‘I’m 23 and I’ve never had a period – it makes me feel insecure but I’m no less of a woman’

By Staff 9 Min Read

Exclusive:

Anna Sandeman has primary amenorrhea, a condition experienced by just 1% of women in the world that prevents a natural menstrual cycle from occurring

Nothing screams puberty like the first time we spot a trickle of blood in our knickers – but you may be surprised to know this typical ‘time of the month’ may never come for a small fraction of the population. This is the case for 23-year-old Anna Sandeman, who still doesn’t know whether a natural menstruation cycle is on the cards for her.

“In secondary school, you’re waiting for this thing to happen, and for me, it just didn’t,” she told The Mirror. “I remember hoping it would and crossing my fingers, just wanting it to happen. And whenever I confided in other girls, they’d always say, ‘oh, I wish I was you’, and the ironic thing was that I wished I was them.”

While she was unaware at the time, Anna has primary amenorrhea, a condition experienced by just 1% of women in the world. This refers to the absence of a menstrual cycle by age 16, influenced by various factors, including genetic differences and hormone imbalances.

Anna experiences the latter, with oestrogen levels too low to kickstart the process, despite the occasional stomach cramps every now and again. The condition has also affected the size of her breasts which she describes as ‘underdeveloped’, heightening her own insecurities.

As of now, Anna’s never had sex or been in a relationship, but she often worries what her love life will look like in the future. The recent Chichester University graduate, continued: “I think primary amenorrhea is connected to me feeling insecure about myself. And of course, I had this very idealised view of a ‘womanly’ body, with the perfect breasts and snatched waist.

“There’s already a lot of pressure being a teenage girl. You’re expected to become a woman immediately. So, not having a period has made my femininity feel even more uncertain.

“I have wondered and felt maybe when I do get in a relationship or if I’m with a guy to do sexual stuff, I will get insecure about showing my breasts, and worried for their reaction.

“And [separately], talking with a friend who is trans, you hear that people often try to emasculate them too, saying ‘you still get a period and therefore you’re not a guy’. I wonder if I told the same people about my situation – that I’ve not had a proper period – would they say ‘you’re not a woman’?”

While 1.8 billion people across the world experience menstruation, periods continue to be stigmatised in many cultures. Almost half of Brits admit to feeling more comfortable talking about politics, sex and even family problems than periods, a shocking poll by Always revealed.

This same poll also crowned the UK as the least supportive European nation when discussing periods openly – with two in every five young people teased for having one.

Although Anna’s yet to have her first period, she’s tired of the shame culture that surrounds puberty. She continued: “There is still this idea that women are defined by whether they can give birth, if she can have kids and when she gets her first period.

“Even if a woman does say, ‘no I don’t want kids’, there’s still an expectation of being able to. It’s very ingrained in us. One possibility of primary amenorrhea is growing up infertile. I don’t know if I want kids, but I still want the option. That hurts sometimes. But I’ve been trying to find femininity in other things – not just ‘oh does my vagina bleed?'”

After countless trips to the doctors and several intrusive medical examinations, Anna started taking medications, including the combined contraceptive pill and oestrogen pads, to help shift a hormonal change. In January, she saw blood on a pad for the very first time.

It’s still unclear if this will now occur on a more regular basis, but she’s determined to now focus on other areas of her life that don’t centre as much value on sex, her period or appearance.

Currently, she works as a theatre assistant, while dabbling in scriptwriting to build a project on primary amenorrhea. Anna explained: “In all the time waiting for that promise of a period, it felt like I wasn’t experiencing the ‘beauty of femininity’, that I was kind of locked out of a sisterhood.

“There are still so many unanswered questions about it. It’s still a process of finding myself, but I think it’s important to talk about primary amenorrhea.

“I would like to finish writing and perform a theatre piece about this. I heard a quote somewhere saying that artists talk about personal truths to the public, so that somebody doesn’t feel alone in private. And that’s very much something I’d like to do.”

How to know if you have primary amenorrhea

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD) has listed the key symptoms:

  • No period by age 16
  • Facial hair growth
  • Frequent headaches
  • Lack of breast development
  • Milky discharge from the breasts
  • Vision changes

Do you have a story to tell? Get in touch at [email protected]

Share This Article
Leave a comment