How heavy periods affect my life

It's a monthly trial for many women. For some it only happens much later in life. For others it can start in their teens, as it did with schoolgirl and active sportswoman, Jenny Bosman* (17) from Cape Town. This is her story of how she copes.

Flow's monthly visit is never an easy time. She arrives randomly and in full force, requiring constant attention and preparation.

As an 11-year-old, experiencing the first few months of an extremely heavy period I didn't have an easy time. I never got the chance to ease my way into the whole 'period thing'. Instead, I found myself having to be put on the Pill as a way of managing the heaviness of my period.

Managing it

As time has passed, I have worked out various ways that help manage it somewhat, and this gives me some control over how my period affects my day-to-day activities. I am an avid sportswoman, so it matters a lot to me to minimise the impact of my period on me… and on my sport kit, which is a challenge, as my flow seems to increase when I am active. On the netball court, for instance, I am constantly aware of how I fall or how much the spectators can see during jumps, and I try my best to minimise the feared flash of stained underwear.

Sleepovers are stressful as some serious preparation is needed to prevent the morning bed stain. The usual pad and tampon is required, but as an extra precaution I make sure I am sleeping on a towel. I also set my alarm to wake me up to do a quick midnight change – just to be safe.

My pet hate regarding my period is the stains. It seems I am always throwing away ruined underwear, or having to think carefully about which underwear I would rather have ruined. For those four to five days – granny panties it is!

Support from the family

My open and comfortable relationship with my family makes waking up on 'period mornings' much easier as there is no secret scrubbing of the sheets to avoid awkwardness. Instead the sheets are placed in a bath where they are routinely soaked and no one bats an eyelid.

The constant changing of the combination of a pad and a tampon seems to get me through the school day without any serious hiccups, but woe betide me if I forget to change at break. Then, I find myself sitting on the edge of my desk chair, upright, trying my very best not to move as a way of avoiding the dreaded dress stain. In these stressful times, that there is little focus on the lesson in front of me.

Fortunately, I do not get any pre-menstrual signs such as headaches and cramps, but this in itself can be problematic as I have no warning and build up to when it is coming.

*Not her real name.

(Jenny Bosman, Health24, February 2011)

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