Period Story Podcast, Episode 55, Coni Longden-Jefferson: Challenge Yourself To Have More Open Conversations About Periods

We’re back! For the first episode of season 6 (!) of the Period Story podcast, I’m so pleased to share my conversation with Coni Longden-Jefferson. Coni is a reproductive health polymath – she’s the co-founder of the period and leak-proof underwear brand Nixi Body, a writer and content creator (check out her hilarious reels on Instagram @conilj) and a host and moderator of reproductive health events. 

Coni and I had a fantastic conversation about menstrual shame, her journey with different forms of hormonal contraception and how she came off of them, her passion for helping others feel comfortable enough to share their reproductive health stories and experiences, and of course, the story of her very first period!

Thank you, Coni!

Get in touch with Coni:









Le’Nise: Thank you so much for coming on to the show today. I’m really excited to talk to you. Let’s start the conversation with the very first question I ask all of my guests, which is tell me the story of your very first period. 

Coni: Mm hmm. So my first period, I think I was ten, was around ten. So I was pretty young. I mean, I think as I’ve gotten older I realised actually quite a lot of people do start their periods at the age, but I was certainly first in my friendship group. You know, there wasn’t many people talking about having their period if they if they were. 

And I’m pretty sure I started after a dance class so I would dance on Saturday mornings and I’m pretty sure I came home and was like, Oh, okay. And that’s actually, the vast majority of my periods do come on now when I’m doing physical activity. So I don’t know if that’s common. I’m sure it is, but it’s like it’s always like I’m in a spin class or feeling I’m like, okay, here it is again. So that started like a lifelong trend. So yes, I came home and I remember yeah, I just remember seeing like it wasn’t even like blood, I guess it was like almost like rusty in my knicker and being like, Oh, but I knew what a period was like. Even though I was ten, I knew all about periods. Well, I’ve learnt a lot more as I’ve gotten older, but you know, I knew fundamentally what they were, so I don’t think I was scared or freaked out. I was like, okay, like this is happening. And then I remember my mum, like she went out and got like almost like a makeshift first period kit, which was. Like Ibuprofen and paracetamol. So, like big black knickers, like pads, a cheesecake. And then and this is the prop that I mentioned before we started recording. She got me a nightie, which I still have, and I’m showing you now. It’s like Scottie dog on this gross big nightie is 22 years old. 

Le’Nise: Oh, my. 

Coni: Can you believe it? And I still wear it when I’m on my period. Like, I’ll be like, this is what I go back to. It’s just this big grey t-shirt, essentially. And she bought it for me. And it was just so like, okay, right. This is how this is going to go down. Like, you might feel a bit uncomfortable. You might want to get like cosy, like here are your big knickers, here’s a big gross nightie. And I kind of remember it being exciting, you know, it was like this thing that I knew was going to happen and was like, about growing up. I think there wasn’t so much fear attached to it, so it was actually quite fun and exciting and special. And you know, me and my mum had this quite nice evening of her telling me stuff and so overall it was pretty positive. You know, I feel really lucky that it was, it was a positive experience fundamentally. 

Le’Nise: And now you still have your like period comfort blanket. Yeah. 

Coni: Like, how, how I still fit in it. I don’t know. It must have been huge on me when I was ten. I’m like how I have lost everything else and all other things in my life. And it’s like this weird nightie and my husband will still be. Like, he’ll see me wearing it sometimes if I’m just, you know, wanting to because he’s like, Oh, have you come on your period? But we all know what the period nightie is. It’s lasted longer than like any relationship I’ve ever. 

Le’Nise: It’s like a like a talisman. 

Coni: Yeah, exactly. 

Le’Nise: And you mentioned that when you first got your period after the dance. You were kind of like fine with it. What, what kind of education did you have prior to that to make you okay with it. 

Coni: Yeah. I was sort of thinking about this and. I think my mum is fundamentally a very open person and we’ve always had a really open relationship. But also around that time, probably when I was seven, she went back to school to do a biology A-level. So I think she was really interested in the human body and was quite factual about these things. And I think around seven, eight, nine I started to ask questions about sex and stuff like this. So things like that. Like I remember discovering what discharge was and being like, What? And she had to explain that? Like, it’s all fine. 

So we were kind of, I guess before I started I started my period at ten, I think sort of eight or nine. We were having conversations around the body and what goes on. And I remember asking her once about, I’m really going out myself. We’re like 2 minutes and I’m saying something embarrassing. But I remember asking her about, I saw people kissing on TV and I remember saying, I feel funny when I see these people and I think it was The Brady Bunch. It makes it sound like I grew up in the seventies, and I don’t know why I was watching The Brady Bunch and I remember her like kind of in an age appropriate way, like explaining like, I guess hormones, you know, she was saying like, okay, yeah, like you as you grow older, you have these hormones and it makes these things happen and it makes you feel these things because you make you want to make a baby. And and I actually think that she was telling me this dropping me off at someone’s house, like I think her friend’s house and then started to tell me about periods, but had to go to work. So I sort of dropped me off and was like, “I just telling her about periods, can you pick it up for here.”

So yeah, I just think that it was quite factual, you know, it was though it wasn’t taboo, I guess, around having these conversations. It’s like this is a bodily function. This is what’s going to happen to you. And so the kind of shame or embarrassment or awkwardness around talking about it just wasn’t really a thing in my house. I mean, that’s from a child’s perspective. Maybe my mum did feel a bit like, okay, how do I do this? You know, parents are always having to navigate stuff, but for me as a daughter, like I definitely didn’t feel like it was a big deal or something to be embarrassed about or something that I couldn’t talk to her about, I guess, which is the biggest thing. You know, I’ve listened to your podcast for for a while now, and I hear these different stories and, you know, there are some really sad stories of people that they get their first period and they don’t want to go and talk to their parents. So they don’t have anyone to go and talk to or they have no idea what it is. So I guess I feel really lucky that I had some level of education from her because I guess, you know, I don’t even think at that age I think I started my period before we actually had proper sex education in school. Maybe that’s not accurate, but I seem to remember that probably being about 11 when we started to actually learn about this stuff in schools, which is way too late in my opinion. So I was like sat there like the elder statesman of the class, like I’ve already got my period, actually, I know all about it. 

Le’Nise: And how with the very pragmatic approach you had with your mum, connect with the conversations you then had with your friends about periods and what was going on with your body. 

Coni: Yeah, that’s a really good question because I think it’s that thing of almost like anything when we’re kids that we think things are normal. And, you know, I think shame is, is, is learnt, right? You know, it’s learnt by people’s reactions to us. So we can be into something that people think are weird and then like you don’t realise it’s quite, quite weird until you go to school and then people like that’s weird that you’re talking about that and I think it was maybe a little bit like that with me and kind of periods and, and, you know, other things related to kind of sex and stuff because I guess at school when people start to have this, there is this like shock and this kind of embarrassment and giggling, you know, in class and stuff. And I just didn’t feel like that. And I was probably. Probably like a precocious know it all about it, I imagine. I was like, Oh, well, actually it’s this. And, you know, and I think that I was really happy to chat about that stuff  and people just weren’t or they found it awkward. And then I think that then made me feel awkward about it, even though I had kind of been quite happily going along with my period for maybe a year or two. And then suddenly I was like, Oh, everyone else is embarrassed to talk about this, or everyone else doesn’t want to talk about their period. You shouldn’t either, I think, which is such a classic thing of of kids. Right. You know, so I think maybe I went kind of like. One step forward, two steps back in terms of my relationship with the openness of talking about about periods and stuff like that. 

Le’Nise: And how long did did this shame sit with you or does it still sit with you? 

Coni: I’m trying to, I think. Maybe shame is too strong a word in terms of I don’t remember being particularly ashamed, but I also didn’t feel like it was appropriate to talk about stuff. So I don’t think I was ever like truly, truly embarrassed for myself and I don’t think it affected my relationship with my period, but I definitely kind of was like, you know, now I feel like periods are all I talk to my friends about, you know? And like we’re always telling stories. And when, you know, if I forget to track my period, I can search period in my WhatsApp messages and I’ll find the last day I came on my period because I probably have text at least one of my friends announcing it and it’s like a connection sometimes with people and an a basis of a friendship. And then especially in the work that I do and the people I get to chat to. 

But I guess there was a period of my life, no pun intended, but I probably imagined up until you know, a few years ago where I just didn’t didn’t it wasn’t something I felt was anything and it wasn’t something people wanted to talk about. You know, it was kind of like it’s private, so maybe it’s not shameful, but it’s private sort of thing. But I guess the other part that goes into is I didn’t have a period for 15 years because of contraception. So I kind of felt like and I was on contraception from the age of 15. So if you think there’s like maybe five years where I had a period was quite comfortable ish with my period. I would love to chatted about periods to people, but no one wanted to play with me, basically with my weird like obsession. And then I go on the pill and I’m on hormonal contraception until I’m 30. So. And because I was on progesterone only, I just didn’t have a period. So I guess periods that just were not part of my life in a weird way. So they just became not part of my life and not part of my conversations, I suppose. 

Le’Nise: Why did you end up going on the pill? 

Coni: So my recollection I had really bad acne. So my period started at ten and really it was like puberty was just like came hell for leather for me at that point. You know, I remember being 11 or 12 and I don’t mean I’m not a busty person like I never have been. And I had like the biggest boobs in the year and I was the tallest girl in the year. And so it really felt like women had just like came at me full throttle. And, you know, the stereotypes of teenagers going through puberty again, we say teenagers going through puberty. But I was 11. And I had suddenly got like acne and boobs. I was really tall and, you know, all that sort of stuff. So I think that was really hard because I felt that was something I was ashamed of, actually. Not my period, maybe before puberty. Like I just felt like turbocharged into being surrounded by kids and feeling like I’d just grown up. And it was, it was quite difficult. 

So I think that acne is where the conversations around contraception and stuff came in which you know, you and I talk about this a lot, like it’s just so awful that that happens. And for other people that might be for irregular periods or painful periods. But it was one of those conversations of, Oh, well, we could put you on this, you know, and that could help. And I shortly after that, like, was sexually active. So we’re all kind of like, I think I maybe started it for that acne and then I was like, okay, well now I’m sexually active, so this is great. Like I’m on, I’m contraception and you know, it kind of just snowballed from there. So but I changed contraception a lot in those early days. I really struggled with my mental health and various things. And think as this is so common, you know, we hear this all the time. So. I remember navigating that and eventually landing on progesterone only seemed to be the thing that worked best for me. But with progesterone only, you’re not having that break, so you’re not having this quote unquote period. It’s not a period in a sense. It’s a kind of withdrawal bleed. But I didn’t have any of that either. So once I got into professionally, I just didn’t have a period. And then I just yeah, like didn’t have a period for at least or even bleed for over a decade. 

Le’Nise: And I find that really fascinating given the work that you do. Having spent so much time without a bleed and now you are really deep into this reproductive health space. So talk us through switching, contraception, like what happened there and then then coming out the other side. What made you decide to come off of it? 

Coni: So. So do you mean switching contraception at the start, like. So. And I remember. And again, I guess this is. Having this conversation. It just really makes you look back on like being a child versus being a teenager and that kind of transition because as a child, like I said, me and my mom would talk about all this stuff and it wasn’t secretive. But then when I became sexually active, I guess even though we’d been very open about that, there was still like, I just didn’t really want to talk to my mom about sex. Like, it wasn’t like Gillian Anderson in Sex Education. Like, it wasn’t that level of openness like we would there with things. And I think as I got older, like, you get embarrassed and you become less close with your parents, you know, there is that time. So I think I was really navigating that contraception flip around and change around on my own fundamentally and just trying to figure that out. And I remember like sometimes I’d go to the doctor or sometimes I go to like a family planning clinic. And, you know, I’m sure they were all doing the best job that they can. And I think like for people that work in this scenario is like I guess they’re just drilled into like make sure, like they don’t get pregnant. Like that’s your like KPI is like just make sure this teenage girl doesn’t get pregnant. So they weren’t talking to me about, you know, the different, what the different types of contraception could do or the side effects or, you know, or even contraception on the whole what that could do, you know, it is just like, okay, well, let’s take your blood pressure. Let’s check this. Okay, try this one. Try this one. So my memory is definitely over a few years, going through a few different pills, like different brands, I guess, or trying combined pill trying the progesterone only mini pill. 

So it was a lot of chopping and changing, which obviously was messing with my cycle 100%, but I just didn’t have the knowledge that I do now about about cycles and didn’t have the I guess interest because I guess, again, what had been drummed into me at school is just like, just don’t get pregnant, just don’t get pregnant. Like, that’s all you need to worry about at this point. Like, you don’t need to think about what impact your hormones are having on your health or you don’t need to worry about like the phases of the cycle and how that can you know, that was not all. I didn’t know any of that. Right. 

So. I guess then I got into university. I think I maybe kind of settled on progesterone only. And again, even with that, I would like hop on and hop off. Like if I had a boyfriend, if I didn’t, you know, and I just didn’t have the knowledge that I have now. And, you know, I would I would do it completely differently. And then eventually I think I landed on having the implant. So I’m probably at around 25, I landed on the implant and that just seemed to be okay for me and I didn’t have to think about it and remember to take something every day. And then I guess the the reason that I came off it was I started doing what I’m doing. So I started, I was working and then I wanted to do some writing work on the side, as a freelancer, I went to university to study journalism. So that was always kind of what I wanted to do. And one of my first clients was Parla, who we both, you know, that’s how we met right through working with them. And they do some incredible work in the the reproductive health space. And so I started working with Lina there and just through, I guess osmosis of writing about things, I just started to learn loads more. You know, I was 25, 26, so fertility wasn’t something I thought about. You know, even my period wasn’t really something I thought about for a long time. And just working in this space and hearing the stories and writing about stuff and meeting experts like yourself really opened my eyes to reproductive health as a holistic whole thing that is not just about getting pregnant or not getting pregnant, but also the struggles that people can have when they are trying to get pregnant and the conditions that people can have around their periods. And, you know, it was a whole it was like going back to school again, basically to to learn all this stuff. 

And through that, you know, Parla offer at home fertility testing. And I you know, Lina said do you want you know, you can try this for free basically. You know, I think maybe or maybe she wanted me to write about it like I can’t remember, but it was like but to do that, you have to come off contraception because you can’t take the test if you’re on hormonal contraception. So I thought, okay, I’ll just do that and maybe I’ll come off it and then go back on it again. You know, at that time I was definitely interested in my hormones. From what I’ve been learning and I had no plans to have a baby in the near future. And I think maybe Mike and I had just got engaged, but, you know, we were definitely not planning on having a baby. So I thought I’d come off, do the test and then maybe go back home. And then I came off and I was just blown away. I think the combination of my period coming back to its natural cycle, coupled with the timing of the work that I was doing as I was learning about all this stuff, I suddenly was like, This is amazing. And this is like game changing for me to like know what is going on with my body and understand and know how I feel about things. You know, I think when I was chopping and changing between pills and implants, you know, sometimes I was really down or sometimes I was really uninterested in sex or sometimes I was tense and I really thought there was something wrong with me or something wrong with my relationship, you know, stuff like that. And then I came off and just started to see like, oh, like I am all these different things at different times. And there’s patterns and I can see things and I can learn about, you know, how to optimise those times and stuff. And so that was three or four years ago now, and I’ve been just having a natural cycle ever since, and that’s just allowed me to learn more and get more interested and just have a completely different relationship with my body really, and my sense of self. 

Le’Nise: What I find so fascinating is if we go back to your teenage years, how you were navigating these changes in medication by yourself at 15, 16, 17. And I find that so mad, considering how powerful these medications are, how powerful, the changes that they effect on the body. And also how many changes are happening in the body, the brain, hormonally during those years. And, you know, that’s no slight on you because you did what you did. But I just think it’s a such a kind of almost indictment on the medical system. That you have someone so young that that can do that. I mean, yes, there is a positive side to it because sometimes people don’t want their parents to know or be involved in that in those decisions. But it’s just fascinating that the doctors didn’t say like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You know, you’re this age and you’ve changed contraception this many times, like, we need to give this some space. We need to figure out what’s going on here. 

Coni: 100% agree. And, you know, I’m sort of like, you know, you look back and you try and think, okay, was that actually what was happening or was that my memory of it? But I do think that was that story sounds bad, like it’s not uncommon. Like, I think like that probably is the reality of what was going on to some degree. And I think you’re right. I think is is right that that that young people can take control of their sexual health without their parent’s consent and stuff like that. Like I think that, like you said, has its benefits, but ultimately it all comes back down to education because it’s fine to have a system that allows young people to have autonomy over their own health. But you can only have true autonomy if you have the knowledge and you have the inform and you have the information. And like giving a 16 year old like a pamphlet, like, did you see that thing that the day where someone made a dress out of the pamphlets that you get given with the pill, like it’s so much paperwork and it’s all really tiny. And you’re telling like a horny teenager to go read that pamphlet. They’re like, no, thanks. Like it’s going to take, you know, it’s that’s not education. Like that’s ticking a box from a pharmaceutical company to say, like, okay, well, we put all the information that like, we did that, but that’s not real education of young people about the side effects or the implications or, you know, all that sort of stuff. 

And also kind of just education around like when you can actually go and get pregnant and, you know, and, and, you know, we’ve obviously both watched The Business of Birth Control recently and it’s like a fascinating film. And I think we’ve got really strong opinions. And, you know, there is this big question mark. It’s like, okay, what do we tell young people? Because whilst as adults we might really advocate for natural contraception and know it, you know, the fertility awareness method and things like that, like, okay, for a young person like that, that is like a lot and the cycles are changing all the time and it’s a lot of responsibility. So I guess I don’t have the answer to what we need to do, but we need to do something different to at least what we were doing when I was at school. But from what I hear, I don’t think it has changed that much in in the last 15 years and certainly not enough. So I think we still have a lot of young people that are making these big decisions about contraception and about their sexual health without, you know, enough information about their bodies. 

Le’Nise: Yeah, I think it’s just decoupling the conversation from how not to get pregnant to having a conversation about what’s going on with your body, just like making it more of a pragmatic conversation of your bodies changing. This is what’s happening. This is you know, these are what’s happening with your menstrual cycle. This is, you know, how you can benefit from it rather than such a fear based conversation, how to avoid getting pregnant. And yeah, I just find it I find it interesting on a personal level because my son is nine and so next year he’s going to be having these conversations at school. So obviously I’ve already had all of these conversations with him in a in an age appropriate way. But it just I find it still very chilling that this is how kids learn about sex and their bodies. Yeah. Still. And then you bring porn into the conversation, which is just it’s so just so horrifying that that’s how so many kids are learning and teenagers are learning about what sex is. And that is not what sex is. Okay. Let’s digress a little bit. 

Coni: Yeah, I was about to go on a rant about condoms then, so. Yeah, I’m glad you stopped me. 

Le’Nise: So going back to where you your head was when you came off the pill or had the implant taken out. Hmm. I’m curious, when you went back to cycling, naturally, you mentioned that you were so much more aware in the changes in your body and, you know, aware of what it meant to have a period. Did that mean any changes in your relationship with your now husband? Hmm. 

Coni: That’s a really good question. I think he would certainly say for the first few months, it definitely changed our relationship because my PMS was  like really bad. I was pretty lucky that my you know, my period actually came back fairly regular fairly quickly, which for many people, that’s not the case. And I think when we get into a fertility conversation that’s so important to recognise that, you know, just because you take the implant out and like you could get pregnant next week doesn’t mean you’re going to that can take a long time. So I think it did change our relationship. I mean, I think the. You know, it all kind of there was a lot going on at the same time. It’s like I came I came back to cycling naturally. We were planning a wedding and then I started my business and then we went into a pandemic, right? So there was a lot going on emotionally, but I think that me understanding my cycle and by extension him understanding it and he really does, you know, that is again, I feel really lucky. 

I shouldn’t feel lucky that my husband would talk to me about periods because, you know, everyone should be talking about it in my opinion. But, you know, I we do have that relationship and we now can navigate these things that like and not in that kind of like, oh, you know, she’s hormonal, like, oh, you’re flying off the handle. It’s not that eye rolly thing that I think culturally but we do do sometimes but you know he we can recognise together through our relationship like oh like I’m you know I’ve just ovulated I’m really, really tired today. Like if you asked me to do anything like I’m probably, you know, I’m just having one of those days and he’s like, get cool, get it. You know, I’ll even say like schedule date nights. Like in my ovulatory phase, I’m like, I’ll really want to go out and I’ll be really good company that I’m like, whereas if we start scheduling like that stuff, I’m like, I know I wouldn’t want to do that when that happens. And I think us having that transparency and those conversations I think does make it like a lot easier to to be in a relationship, you know, like you’re living with that person every day. And I think because I know my body better, I can relay that to him. And we kind of like all of the same. We kind of sync up like not like synching up periods, but synching our approach to our relationship and like the emotional actions that come with that. 

Whereas I think when I was on, on contraception and I wasn’t having this cycle, I just really didn’t know like. I couldn’t even say like, Oh, well, I’m due on my period. That’s why I’m feeling really sad and irritable. Like, if I was feeling sudden, irritable, I’m like, Am I like, Is this something wrong with us? Like, is this something, you know, is he not the right person for me? Or I’m really unhappy, like, what’s going on? And I just didn’t have any markers to kind of help me figure things out. And obviously, you know, hormones are a huge part of my emotional makeup, but things in life happen like it doesn’t matter if I’m ovulating, am feeling great. Like if he annoys me, then he annoys me. And like, that’s going to happen, you know, at different times of the month. But I do actually, I really do believe that our relationship is a lot better for me having this knowledge and him sharing that with me as well. You know, it not being like something private, I’m, you know,not keeping him from gatekeeping that information from him like he knows full well how I might be feeling on different weeks. And I think that that helps him. I think he’s probably really grateful for that. 

Le’Nise Yeah, that’s really interesting because, you know, having a partner that is so a male partner that is so open about periods and just is so it’s a matter of fact about them is really important because it helps you, even if you feel you’re that you’re really comfortable with it. It helps you get to a place of even deeper comfort. I believe so. No. If they see your tampons or your pads or your cup, like last week I or the week before I finished my period and in the shower I washed up my cup. I was like, okay, I’ll take that downstairs and I’ll boil it. And I forgot. And it was just sitting on the side of the. Of the tub and. My husband was like, oh, you know, don’t forget your cup. You know, you just left it there. You know, you need to take it downstairs. And I think that’s just testament to him and how well he hears me talking about this all the time, so he’s had to get on board with it. But the fact that, like he when we first met, he was so like he was just just like this, like kind of like the archetypal British person in my mind. Yeah. Very proper. And for him to be in a place now where he’s just so casual about it, I think is really important. And I would just love for everyone to just be so comfortable with talking about periods. Totally. But I have a question off of the back of that. Do you ever kind of get in these situations where you are so because you’re so comfortable talking about periods, you feel like you’re pushing other people where you can sense their discomfort. 

Coni: Yes, yes and no. I think there’s times when I feel like I’m actively pushing people and there’s times where I’m just like, Oh my God. Coni. Like, I remember I went to I just moved to Brighton a year ago and I’ve got a lovely friend Lara down here. I don’t know anyone here. And she was like, I’ve just been here a few months. And she was like, Do you want to come to my four year old’s birthday party? She was like, not the most exciting invitation, but like, hey, like I was like, Yeah, you know what? We’ll come. We’ll meet some people. Lovely. And like, I literally walked in and met someone I’ve never met before, like a friend of hers. And within 2 seconds, I was like, something’s something. Oh, well, you know, like, I’m due on my period so like, blah, blah, blah, and I could just kind of see her face to be a bit like, like, not like, completely shocked. But I did just think that like, I hadn’t even told her my name and I’m telling her where I am in my menstrual cycle. 

And sometimes there’s times like that that I’m like, there’s nothing to be ashamed of, but there’s nothing, you know, it’s all good. But sometimes it’s just like Coni. What? It’s like you are way too comfortable. That’s like. And I feel the need to tell people. I think maybe that’s the thing. And I think that’s less about periods. I just more about my personality of being like an overshare. But like, I will just yeah. I will tell you where I am in my menstrual cycle before I tell you my name. But times like that where I kind of accidentally maybe make people feel a bit shocked or uncomfortable, they’re like, Whoa, I guess that I got paid. And then there are times where I still actively have to not call people out because that sounds harsh. But I was talking. I went for dinner with a friend the other day who’s a guy who same age as my husband. We’re all friends, right? So we’re all cut from the same cloth, like, ostensibly. And he’s helping me at the moment because of the period under underwear brand that I’m co-founder of. You know, we’re looking into things and partnerships in sport and this and that. And he works he works in the area. And we had a two hour conversation about this business proposition. And in the 2 hours he didn’t say the word period, like he somehow managed to talk about period underwear for 2 hours without saying the word period. And eventually I did say to him, I was like, you’ve not said period, like, are you okay? Because you were like somehow like dancing around like can’t bring yourself to say the word period. And he kind of laughed, you know, like he took it on the chin and then he was like, Oh yeah, like. But it was, it was really funny that I was like, Oh, my God. Okay, yeah. There’s still a lot of people that it is just this. Taboo or this word like it makes them feel awkward and makes them feel icky or like whatever. I don’t know. But that is this. This like this word that just cannot be said or this concept that can’t be talked about. 

So yeah, I do think I am, I, I push people on that sometimes and not to make people feel uncomfortable, but I think it’s a trickle down effect. Right, that if we as adults as like educated, like empowered adults can’t talk about this stuff, then how is the next generation of people going to talk about it? And, you know, I’m very happy to be that annoying person that talks about periods a lot and helps them feel a bit less like awkward because I don’t really think there’s anything awkward to talk about. 

And I think the other thing and I there’s a story I had yesterday I really want to share because I think it’s so important. My husband’s a paramedic, right? So he’s a medical professional. He’s delivered babies like he’s seen like plenty of vulvas and vaginas, like in his day to day work. So he’s maybe more comfortable than some men. But the other day, someone told me that they were at a sporting event for teenagers and a girl collapsed and the first aider went over to her. She had stomach pain and he said, okay, this is a bit taboo, so I hope you don’t mind me asking, but are you? And he was dancing around asking her if she’s on her period and it’s like it’s a medical situation. She’s having the stomach. I think that’s a and apparently one of the dads actually stood and said, this isn’t awkward Sarah like are you on your period? Like it’s a medical question like why if we have medical professionals still being awkward around it, then that just shows that we still have a long way to go to breaking this kind of taboo and shame because, you know, that’s just not okay. 

Le’Nise: Yeah, that really isn’t okay, a trained medical professional dancing around menstruation. I mean, if you don’t want to say period and say menstruation and that that’s mad. 

Coni: I know. 

Le’Nise: What’s so interesting is then taking it to the other end of the spectrum. So working in this space where you have people who are very comfortable with this, and rightly so, because this is the work that we do, then you have this spectrum of very pragmatic, the conversations to the other end where people are a bit more woo about it. And I was talking to someone last week and she was talking to me about her bleed and how it’s a very spiritual time for her. And I was saying in my mind, I was thinking, I really hope she doesn’t ask me if it’s spiritual for me. And she did ask me. And I said, no, it’s not. And that’s the kind of other end of the other side of the coin where you’re kind of navigating this space where. People who are very pragmatic and then people who are much more kind of spiritual about it. But I think that’s the beauty of being able to be comfortable is that you can appreciate once you’re in this space, once you’re comfortable, the kind of depth there is to this conversation. 

Coni: Yes, totally. And I’m with you, I think. It’s not spiritual for me, but I’m not a spiritual person. I would say, in terms of, you know, the the massive spectrum of spirituality that we have now. So, like and I sometimes find these conversations, I find them really fascinating in the same way that I find, like, religion fascinating. Like, I’m like, okay, that’s really cool for you. Like, it’s not for me, but, like, awesome. But I think you’re right. Like, there’s such a range of experiences that people can have with their periods, and we should be allowed to talk about all of them and not feel ashamed of any of them. But even if people can’t, get on board with the spiritual side of it, the woo side of it, like you’ve got to get on board with the medical practical side of it. Like, come on. Like even if you don’t want to talk about anything else, like be able to ask someone if they’re having a period in a medical situation. Like that’s like the most basic that we should be, I think, in society by now. 

Le’Nise: Yeah. So now you work in this space and you have a lot of different hats that you wear. So you are the co-founder of Nixi  Body, which is a period underwear brand. I have a pair. I love them. They’re so comfortable. And then you also write content. And then you also are a host of reproductive health events. So talk a little bit about the work that you do and how you ended up being so diverse in what you do. 

Coni: Yeah. I mean, like I said, I think writing is where I started. And once I started working with Parla and kind of got the bug, I guess, of reproductive health, I think I sort of made it my mission to like only work with, with brands in the reproductive health space and I guess become an expert commentator on it because I think I’m really, you know, I always have to say, like, I’m not a practitioner, like I’m not an expert. And, you know, sometimes I think, oh, I’d love to do that. But right now, you know, I’m a commentator. Like in the same way that any journalist that specialises in an area, you do kind of become an expert by osmosis of getting to talk to these people and interview people. So I feel really lucky for that and I think the writing is one part of it. But like ultimately it’s just about having these conversations and getting these conversations out there. And so whatever medium that is, whether it’s writing an article, whether it’s hosting in an event or a podcast or making like silly reels that I love, that’s actually like doing video stuff is my favourite and you know, making people laugh and making people think. And I kind of see it when I do stuff like that, which I think is putting my personality and my creativity like front and centre. But I feel like it’s a Trojan horse to get these conversations out of the echo chamber, because I think that, you know, in this space I’m so lucky to have friends and and a network of people that, you know, we’re all on the same page. And to some degree or another, we’re educated on this stuff or we care about this stuff, or we have different areas of expertise. But, you know, we’re not the people that, you know, need to see this content or need to read these articles really like we’re the people that are writing them. So I love it when like you or anyone are like, Oh my God, I love that thing you put out, you know, I love that. But what makes me even happier is when I have like some of my male friends or someone with a daughter or, you know, people that are outside of this space going, Oh, my God, like we saw that video that you did. It was really funny. And actually, I didn’t know that. And that’s really interesting. I’m like, yes, that like that is what I want. Like out of anything I do is to get these conversations broader and get them into like the mainstream sounds so ridiculous because like, you know, half the world are having periods. So why on earth would they not be mainstream? Like, that’s like a pretty big target audience. 

But, you know, getting people to to hear about brands here, about experts like yourselves and just keep kind of like growing the conversation out. So I guess it is like a really interesting full circle where I was the girl at school that wanted to talk about her period and everyone’s like, Shut up. Like you wear day. And now I get paid to talk about periods quite a lot. And, you know, and, and sometimes I’m sure people are still a bit like, you know, my in-laws are is a really interesting one because I think they’re a bit more conservative and they’re so lovely. But I do think that when Mike and I were together and they study, I think they were a bit like, What on earth does she do for a job? I’m like, What is going on here and now? Like, they love it and they’re always liking my stuff on Instagram and you know, so I think it’s all stuff like that. Like, I think just trying to use my creativity and my lack of shame, I suppose, to to get these conversations out there in any way that I can and, and support brands that are on the same mission, you know, that want to kind of educate people because if you lecture people, you’ll make you make stuff too boring for want of a better word or too kind of like I guess not inclusive kind of like, you know, this is a women’s space and like we’re talking about women things and it’s like, okay, well, I love I’m proud to be a woman. And like, I love that we can have our little safe spaces, but we need to bust out of those safe spaces if we actually want culture to change. And I’m very happy to do that. And if that means making some men uncomfortable in the process, then I don’t really mind. 

Le’Nise: And talking about like having conversations. So when you do your hosting work, I find that really interesting because that is a skill being a host and what you’re doing is quite it’s quite complicated because you’re, you’re applying the skill of a host as well as layer ing on lots of this quite technical information at times. So talk about a little bit talk a little bit about how you moved into that sort of work and how you know where you want it to go. 

Coni: Yeah, I mean, thank you. Because I think sometimes I think when I watch people host like it doesn’t look like a hard job. And then once I started doing it, I was thinking in my head, this was like a really hard job, but maybe I’m just not very good at it. And then you kind of talk to people like, No. It’s really hard, like especially when you’re moderating a panel of people. And I think that also, you know, there’s the technical layer of it which you mentioned. And I guess for that I just have to research as much as I can and also always throw it back to the expert. 

But there’s also a lot of sensitivity, a lot of the time that I’m talking about these things because, you know, we talked about periods a lot today, but, you know, where that can come, period, health conditions like Endo or PCOS, where people can have had a really, really tough time. Or maybe I’m talking more about fertility or pregnancy loss or menopause, you know, and I think that there is so much sensitivity that is needed about those conversations. And I think that my genuine empathy and genuine care for for anyone going through these conditions and that for the people that I’m often interviewing, I think that comes across. And I think that one of my skills is making people feel comfortable and not feeling ashamed about those things. And I guess that is because, you know, that’s how I’ve been brought up is not to feel shame. But, you know, I definitely like that’s where my passion really lies because I think that, you know, it’s really nice to sit here today and talk about my story. 

But, you know, everyone’s story is so unique and so different. So I think sharing people’s experiences and being a vehicle to help people do that, be that hosting a panel or, you know, I’m just about to start my own podcast actually about about this sort of stuff. And, you know, I think I feel honoured that I am able to have those conversations and that people feel safe enough to share. That stuck with me. And I feel like whenever I talk to people, we really get good, meaty conversations out there because you can sit there on a and hosting a panel and have your Q&A list. But these conversations are nuanced and complicated. And so, you know, you have to be genuinely in that conversation with that person to get the best out of them and to get their story out. And I’m really, really grateful that I get to do that as a job. And I would love to do more of that because it’s it really lights me out just sitting there and getting to chat to people about this stuff. 

Le’Nise: Yeah. I mean, you, I look forward to seeing you do more of it because you are you are good at what you do. I’ve been on a couple panels that you’ve hosted and it’s been it’s been great. So you do you do all of this work. What do you have coming up that you want to share with people? What you know, what do you want to get out in the world? 

Coni: So I think the next year, you know, we’re recording this now in 2022. So, you know, 2023 is just around the corner. And I think I think Nixi Body, which you touched upon, is something that my period underwear brand is we’re going to be doing a lot of stuff next year and it’s kind of connecting it to everything that we’ve just spoken about because we’ve just gone through a rebrand. And part of that is talking about exercise and movement. Like we’re kind of almost like a sportswear brand because the underwear is completely VPL free. So the really great under yoga pants and leggings and stuff. So I think as that mission missions become solidified, like we really want to talk about campaigns around exercise and menstrual health and exercise and mental health and like the intersections there, menopause, you know, all of these different life stages, postpartum, you know, all these different life stages that women go through or anyone, you know, who’s having periods will go through at some point, exercise and movement. And I know this is something that you teach in your kind of, you know, with your yoga and everything is so, so vital.

So we’ve got a few really exciting campaigns that are going to be going on next year all around that sort of stuff. And I think we’ll be doing some hosting, will be hosting some events around that. And I’m finally getting a podcast out myself and actually I thought really hard about that, about this podcast and what I want it to be and what I’ve realised is I want it to I kind of actually what I was just saying to you about getting things out of an echo chamber, I think there’s a lot of podcasts that are about certain things and I think generally when you start a podcast you should niche down. That’s actually the advice. But I kind of decided, you know what, I want to have a podcast where we’ve got like men and women and young and old people in different places, because I really want to kind of challenge people to listen to conversations that they might not feel a part of in terms of reproductive health, because I might not go listen to a menopause podcast, but my God, when I interview you and, you know, people like Kelly and Samantha about menopause, I’m like, why are women in their thirties not listening to these conversations? Why are men not listening to conversations about endometriosis? Why are women not listening to conversations about, you know, varicoceles and low sperm counts? Like, I feel like we’re already siloed in these conversations around reproductive health. Right. And that ultimately does come from shame and fear. So I’m hoping I’m going to host a podcast that is hopefully going to be engaging and fun and a bit broader that will hopefully try and get. People into these conversations in a different way. 

Le’Nise: Very exciting. Well, I’m really excited for everything that you have coming up. I think it’s brilliant and you’re going to continue to do brilliant work in this space. So all of the interesting insights and stories that you’ve shared today. From that. What’s the one thing that you would want the listeners to take from from that? 

Coni: I guess I would really challenge people to and I’m sure most people listen to this cause they’ll love what you do as I do. You know, I’m more comfortable that I think I would challenge people to have conversation around their period outside of a space that might feel comfortable. Try and make people to try to make people feel comfortable. But let’s, like, push those boundaries. Like, I think that if we want to see change on a societal level, you know, we start this conversation talking about education and young people and, you know, we could go so far down the road about the workplace and all those sorts of things. For change to happen, you have to get it out of the group that really cares about it and make other people listen. I think on a micro level we can all do that. If that’s like talking to your partner about your menstrual cycle or telling your boss that you actually need to take the afternoon off because you’ve got period pain and that’s really easier said than done. But I think if we can try to make those tiny little or introduce someone and tell them that you’re on your period before you tell them your name like it is, you know, I think we can challenge ourselves to do those little things that feel brave. Like we’ll start to realise that they aren’t they don’t need to be scary. And actually conversations around periods do not need to be intimidating and don’t need to be embarrassing. 

Le’Nise: Exactly. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Thank you. What can people find you? 

Coni: So I usually hang out on Instagram. It’s at @conilj and I’m not as hot as you. You’re on it. But with when I when I do posts, it’s usually quite good value and it’s usually about period. So yeah, I would love to connect with people on there. And my, my DMs  are always open for period chats. 

Le’Nise: Brilliant. Thank you, Coni. 

Coni: Thank you so much. It’s been such a dream. Thank you. 

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