Updated: Jun 7
In this post, you will learn how females on the autism spectrum describe variations in autistic-related experiences just before and during their periods. You may also be interested in related posts: Let's Bust the Myth that Autism Looks the Same Across the Lifespan and Puberty and Autisic Behaviors
WOMEN, AUTISM, AND HEALTH
Both the topics of women on the spectrum and women's health issues are under-studied in the scientific community. It should be no surprise, therefore, that research on women's health issues within autism is even rarer.
In previous posts (see links above), we reviewed that one reason to study these topics is to bust the myth that autism looks the same (indeed must look the same!) across the lifespan if it is an actual neurologic condition. Also, the ability of individuals on the spectrum to understand the ups-and-downs of their life seasons can bring peace of mind, not to mention comradery with others who share similar experiences.
According to a published report by S. R. Crane (2018), "autistic respondents reported many overlapping issues and experiences with non-autistic respondents" in addition to "distinct...issues..." The respondents frequently reported heightened difficulties with their chronic issues of sensory sensitivities, emotional calm (meltdowns, anxiety), recognizing emotions, and self-injurious behavior. As one respondent stated, "It can become much more overwhelming and harder to maintain control of the things that already take a lot of effort for us to keep on top of, during a period."
In my clinical practice, women also sometimes report a sense of betrayal that their bodies have changed without their permission. Several explain that they had felt connected to their pre-adolescent bodies as an expression of themselves. One woman noted that the changes in her form during puberty, in combination with the monthly cycles, "just feel wrong. It's like I'm carrying around someone else's body."
Research into women's health issues as interacting with autistic experiences is vital to the wellness of women with unique challenges.
Steward R, Crane L, Mairi Roy E, Remington A, Pellicano E. "Life is Much More Difficult to Manage During Periods": Autistic Experiences of Menstruation. J Autism Dev Disord. 2018;48(12):4287–4292. doi:10.1007/s10803-018-3664-0