Woman of the Month: Dr Sarah Donovan

Woman of the Month: Dr Sarah Donovan

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I teach in a postgraduate public health programme at Otago University and have research interests in women’s health in particular menstrual wellbeing as an equity issue, breastfeeding as a public health good, and sexual and family violence as public health issues.

What does Dignity mean to you?

Dignity with respect to menstrual management means, as one international researcher has previously put it, that no menstruator is ever in a position of having to worry that they can manage their period ‘comfortably, safely, and without shame’.

What was your experience with your period?

I was fortunate in having a family that was very open about such things, and so it was supported and celebrated. My teenaged brother was sometimes sent to the supermarket to buy period products for me and thought nothing of doing that for his sister! We should educate/raise our boys to think like that I think, that would be a great cultural shift towards removing menstrual stigma.


What is the best thing for you about being a woman and menstruation?

I sometimes have not loved menstruation, to be honest. Being a woman? Hmm, it’s hard to imagine being otherwise…

 What makes you feel empowered/comfortable in your skin?

Having interesting, meaningful work is important to me and gives a kind of sense of empowerment I guess. Exercise, when there is time often gives that nice buzz of wellbeing. I don’t think we all feel comfortable in our skin, or not, 100% of the time. It fluctuates.


What would you like to say to anyone getting their first period?

I would congratulate that young person. It’s a huge health and developmental milestone, with health implications, and should be officially recognised as such. Many women go on to experience debilitating period pain or other menstrual problems. But NZ does not collect routine data on what age first menstruation usually occurs in NZ, which makes absolutely no sense. That’s why I am pushing for national data collection on this to be included in routine health surveys in NZ, as other countries do.

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