Today I want to discuss some things that we wish we knew about periods. I quizzed my Instagram audience on this and everything that came up were all things that we all probably should have been told before we started our periods but just weren’t. There’s probably even some things that we’re going to talk about today that you don’t know, even as somebody who has a period. This is going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to be going through all the answers that my Instagram audience gave to the question “what is something you wish you knew about your period”.
Sometimes You Leak
The first talking point is around leaking on your period. I think sometimes we think about leaking as something that’s the end of the world. And that’s only because throughout history we have been taught that our blood is dirty, not to be discussed and certainly not to be looked at – so when we leak it has this stigma of shame and embarrassment attached to it. But, actually everybody’s leaked at some point. There will be a time where you’ve been out in public and come on your period and been like “oh shit! I can’t do anything about this, I don’t have anything to clean myself up with. What am I gonna do?” I’m pretty sure we’ve probably all done the “run to the nearest restroom and shove some folded up tissue in your underwear” trick. Sometimes it happens. It’s okay. We all leak sometimes but we don’t have to be totally ashamed of that.
Another thing associated with a bit of leakage is the blood stains. How many times have you put on your favourite panties and then come on your period without warning? Yup – I’ve been there! Thankfully, I’ve recently discovered Save My Knickers, which is a stain removing product designed specifically for period blood. The lady who created it – Lucy – is absolutely lovely. She was fed up with her favourite undies being ruined and being relegated to the “period knickers” drawer, so she created Save My Knickers.
It’s actually a really good product! When I tried it I was a bit sceptical, because I have ruined so many pairs of pants and trousers and bedsheets. They always stain, even when you use a stain remover. But Save My Knickers is different. I don’t know how it works, but you can literally see the blood stain being drawn out as the product works. This product: game-changer! Here’s the link.
Don’t Flush Your Tampons
!I wish I’d have known how to dispose of sanitary products properly.” Yes I’m so glad this one has been bought up because – raise your hand if you have ever flushed a tampon? I know I have. In fact I didn’t know even into adulthood that you weren’t supposed to flush a tampon. I just thought that that was the way you were meant to dispose of them.
I bet there are people reading this now that are like “wait what you’re not supposed to flush tampon?”. No, you’re not supposed to flush tampons. They’re supposed to go in the bin. I think most of us realise that you’re supposed to put sanitary towels in the bin, but we don’t necessarily think the same thing about tampons. Put both of them in the bin not down the toilet. That said I have also absolutely flushed a sanitary towel before. I don’t know where I got this from, but somebody told me as a teenager that it was okay to flush sanitary towels down the toilet as long as you ripped them in half first. Again, not true – just put them in the bin. Or better yet consider switching to a reusable option then you don’t have to think about how to dispose of it.
Blood Clots Are Normal
Another thing that came up when I quizzed my Instagram audience was blood clots. Blood clots in your period blood are actually quite a normal thing. The only thing to be aware of is the size. If you’re someone who is used to tracking your cycle and tracking your period and looking at the consistency of your blood, you’ll know what’s normal for you. But if you start to get blood clots that are bigger than a 50 pence piece then that’s something that you should get checked out. Smaller clots are not normally something to worry about.
While we’re on the subject of bodily fluids, we might as well go into this one real quick – and that is discharge or cervical fluid. Your cervical fluid will change throughout your cycle and that’s actually normal. Most of the time it will probably have a creamy consistency. Around ovulation it turns more wet and more like an egg white consistency. Some brown or pinkish discharge is also quite normal either side of your period, but if it is orange, yellow, green or grey or has a bad smell then you should get that checked out.
Your Period Might Be Late
The next thing that we’re gonna talk about is this. You may have late periods, you may miss one and not every month is the same. I have seen this question come up so many times. I’ve seen people asking “my period is a day late. should I be worried?”. Or “ my period came 2 days early. What does this mean?”. And even “my period is 5 days late. I’ve never had sex. Could I be pregnant?”. These are all genuine things that I’ve seen come up.
I think this is something that is just not explained well enough. Your cycle can change every month. As long as there’s not a dramatic shift, then it’s not something necessarily to be concerned about. So, if your period is 1 or 2 days late or 1 or 2 days early, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But, if your cycle is getting consistently longer or shorter each month then that’s something that I would get checked out. But 1 or 2 days either side of your regular cycle is absolutely fine.
Another thing I’ve seen come up in relation to this is people saying (I’m going to say this is primarily from young girls and again, I think it’s just because it hasn’t been explained properly to them) “my period came on the 1st of January but then it came again at the end of January. Will I still get a period on the 1st of February?”. There seems to be this misunderstanding that your period isn’t actually a monthly thing. I think the way it’s often explained is that you get a period every month. Which, yes you do, but your body doesn’t know your calendar. It doesn’t know to have a period on the 1st of every month because your cycle is not exactly monthly. Your cycle will be around 28 days long. It’s actually a really small percentage of people have that exact 28-day cycle, but however long your cycle is, that is when you can expect your period next. So, if you have a 25-day cycle you can always expect your period on the 26 day.I think there’s just some confusion there when we use the term monthly but it doesn’t literally mean monthly.
Next up, let’s talk about period pain. How many people told you before you started your period that it hurts? Probably not that many. I’m even gonna go so far as to say that people in your life who had experienced period pain when you’re a child or growing up, you probably didn’t notice because on the whole people will try to hide that. I don’t ever recall my mum sitting on the couch with a hot water bottle going “oh it’s my period and it really hurts”. I think things like that just don’t get talked about that often. So, yes – one thing to prep people who are going to have periods with is that it can hurt.
Again real quick while we’re on the subject of period pain – it doesn’t have to hurt. I find my period pain is bad if I’ve had a really stressful month, or if I’ve overdone it on caffeine and alcohol through my premenstrual phase. But, even if you do get period pain (and a lot of people do), you can treat it with an anti-inflammatory painkiller like an ibuprofen, or even a simple hot water bottle can be really helpful. I know people always say “oh exercise helps with period pain” and I get the idea behind that. Exercise leads to endorphin release which can help with pain, but the last thing I feel like doing when I’m on my period is going for a jog. I actually take the opposite approach. I find the more I rest on my period the better my period pains are.
From period pain to ovulation pain Ovulation pain can sometimes be as painful, if not more painful, than period pain. It’s less common than period pain. Not everybody gets ovulation pain but it is still a fairly common occurrence. Again my advice to anybody who experiences this is to pay attention to how you feel, to how your body is feeling and listen out for what it is you need to do. A hot water bottle can definitely help with ovulation pain and again, a painkiller if you need it is no bad thing.
Hormones & Mood Swings
Hormone shifts can make you feel miserable. Yes they can and this is essentially my whole jam. Ok not my whole damn but the whole reason that I teach about the menstrual cycle is so that we can learn to navigate the ups and downs that come with those hormonal changes. That can be physically mentally or emotionally. I think sometimes we get caught up in the science of “this hormone does this and it makes your body do this and then this one will come in and it will make you ovulate and then these hormones will drop off the make you bleed” but actually there’s so much more that Is impacted by your period and your menstrual cycle.
One thing that came up a couple of times when I asked my Instagram audience about things they wish they knew, is feeling depressed, anxious and just generally miserable, both in the lead up to period and while you’re on it too. In the lead up to your period you are way more prone to feeling sensitive. By that I mean, you’re more prone to anxiety, you’re more prone to just low mood in general. And I find that coupled with this frustration that we often feel that our bodies are not working the same way they were a week ago, that can lead to some really negative feelings.
When I say frustration in your body not working the way it did a week ago, you may not be aware of that frustration. It depends on how carefully you’re tracking your cycle. How much close attention are you really paying? I used to know that I was frustrated and angry in my premenstrual phase but not fully understand why. When you can get to the bottom of that then you can deal with it. A lot of my frustration stemmed from not understanding how to work with my cycle with my hormonal changes through that premenstrual fhase. I wanted to be able to keep on keeping on like I did through the pre ovulation and ovulation phases. Once I learnt to work with my body and with my cycle a lot of that frustration melted away.
What is why I’m super passionate about tracking your cycle because that’s the first step in understanding why you feel the way you do. Even just understanding why you feel a certain way can be enough to make things easier. I’ve had this conversation a few times now with one of my friends about how just knowing that some of her anxiety is caused by her hormonal changes is enough to lessen the anxiety. Just by knowing that it’s caused by her cycle makes it easier to rationalise. I think it’s super important that we understand how the cycle can affect us emotionally too.
Of course it’s not all about emotions there are a whole bunch of physical changes as well. One of those changes is body shape. I’ve actually got a post over on my blog all about how your cycle affects your body confidence. This comes in two parts really because part one is about how your cycle affects your actual physical body shape, and the other part of that is about how your brain thinks about yourself. You’re more prone to negative thoughts through certain phases of the cycle.
If we’re just talking about changes in body shape, the most obvious one for most people is going to be bloating. This is really common through the premenstrual phase and the reason for that is that the hormones you’ve got going on around that time slow down your gut. Your food processes through your gut more slowly. That means it sits in your gut for longer and creates more intestinal gas, which is what leads to that physical bloating.
When you come out of the premenstrual phase and you’re into menstruation, what happens is your gut then speeds up again. This can lead to more gas which is why you might also be bloated through your period as well.
You might feel this twofold during your premenstrual phase because not only are you physically bloated, but your brain is not feeling so kind about that. It’s really more difficult to brush off the Inner critic when you’re premenstrual so you’ve got two things going on here that are probably both going to make you feel like crap.
Again, that’s not to say those things can’t be dealt with.You can find ways to work with those things instead of fighting this inner battle all the time. It’s all about tracking your cycle, finding out what’s normal for you and working out ways that you can make life a little easier on yourself when necessary.
Through your period your gut starts to work at a more normal pace again, which is why you might experience a bit more bloating through your period. With your period you’ve also got two things going on here and that can lead to the phenomenon known as period poops. Yes period poops are a thing that nobody tells you about before you get your period.
What’s actually going on, is that your gut starts working again. It’s been sluggish through the premenstrual phase and it kicks back into gear. But, also you have hormones called prostaglandins which start doing their magic here. What they do, is to cause the uterus to contract so that you can more easily shed your uterine lining. And that goes some way to explaining why you might have period pain. But they can also work their magic on the gut, which is why you might experience more frequent trips to the toilet for number twos during your period.
All of these things that we’ve discussed today are things that we wish we knew before we had a period. Most of us probably know about these things because we have experienced them. One other thing that was brought up when I was having this conversation on Instagram is that it’s really important for partners, especially those who don’t experience menstruation, to understand what’s going on here.
I mean, we’re experiencing these things and still nobody thought to tell us what it was going to be like before we got there. So, who is going to take the time to explain this to people who don’t menstruate. Think about it, if it hadn’t even been explained to us in that much detail (when we are the ones that are going to experience it), what are the chances it’s been explained to people who don’t experience it?
This is why I want to open up this conversation. It’s why I want to normalise these really normal things. I am in, I’m going to say, a very fortunate position in which my husband is very understanding of me, my menstrual cycle and my period. I don’t know if I just got lucky or if he has heard me talk about it so many times that it is just normal to him now. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but my hope in opening up these conversations is that this stuff becomes a little bit more normal and a little bit less of a taboo for everyone.
conversations about periods
I’ve said this before and I will continue to say it till I’m blue in the face, but conversations about menstrual cycle and periods are not just for people who have periods. They are for everyone. I have a son and he is not ever going to experience a menstrual cycle or a period, but I still think it’s important that we have these open conversations about them because he is already encountering, and will continue to encounter, people in his life who bleed. I want him to have an understanding and a compassion for those people. I don’t want him to feel intimidated or grossed out or or embarrassed about menstruation. I think education on this is the greatest asset.
I watched a tiktok compilation the other day which was of the tampon challenge. If you haven’t seen it, what that is, is essentially people showing how to use a tampon, putting it into a glass of water and showing their boyfriend, husband, other half, or whoever it might be what happens. You’ve got someone who bleeds showing someone who doesn’t bleed how a tampon works. And these people who’ve never used a tampon in their life were absolutely astonished at what happened when they put that tampon in the water. “It gets that big inside of you?”. One guy even asked “does it feel good?” and I know there’s so many people listening to this that just rolled their eyes at that comment, but really what that video showed me is how much we don’t talk about what it’s like to be someone who bleeds. What it’s like to use a tampon. What it’s like to use a sanitary towel or a menstrual cup. We’re not having these conversations loud enough that people can hear them.
You have to say “hats off” to these girls, women and people who bleed who are showing their partners what it’s like to live that experience. And as one of my followers pointed out it is so important for partners, especially those who don’t experience it, not to be rude about periods and not to be grossed out by them or say something that is unhelpful.
I feel like I could probably do a whole another episode on awful, unhelpful, unsympathetic, and plain wrong things people have said to you during your period. These are just some of the things you wish you knew before you have a period if you have something else to contribute something else that you think really needs to be talking about pop over to my Instagram and send me a DM let’s continue this conversation because that is what it’s all about.