduced capacity and with a lot of planning. Prophet Muhammad (PSL) recommended taking afternoon naps, so that’s a small blessing that I try to fit into my schedule.
I lived with these distressing periods for years without knowing what caused them. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child that I was diagnosed uterine fibroids – the source of my pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, my OB-GYN did not discuss how fibroids had affected me, my marriage, or my quality of life. She was only worried about the impact they might have on my pregnancy.
Fortunately, I was able to successfully carry my pregnancy to term, even though I developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT) during pregnancy.
After giving birth, I was told that my uterine fibroids were too small to be surgically removed. And with a family history of blood clotting and pulmonary embolism in addition to my own history of deep vein thrombosis, I was not a candidate for the only other available treatment offered to me—hormonal contraception—because hormone therapy can increase the risk of clotting.
I have been treated by several OB-GYNs in different locations across the United States over the past 20 years. I have always received the same message: uterine fibroids and their terrible effect on my menstrual cycle will always be part of my life.
Since there is no way for me to avoid abnormally intense times, I find meaningful ways to connect with God outside of obligatory prayers. These alternative connections increase my confidence in God’s plans and my understanding of His mercy. I also explored non-sexual ways to enjoy intimacy with my husband. This part was really fun! Because we can only cuddle and kiss, we feel like newlyweds, falling in love again every few weeks.
Many people in our faith believe that you should not read or recite the Quran while on your period based on a translation of verse 56:79. While the verse is often translated as “none but the pure can touch”, another translation is “none shall grasp but the pure (in heart)”. To me, this means that if your heart is impure, you will not understand the information or be able to integrate the messages of the Quran into your life with sincerity. So if I come with a pure heart, I can grasp (like understand) the spiritual text.
Once I discovered this more open interpretation, I started reading the Quran during my period. I still do. It gives me the opportunity to maintain my relationship with the word of God every day. For those who take the rule of not touching the Quran during their period to the letter, I encourage them to use audio books so that they can access God’s message without having to hold the Quran in their hands. Spotify and YouTube also have great recitations.
In general, I think society needs to have more candid conversations about periods, but perhaps more urgently in the Muslim community, where stigma and misunderstandings about periods are common.
In my state, Florida educators will soon be banned to talk to students about the rules until they reach middle school, so it’s very important that parents feel comfortable having these discussions at home.
Despite the challenges, I am happy to say that progress is being made. This past Ramadan, I participated in the Muslim Women’s Organization’s Women’s Health Matters series on ‘Positive Times’. We were able to connect and talk about menstruation in a way that encouraged peace and healthy adjustment.
I am excited to see more of these honest and helpful conversations taking place, and I will continue to engage with Muslim women in my community. I hope others will join us and find the support I was looking for years ago.
This resource was created with suppor of Myovant Sciences GmbH and Pfizer.
Do you have real women, real stories you want to share? Let us know.
Our Real Women, Real Stories are the authentic experiences of real women. The views, opinions and experiences shared in these stories are not endorsed by HealthyWomen and do not necessarily reflect official HealthyWomen policy or position.