Periods.

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You read that right. I'm going there.  This is a topic that shouldn't be considered taboo as nearly half the population go through this, that too, once a month for years on end.  I figured I would share my story and a few tips as I was quite a lost-cause during the first few months.  I didn't understand its purpose, how to manage it, proper hygiene, the difference between tampons and pads, etc.  Questions were brewing like coffee for ages until I took the initiative to carry out trial and error and my own research.  On top of that, I was just extremely shy to talk about this topic even though it is far more normal than society makes it out to be.  Thus, if this post can help just one person then it's worth more than anything.

Backstory

In the 5th grade we had a one-off talk regarding this whole new world called 'puberty'.  Naively, I was convinced that this was would never happen to me.  It seemed surreal.  Continuous bleeding for 5-7 days once a month?!  This had to be some kind of sick joke.  Who has time for this? I came home and forgot the whole entire lesson until it all came flooding back (literally) the summer before I started middle school (7th grade).

I was only 12 years old.  I remember getting the odd stomach ache here and there but ignored it completely.  These were pre-menustrual cramps.  One morning I woke up, went to the bathroom, and there it was.  It was like drops of red food colouring in a glass of water.  The stupidest thoughts were going through my head:


'Oh no how do I tell my parents? This is so embarrassing!

'I'm not ready to be a woman yet.  I don't want to enter adulthood!'

'No no, I can't tell them.  If I don't tell them, it never happened. Maybe scientists will find a cure for this soon anyways.'

'If I do a headstand it will go away, right?'

Headstands don't work (I tried) and the closest thing we have to a 'cure' is the contraceptive pill.  I don't know why I was so terrified. After a few minutes of contemplating life, I decided to tell them.  It was like they knew.  I came out of the toilet with tears streaming down my face and whimpered, 'Amma...'.  My mom looked surprised and came running and hugged me.  My dad was applauding in the background.  I was sat in the bathroom sobbing, 'Why is this a celebration? This is worst thing ever.' 

Most individuals who enter womanhood are not this dramatic about the situation.  Nevertheless, here is the thing about my parents.  They felt the need to call everyone and let them know of this new milestone I've crossed.  I'm already in a bad mood, my stomach hurts, and I'm intensely craving chocolate.  Right now is not the time for endless phone calls about successful ovulation.  I just want food and bed.  Not to add, seeing a huge pad for the first time and realising you're basically wearing diaper is highly saddening.

Note: I am not an Ob/Gyn or physician.  I am simply writing from my personal experience about what helped me.  Take whatever I say with a pinch of salt and make sure to consult your doctor or someone you trust like an older sibling or mother about anything listed. 

Tips
  • Irregular periods.  I wish I did this early on, but I highly recommend keeping a period journal to make sure nothing out of the ordinary takes place.  At the start, it is not abnormal for your period to be irregular.  For the first two months, my period lasted nearly 14-18 days.  Over two weeks!  Furthermore, you may find your flow to be very light or heavy at the beginning and then change over time.  Mine began as quite heavy and has lightened over the past 8 years to a medium/light flow.
  • Feed your cravings.  It's okay to binge a little.  Keep it balanced and space out your cravings but do not restrict and limit yourself.  Do be aware if you are eating too unhealthy because that will catch up to you later on.  
  • You may find yourself gaining more weight.  Prior to my period, I was stick thin.  I looked like I could snap in the wind.  My activity levels didn't change pre- and post-puberty.  After getting my period, I found myself filling up.  Do not be alarmed.  It's completely normal and everyone goes through it.  Let your body do what it needs to but make sure to stay on top of your weight gain and keep it in a healthy range by staying active.  
  • Find what works best for you.  Pads or tampons may suit you better depending on your lifestyle.  I prefer pads as you can use them overnight and they generally do not cause toxic shock syndrome.  However, tampons do provide more free movement and generally cannot be felt.  If you're someone that has a very active lifestyle then tampons may be your way to go in the mornings but be sure to change them according to what is advised on the package and get tampons that correlate with your personal flow.  If you do use a tampon, they can sometimes leak so having a panty-liner would prevent any unnecessary staining.  Remember, everyone has to use pads overnight.
  • Don't compromise on activities due to your period.  Perhaps you wanted to wear that gorgeous pair of white jeans or go to a dance party.  You still can! I've never struggled with bleeding through pants when wearing a pad.  If you shy away from tampons, use a maxi night pad for the day and you're sure to be leak free.  Enjoy life! 
  • Wash down there.  Oh yes.  Many people are doing to advise you to use fancy soaps and feminine products but really all you should use is warm water.  Anything else could cause an imbalance of your microflora which can lead to adverse effects.  Do NOT wash inside of your vagina unless consulted by a doctor. 
  • Change your pad or tampon regularly.  If you want to feel fresh during this time of the month, make sure to change your pad or tampon as frequently as possible.  Follow the advice on the packet which indicate absorbencies and lasting hours.  I personally change my pad around 3-4 times a day.  
  • Showers. Whilst showering, be sure to wash your 'down below' region well with warm water.  In addition, you may find yourself sweating more during this time of the month so it's okay to reach for that luxurious body wash.  I find myself taking two showers sometimes at an attempt to feel fresh.
  • Wipes.  If you want to feel extra hygienic, consider using baby wipes (unscented) just around the area but NOT inside.  This will leave you feeling a lot cleaner and it's a little thing which you can do to 'treat yourself' for lack of a better phrase.  
  • Pain. Some people have been blessed to feel absolutely nothing whilst others feel the weight of an elephant sat on their torso.  It's extremely subjective.  I start getting cold sweats and intense discomfort with sharp pains.  What helps me are painkillers, hot drinks, and a nice meal.  Always keep painkillers on you if you are allowed to especially if your cycle is due.   
  • Exercise.  This is very relative to your threshold of pain.  I personally can withstand light cardio, walks, and a bit of strength training or toning.  It's good to always remain active to some degree but I understand its very easy (and beneficial) to wrap up in bed with chocolate and youtube.  Do not let your whole week be this 'relaxed' but for the first couple of days do take it easy on your body.  Rest is all you need to feel rejuvenated. 

In essence, I hope this post helped someone out there that may be wondering about the ins-and-outs of period life.  At the end of the day, you are blessed to be able to endure this as it means your ovaries are functioning properly which is a sign of good health.  You do eventually get use to it or simply accept this part of life and it's not all bad.  


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