The female body is a wonderful but very weird thing. The ins and outs of your menstrual cycle as covered in the biology textbooks is more than enough to demonstrate this, but unfortunately it’s not just the mechanics we have to contend with; your uterus has all kinds of tricks up its sleeve. When having your period is still a fairly new experience, it can be a bit overwhelming and even embarrassing to talk about, especially if it’s not a very pleasant symptom. That’s what TOTM’s #TalkingPeriods* campaign is all about. You could be sat there fretting away about something that’s actually really common, when just a bit of conversation would be enough to soothe those worries away. No, periods aren’t everyone’s favourite topic, but yes, they need talking about, in all their weird, gross, embarrassing glory.
Everyone knows that with periods comes a healthy helping of mood swings. It’s the age old, infuriating trope where an irritated woman is met with a condescending Oh, are you on your period or something, love? What this kind of attitude fails to acknowledge is just how bad these mood swings can be — and it’s more than just getting a bit annoyed. You can go from being perfectly fine to boiling point to hysterical laughter to agonised weeping to eating everything but the kitchen sink, all in the space of half an hour. Once, I cried for fifteen minutes straight because my boyfriend’s forehead was really smooth.
You know when you were little and you’d put a football or a balloon up your top and pretend to be pregnant? Period bloating can look (and feel) a bit like that. It’ll start with your jeans feeling a little snug during the day, but soon you could be horizontal with the waistband of your pyjama bottoms stretched to the point where any noise you hear sounds like the elastic giving up. Get ready to brush up on your best Regina George impression: “Sweatpants are all that fits me right now.”
I lived in fear of stains for the first year or two of my periods. It was like I’d been taught to expect that every pad would overflow, every tampon would leak, and every period would result in a tell-tale splodge on the back of my jeans. The truth is, these things do happen but not half as much as you’d think. The worst you’ll get is a few marks on your underwear (there is truth in the legend of ‘period pants’) and probably a giant stain on your bed sheets the morning after your heaviest day. Those hefty nighttime pads aren’t the most inviting things in the world, but boy, are they necessary!
The first time you sneeze on a heavy flow is a memorable moment. I remember the panic setting in that I’d wet myself, followed by the unsavoury realisation that a good portion of my uterine lining had performed an emergency exit. Checking my pad for any leaks in the first bathroom I could get to was like discovering a gruesome crime scene had taken place in my knickers. Now it’s a routine: sneeze, toilet, clean up, change pad — all the while wondering how so much stuff can come out of such a small part of the body.
Speaking of stuff that comes out of the body… ahem. Period poos. They are a thing. Period farts? Also a thing. There really is no pretty way of skirting around the fact that, for a few days a month, your bowels are not happy. Maybe it’s jealous that your uterus is getting so much attention, or maybe it’s just a particularly vindictive body part that likes to make things difficult. Whatever the reason, at some point in your cycle, you’ll deposit what can only be described as a biohazard in the toilet bowl and consequently feel about eight pounds lighter.
The thing about period blood is that it doesn’t start off that way. It’s essentially a soft, mucous-like substance (yum) that throws a monthly tantrum before beating itself into a liquified pulp. Sometimes your period will seem a bit chunky, or you’ll be presented with a nice big clot. While these are completely 100% normal and very common, they can be a bit gross and even alarming if you don’t know what it is. I remember the first time it happened to me in the school toilets: it was enormous and I had no clue what it was or why it had happened, and it was a good job I had an experience friend on hand to explain and calm me down.
Discharge is bad enough on its own without periods being thrown into the mix. You spend all this time examining it, working out what your own ‘normal’ is, and then you’re hit with this brownish sludgy stuff on either side of your bleeding days. Yet another unpleasant way for the female body to shout, “Hey, look what I can do!” It’s one of those things nobody mentions because it’s not very nice, but again it could be a bit worrying if you’re not expecting it. Pretty soon it’ll be another thing you’re in tune with, and it’ll become an indicator as to where you are in your cycle — but it’ll never stop being icky, I’m afraid.
My periods have always been on the heavier side side, and one thing I remember vividly when I first started changing my pads was that they smelled. It was mortifying, and I spent many uncomfortable afternoons with my thighs glued together for fear that other people could smell it too. It’s not nice, but it’s also nothing to fret about. Yes, menstrual blood has its own scent (shall we say?), but to this day, I have never been able to smell when another woman is on her periods. We’re not vampires!
Even though lots of gross period things are totally fine and nothing to worry about, it’s good to ask questions. If anything about your body or your cycle is causing you concern, it’s always best to consult with someone you trust: your mum, your sister, a friend or even a doctor if you’re really worried.
To find out more about TOTM’s #TalkingPeriods campaign, visit their website!
Disclaimer: this post was created in collaboration with TOTM and is not a review or promotion of their products; I may however receive products or social media promotion in return for this post. See my Disclaimer page for further info.