This is the second installment in our Period Series. This series aims to help teens understand the changes that they're going through without feeling ashamed. We'll try to dispel all the myths that your teen may read or hear and help them better understand that menstruation affects everyone and is a natural part of growing up.
- Dear tween me, let’s talk about your period, sweetie
- 10 myths about periods that you may still believe
- Bloody hell! That's not fair!
We’ve come a long way from pining linen to belts and hoping that the blood won’t leak onto our clothing. While period blood is very natural, most people don’t appeal to walking around with blood stains during their period. Luckily, the technology used to make menstrual products has developed along the years so menstruators don’t have to worry about such.
Also read: Stemming the red tide
Let’s time-travel for a minute:
Most menstruators can remember the first menstruation product they received and in most cases it was a sanitary pad. I went to a girls’ school during the time of my first period. Every year, a company that specialises in menstruation products would come to my convent school and give us a talk about periods and sex. They’d then hand out packets of maxi pads for each girl before calling it a day. I was one of the few girls who had yet to have their period, so my maxi pads were kept by the teacher in case the other girls encountered an emergency. Trust me when I say, most girls were more prepared to use a wad of tissue before asking for the monster sanitary pads. I clearly remember my best friend at the time describing them as ‘adult nappies’ and shiver at the thought of having to go to the school nurse to ask for one.
"What's got you in a mood? Is it because of your period?"
Fast forward a few years later and I’d finally had my first period. I was now at a co-ed school where the girls would discreetly pass each other pads if one of us were in desperate need of one. It was now a known fact: most girls* had their period and yet we were ashamed of the boys knowing and making fun of us. It was a form of self-preservation, none of us wanted to hear the annoying and stupid “what’s got you in a mood? Is it because you’re on your period?” phrase that they all seemed to have on the ready.
I remember keeping my ultra-thin pads in the pocket of my green-and-yellow-striped blazer and wearing two pairs of underwear when I was on my period (don’t ask, it made sense at the time).
Also read: Puberty in girls
"Just shove it up there!"
I was pretty much content with my ultra-thin and very discreet sanitary pads. That was until the university years. I remember making a pact with my best friends in high school that once one of us had tried tampons, then we’d all switch to what the big girls use when they’re menstruating.
Up until the age of 19, the idea of putting something up my vagina made me shudder. I’d somehow managed to dodge partaking in swimming galas in high school by claiming I was on my period and refusing to be swayed by all the female teachers to use a tampon the day of the gala, so I wasn’t about to be swayed now!
But as luck (or lack thereof) would have it, I had run out of my thin pads and had to ask a friend for one. Imagine the horror on my face when she handed me a tampon, wrapped in purple plastic. It was time to be a big girl or be the girl that would bleed on her denim high-waisted shorts while she was walking to her ancient history class. So I did it, pulled back the purple wrapper and stared at the bullet-shaped cotton. My friend stood outside the door as I squatted over the toilet seat and took a deep breath. All I remember her saying was, “Relax; it’s really not a big deal. Your vagina can take way more than something the size of your thumb. Just shove it up there!”
And so I did it, I’d put in my first tampon… or so I thought. I anxiously turned to her on our walk back to our res, “Am I supposed to feel it? I think it’s going to come out.” She of course rolled her eyes at me, thinking I was being dramatic. I then proceeded to rush to my room to pull it out in fear that I was experiencing the first signs of TSS. I called her in a panic, convinced it was stuck. It was only when she threatened to pull it out herself that I relaxed my pelvic muscles and breathed a sigh of relief when it was completely out of my body.
Also read: Introducing your daughter to tampons
I took a long break from tampons after that. I can’t remember the time I finally made the transition but it was in my own time and with less drama. I now pass the feminine hygiene aisle at Clicks and Dis-Chem and linger a few minutes when I see the menstrual cup. Perhaps I’ll move on to that in the next few months.
Take a look at our infographic and see if you may find the product that works for you.
Apart from the period cramps, you may suffer intense cravings and a few emotional moments.
The point is: you aren’t subjected to just one product any more. There are now so many choices on the market that you can feel like you're in control, even when your uterus seems to be against you. Whatever product you use should be comfortable and convenient. Don’t feel pressured to use what your friends use or what is currently perceived as cool.
Periods are amazing! They’re a monthly reminder that your body is able to carry a life. There is nothing to feel ashamed about, whether you develop earlier than all your friends, are a late bloomer or have a different experience to menstruation than your peers. Every menstruation story is special and unique, just like you are.
*We acknowledge the fact that women are not the only people that menstruate. Transmen, genderqueer, non-binary and other genders can also experience menstruation.
Can you remember your first experience with menstruation products? Share your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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