"I was ashamed of getting my period so I kept it a secret"

Menstruation is nothing to feel embarrassed about.
Menstruation is nothing to feel embarrassed about.

A lot of young women say that they were never really properly prepared for what many consider growing pains, or going through puberty and discovering their true selves in the world.

Whether it be the first kiss, the first break up, the first job or even their first sexual experience, no matter how ready we thought we were, life always had a surprise up it's sleeve. Not always negative though.

One such milestone was getting your period for the very first time, which is unique to each girl. 

READ MORE: Let's put an end to period shaming

Recently on Twitter, a user asked her followers, "How do you teach your daughter about periods?"

The responses below sparked a conversation in the office about how our parents, guardians, elders or even friends had guided or not guided us through the process.

Many admitted to having had awkward experiences because no one educated them as young girls.

In a poll that's still running on the site, we asked you, "How did you learn about your period?"

  • The majority of you just got on with it - 39%
  • A lot of you said no one told you and you kept it a secret - 24%
  • A large number of you said that your moms made you look forward to it - 20%
  • Friends also stepped in - 5%
  • We were sad to hear that 11% of you say you were made to feel ashamed about your first period.

Although unique, and definitely special, getting a period for the first time wasn't very welcomed by many. Mainly because it has long been seen as something that men and women alike felt needed to be hidden or not spoken about.

READ MORE: 5 alternatives to pads and tampons you should try

Growing up, I had the same mindset because I was taught, "hide your pads" and "don't say the word period". That kind of thinking definitely contributed to feelings of insecurity about having my period.

I found a survey online that suggests 1 in 5 women are ashamed about getting their period because of a comment that was made by a male friend. The article published on Mail Online, goes on to explain that in a poll taken by 1 500 women and 500 men, 58% of them have felt embarrassment because they were on their period.

Although having a period is one of the most natural things a woman goes through, we still have so many people ashamed of and shaming it. And in the worst cases, young girls missing school because they can't afford menstrual hygiene products.

Which is why we're so glad to have high profile women like Meghan Markle spreading a positive and informative message about menstrual hygiene. In an article published by Chloe Lambert on The Telegraph, we hear all about how the Duchess selected the still unfashionable topic about periods.

In SA there's a growing push to do the same and we're proud of everyone involved in all the initiatives we hear or write about.

We have asked a few of you to share memories of the first time you got their period. Here's what you had to say:

I didn't grow up with my mom or any other mother figures so getting my period was a terrible ordeal

I was ashamed to tell my dad and naturally unable to afford sanitary pads on my own, so I resorted to using toilet paper. I was constantly worried about leaking while at school and it made me very awkward around my friends and classmates. Eventually I summoned the courage and told my dad. It wasn't as dreadful as I thought it would be but, he didn't offer me any advice on the matter, so I just had to learn along the way.
Lynn M

I was 14 years old

I knew it would happen, but I hadn't expected it that soon. I felt very shy, uncomfortable and decided to keep it to myself. I knew I would need sanitary pads, so I stole some from my mom's drawer. I eventually told my older sister who explained everything to me, she also told my mom. It wasn't as big a deal as I thought it was at first.

I didn't understand why it was happening to me

I still wanted to play and be able to go swimming without feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable. So the first year was definitely difficult but over the years I have learned it was never anything to feel ashamed about.

My cousins taught me about periods

I was 12 and they were much older. I started having cramps on our way to my married cousin’s house with my other cousin. When arrived, I went to the bathroom and became petrified because they told me that I would fall pregnant if boys touched me now. My best friend at the time was a boy so I avoided him for the whole week. I would have liked them to be honest with me considering my married cousin is a teacher and the one I was traveling with is now a nurse. It was my mother who, after noticing that I was avoiding my best friend allayed my fears. Looking back I feel like all the fearmongering was unnecessary and if my mom had not explained it to me I would not have had the courage to query other things that were happening to me physically as part of puberty which helped me understand my body.

My sister would bring pamphlets for me from school whenever they’d have drives and events around “womanhood”

I had to pretend to be shocked when my grandmother came in because my sister's tutorials were done in secret. Thanks to my her, I was well prepared and knew what I needed to do even though it was a “freaky” experience as I would put it then.

Sadly there's a trend of shame and embarrassment around menstruation. And confusion of how to deal with it for the very first time. Most of the women we spoke to also agreed that, they would have dealt with it better had someone been open, honest and prepared them properly for what was coming.

Here's a mother's take on how she managed to prepare her two teenage girls:

Fortunately schools educate girls very early on periods these days, so the whole thing wasn’t entirely news to my daughters. I never hid my own periods from them and answered questions about the pads and tampons in the bathroom cupboard and in my handbag when they were very young in a frank manner. I also made sure to tell them that periods feel a little ick in the beginning but that you get used to it quickly and then it is a non-event. I also told them that I feel my best when I’m having my period, and that you are not sick when you have your period. I also said that exercise is the best way to deal with a cramp. Our best conversation about periods happened on Whatsapp though. A friend posted a Youtube link on Facebook or somewhere where two teenagers discuss periods and give really good information. So I sent my daughter the link, and we chatted about what she could expect and there were lots of little heart emoji’s flying around between us. Face to face I think she would have ducked out of the conversation. My main thing was that I didn’t want them to be caught unaware and then be in a potentially embarrassing situation, so I made sure they had pads in their school bags, and that they knew which teacher to go to. Girls these days also chat to each other a lot more on the subject and they ask each other for help in case someone forgets a pad.
Helen S

Absolutely nothing to be ashamed of! We all go through it.

The more we speak up about our experiences, the less of a taboo the subject becomes. We should all feel comfortable about the natural functions of our bodies.

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