Things 20 people wish they’d known about periods
Getting your period for the first time can be a terrifying experience. I still remember mine.
I was about to go swimming later that day with some friends. I had been to sort my visas for a huge holiday with my parents, got back to my house and uh-oh, blood in knickers. Swimming cancelled. But, on the other hand, I felt like a grown-up. Yes, at 12 years old.
For many, their first period doesn’t go as smoothly. Some may not even know what is happening to them. And this is something I’ve come to recognise in the world around me as I’ve got older, and something I want to challenge, by looking at what real people with periods wish that they had known.
To do something different, I put a post out on the Clue Ambassadors Facebook group asking people with periods if they wouldn’t mind sharing their thoughts with me. I was pretty overwhelmed with the response I got, and there are a fair few patterns to pick out here.
Mostly, the responses I received highlighted the urgent need for proper sex and relationships education in this country. Thankfully, my mum (who is also featured in this blog post) taught me everything I needed to know, which was good because school certainly didn’t. But considering school is where you go to learn there is a shocking lack of education around the female reproductive system, consensual relationships, pleasure and “real life” sex. But that’s a whole other issue.
Here it is. 20 people give 20 things they wish they’d known about starting their periods.
“I wish I had been told that hormonal birth control isn’t the only option. That I shouldn’t be shamed for only using condoms especially when I’m paying attention to my body. And while I’m not advocating unprotected sex all the time, I wish I had been taught about my cycle and when you can and can’t get pregnant. Now I know all this stuff.”
“I wish I had been prepared i.e. been supplied with emergency underwear and pads by my mother.”
“I wish someone had properly explained tampons to me before I started having my period, because I wasted a lot of time constantly checking my tampon, as I was worried it would fall out and I wouldn’t know.
“I also didn’t realise how little blood we actually release at a time, so I thought I needed to change my tampon every couple of hours or so.”
“I wish someone would have told me where my vagina was. I thought I peed out of that area and tampons weren’t fun to figure out.”
“I wish someone had told me that all experiences are different AND that mine might drastically change over time.”
“I wish someone told me that birth control can lessen the pain of your cramps.”
“I wish someone would have told me that you can pee when you have a tampon in. Had a lot of uncomfortable moments.”
“I wish someone had been brave enough to tell me that orgasms can cure menstrual cramps. Although I’m sure most women can figure that out… on their own… so to speak.”
“I wish someone had told me the effect hormonal BC (birth control) had on my moods. Never going their again because they take all the fun out of life. What use is contraception if you can’t enjoy sex.”
“I wish someone had told me that cycles are quite never the same, especially in duration, and that it is usually not something to worry about.”
“I wish someone had shown me what a vulva looks like, not from porn, so I could have realised at a younger age how normal and beautiful I really am.”
“I wish I had known about menstrual cups earlier.”
“I, embarrassingly enough, never knew when to start counting my cycle until the clue app. Never knew if it was when I started bleeding, when I stopped, some other time…”
“When I first started using tampons, I wish I had known that i feels more comfortable if you push it up further. I also wish I had known caffeine makes menstrual cramps worse. I now try to stay away from coffee when I’m around my period. I also just wish that I had known to get better acquainted with my vulva and vagina and how it all looks and feels. It makes it easier to deal with my period now that I know my body better.“
“I wish I had known that my period changes over time and experience – I used to get sick and have to take a day off of school, work, normal activities. Now about 15 years later it still hurts and I still feel sick at times but it’s not as bad. I also wish I knew how to insert a tampon and what a menstrual cup was (still learning about the cups).”
“I wish I had known the effects lifestyle choices would have on my cycle and the levels of PMS and cramps. I can’t advocate enough that lots of sleep, exercise, balanced diet, minimal coffee and alcohol really reduces my PMS symptoms. I used to feel suicidal right before my period and it took me a long time to realise I was exacerbating this by drinking too much alcohol, too much caffeine and not sleeping enough.”
“I wish I’d known that I wouldn’t have to hide my tampons when going to the washroom in school… I heard one funny story of a girl who popped the end of a tampon in her mouth and said “see ya fellas” like Popeye when they asked her why she needed her purse in the bathroom.”
“Period poops. Honestly, made me feel crazy. I didn’t understand how much my period would be a “full body” endeavour.”
“There are a few things I wish I would have known / been taught…
“Number one: you should not feel shame for talking about it. Just because it makes some men uncomfortable doesn’t mean it should be something that is shameful. It someone gets uncomfortable talking / hearing about it, that’s their problem no yours. It’s a completely natural and normal thing that SHOULD be talked about and respected.
“Number two: I wish someone had told me that being irregular is normal, but to make sure you go to the doctor the moment you realise it’s been longer than normal since you’ve had your period. Being irregular usually isn’t a big deal, but it is a symptom of other medical problems and you should go ahead and get it checked out, just in case.
“And finally, number three: I wish that someone had shown me more options for my menstrual health. The only thing I was ever aware of were tampons and pads. I didn’t think there was such a thing as menstrual cups or other alternatives.”
“I would have loved to know that you can get pregnant on your period!”
Periods are real life bodily functions that people cross the world experience on a regular basis. More than 50% of the world get them, yet they are so misunderstood, so taboo and so hushed up.
The Clue app helps you to get to know your cycle, what to expect and when to expect it. I’ve personally learned so much about myself since installing it a couple of years ago when I came off hormonal birth control. And I love it.