Contrary to popular belief, preparing for your period isn’t anything like preparing for a zombie apocalypse. Most of the time, either your school, any mother figure in your life,would have told you about the mysterious changes about to happen in your body. I’ll try and relate each fact with my personal experience, sometimes normal sometimes not, so you can better understand why it’s ok to be out of the ordinary, and more importantly why you should be telling a concerned adult about what you are experiencing.
On an average girls start their period between the ages of 9-16, however it’s important to remember that this is a ballpark figure, and you might start earlier or later depending on your lifestyle. I started when I was 10, earlier than many girls around me. My breasts had already started developing and I was understandably very insecure about it. My first period lasted for 17 days, 10 days too long and my mom took me to a gynac. Although this visit to the doctor is usually what makes many people worried, I felt relief when I visited the doctor knowing that there was nothing wrong with me.
The entire menstrual cycle is 21-35 days, out of which periods can last for 2-8 days. It’s vital to know these numbers so you can assess the situation and avoid unnecessary worry. Cycles change over the course of your life depending on things like age, stress, weight gain or loss, and having a baby. Stress can cause irregular cycles and irregular periods, so make sure you take a chill pill once in a while.
How do people deal with the flow? Physically and emotionally, it will be a waterfall of blood and emotions, but look at the bright side. This is a milestone in your life, and you are not alone.
Women use menstrual products like sanitary pads, tampons,to deal with the flow. It will take a little getting used to, but soon it will become an involuntary function. The process will get seamless after a few cycles. Only 36% of the women in India use sanitary pads, and over 62% of them use cloth and rags, which is highly unsanitary. So make sure you are using menstrual products that fit you right, and that are medically safe.
Not all menstrual products are sustainable. India generates 9000 tonnes of waste from sanitary products alone, an easy fix is to use a menstrual cup. 432 million pads are being used annually by the 121 million women that use them. For your first period, try and use whatever is accessible, feasible and comfortable for you.
When it comes to dealing with the flow of emotions, I can’t say I have been successful in controlling them. Premenstrual Syndrome, popularly known as PMS, is a term used for a whole bunch of different symptoms women experience before their period starts. Experts have not been able to agree on a reason for PMS but we can all agree that they are horrible to deal with. You seem to be irritable ,overly sensitive, and are in pain due to cramps that emerge in your abdominal region.
Symptoms vary hugely. You may be one of the lucky ones who don't experience any symptoms, or you may be extremely sensitive. If you don't happen to be one of the lucky ones, remember the bloating, irritability, sluggishness, breakouts and soreness tend to get better in a few years. In the meantime, you can help ease the symptoms.
Your family may be sensitive to your behaviour but remember no one has any way of magically knowing why you are being overly sensitive. Try and keep calm.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, do not let your period stop you from doing anything. You are unstoppable, and this is just another biological process. PLAY what you like, PRAY whenever you like, and please don't use your period as a reason to skip school. Unless of course you are in physical or emotional pain, no one can stop you.
I am no expert, I’m still learning about myself and about the menstrual cycle, but I can positively say nothing will benefit you more than listening to your body. It’s up to you to have a healthy relationship between you and your cycle.
You are never alone <3.
Written by Triya Ghosh
Graphics by Rachel Alexander