We’ve set out a few Q&As that you may have about periods. So, trust us when we tell you that we don’t bleed blue, we don’t take to the streets on ‘Okada’ wearing white jeans, and the first sign that a period is starting is definitely not like popping a champagne cork then trying to plug a high-pressure hose. One guy even asked us “can’t you wait till you get home and then start?” Oh, if only it was that simple…
Our hope is that some of these answers will help explain the physical and psychological side of what’s going on for us when we are ON, and then hopefully help you take a better course of action when faced with what might seem like totally unreasonable bunny-boiler behavior.
Do you get any warning that your period is going to start?
- Cycles vary from person to person and from cycle to cycle. Irregular period cycles could be caused by stress, travelling between time zones, strenuous exercise, illness and drastic changes in weight and diet. As women’s bodies don’t run like the clockwork a period can turn up a few days early or a few days late. However, our bodies do tend to give us a few warning signs like mood changes, greasier hair, and cramps. These all tend to make their presence known before the period starts.
What’s with the whole “Arghh! I’ve just come on” thing?
The first day of a period is usually the worst – it tends to be the day when the flow is the heaviest. Some women will report a serious backache, others will have tender nipples\breast, others get cramps that can be felt in the legs, lower back, and tummy. This cramping is usually caused by our body’s response to a hormone called prostaglandin, which causes the muscles in the uterus to contract. The same hormone can also be the cause of headaches before a period.
How much menstrual blood loss is there during your period and do you need loads of rest?
The average woman (not that there is such a thing) loses about an eggcup full of blood during their period but this depends on the woman and which stage she is at in her cycle. Women know that the clotting action of blood and the shedding of the uterus lining mean that blood flow and texture will differ considerably throughout their period.
How long does a period last?
About 3 to 7 days. There is a small amount of blood at first and getting heavier for the first few days and then less blood until it stops. Sometimes the blood is a rusty colour and quite watery and sometimes it can be dark red and thicker…. we know, we hear you but it’s OK we are used to it and, to us it’s not yucky.
Can we have sex during a period?
Sex during a period is fine as long as you and your partner are both consenting, but remember that having a period doesn’t prevent the risk of pregnancy. Worth knowing it’s usually between 5 to 7 days from the beginning of a period to the end. Many women experience lesser bleeding a couple of days either side but sex whilst menstruating can be a little messy so expect to change the bed sheets.
Can you lose your virginity by using a tampon?
Right, listen up. Virginity is a “status” that can only be changed by having intercourse so the only time virginity can be lost is when you actually have sex; that’s it. It’s a very common myth among girls and women too, and it’s due to a misunderstanding about the nature of the membrane inside the vagina in virgins (the hymen). The truth is that the hymen radically differs in thickness between women and that it’s actually more like a perforated piece of paper.
Is it really painful?
Okay, so imagine you’ve eaten two Christmas dinners – one round at her mums and straight round for one at yours – your belly is swollen, sore and feels like it’s going to burst then imagine that someone pokes you in it – not a quick prod but a long hard push that feels like it’s never going to end. Well, that’s how it feels. Don’t forget that we also have a backache, sore nipples, a banging headache and we’re bleeding.
So there’s tampons and pads to plug or soak up the blood. What else?
We use sanitary pads (disposable or reusable) or tampons to protect our underwear. Or we can use a menstrual cup.
Sanitary pads fit inside our knickers by means of a sticky strip, which keeps the pad in place. There are different types of pads and it is a matter of choice which we go for. With and without wings so if you have been sent to grab a pack worth checking before you just grab a packet. Some are for daytime of regular flow, others for heavy days or night time. Reusable pads are just the same except you wash and dry them each time, then reuse.
Tampons are also available in different sizes to suit the amount of blood loss. Some tampons are digital – yep confused us too when we first heard the term – inserted using a finger, other tampons have a cardboard or plastic applicator to help insert it into the vagina.
Menstrual cups are small, flexible cup made of silicone or latex rubber. Instead of absorbing the flow, like a tampon or pad, it catches and collects it. Cups are more expensive than other products, but they are simply rinsed and reinserted and one cup last for years. Good for the environment too as no waste each month.
This all sounds really expensive – How many tampons or pads do you get through in a month?
A box of 20 tampons costs around 3,000 Naira, organic cotton is a little more but worth it, and your average pack of sanitary pads costs around 500 Naira. Cotton or Bamboo pads cost a little more at around 1,500 Naira but they don’t contain Chlorine and Dioxin bleach and are free from plastic and chemical nasties, so it’s worth the little extra not to have chemical near your VJ when it’s swollen and painful.
You’ll love this bit – According to a recent study woman in Nigeria spend as much as 4,725,000 Naira on their periods over the course of their lifetime. We use about 22 pads/tampons per period. A total of 24% use only tampons, 31% use only sanitary towels, 39% use both tampons and sanitary towels, and 6% use a menstrual cup. So, if we are going to break that down:
Pads/tampons/panty-liners/menstrual cups – 1,500 Naira
New underwear (due to spillages) -3,500 Naira
Pain relief – 500 Naira
Chocolate/sweets/crisps – 3,000 naira
Other (magazines/toiletries/DVDs etc.) – 2,000 naira
Taking these monthly estimates into account, researchers were able to work out that the average period costs 12,600 Naira annually. With the average woman menstruating 450 times, the total cost of a period during a woman’s lifetime was worked out at a whopping 4,725,000 Naira. Don’t get us started on the fact that we pay 5% tax on products – know as the Tampon Tax or luxury tax. Does anything we’ve shared with you so far sound luxurious? NO, it does NOT!!
What can I do to help?
Over the counter pain relievers will help if the pain prevents them from doing their usual activities. If you want to be a superstar offering a hot water bottle or wheat bag may help to ease the cramps
Other than there’s not much you can do about the actual symptoms, so behave how you normally would. Gifts of chocolate, hot drinks and cuddling up to watch all those Netflix movies that you hate is also a great way to win points. But don’t go getting all amorous if it’s not welcome – you may just get your head bitten off.
My girlfriend gets moody, a bit on the aggressive side and annoying as hell when she’s on her period. What should I do?
Top tip would be for you to think of ways to diffuse rather than engage, there’s a chance that something that seems like a really big deal right now will be less important later on. We know you guys are googling things like – why is my girlfriend mental! So just consider for a moment what’s going on for her during her menstrual cycle and hang on in there. Remember, just because she’s a bit more emotional than normal, doesn’t mean that you can ignore her or that her emotions are invalid!
So now you are all set – to be a loving, supportive, deeply empathetic and well-informed partner. And, if you want to be a Period Warrior go to the Donate A Pack page and buy a pack of pads for an African girl in need.
That way you Help PADMAN AFRICA Girls too.