10 Things I wish I knew before my first period.

Can you remember your first period? To say I remember every aspect of my first period is an understatement. I was young, approximately 8 years old when my first period arrived.

Can you remember your first period? To say I remember every aspect of my first period is an understatement. I was young, approximately 8 years old when my first period arrived. I can remember everything from the smell of the toilets to the colour of the underwear I had on. But most of all I remember the fear and embarrassment. I had no idea what was happening to me, and being only right years old, I didn’t know who to turn to. 

Now, over twenty years later, I’d like to say I’ve gotten the hang of this menstruation thing. But there is still so much I’m learning from both myself, and others, that it got me thinking about all the things I wish I had known before my first period. 

Image by Polina Kovaleva

10 Things I wish I knew before my first period.

Everything is going to hurt. 

From your uterus to your vulva, everything will hurt. It’s perfectly normal to feel a numbing sensation, abdominal cramps, pain around your cervix, and even bum cramps. Weird, yes, but normal. For back and stomach cramps, I highly recommend using a hot water bottle or heat pad. If you can get an extra-long one, like those supplied by WUKA, it will be your saving grace!

Here are some ways you can cope with menstrual cramps!

BUT Cramps shouldn’t be unbearable. 

Normal” period cramps shouldn’t leave you feeling incapacitated. While most experience some level of pain, if cramps start to worsen, or efforts to relief have failed, you should speak with your GP. Severe menstrual cramps can be caused by various conditions. These include but are not limited to endometriosis, fibroids, and even some untreated STIs.

Image by cottonbro

People don’t like to talk about periods, but should! 

Especially those of us in the UK and Ireland. While on vacation lately, I was so surprised to see an entire else dedicated to menstrual products in a Spanish supermarket. Not only were there every sort of sanitary towel you could think of. But there were period pants, reusable pads, and even ‘diva‘ cups! Three was no such thing as shying away from the subject.

Here in the UK and Ireland, you’re lucky if you find one pokey section in the local chemist. It’s not very colourful or attractive, it’s usually shoved on the end of an isle or in a corner. Any reuseable menstrual products I own have been purchased online, but I would love period underwear to become a more accessible thing. It should be as simple as buying a pair of pants!

Your hormones and emotions will be up-the-left!

It doesn’t matter who you speak to, if they experience a period, they experience a surge in hormones. From moodswings to bloating, we certainly get the short end of the stick when it comes to our reproductive system.

I personally experience extreme lows when it comes to my mental health. And, the worst thing? It comes completely out of no where! I might not even be due on for another week, but I’ll wake up like an entirely different person. Some might say it’s due to PMDD, others call it PMS. No matter what it is, it’s horrible.

But once my period makes an appearance, it’s usally followed by a ‘oh, that explains alot.

There are reusable, eco-friendly alternatives. 

There’s nothing I love more than my WUKA period pants! They opened my eyes to a whole new world of menstrual products and I just love their aesthetic. But when I was growing up there were just two options of period wear: Sanitary towels & MASSIVE sanitary towels. The kind that made you feel like you were wearing an adult nappy. Tampons weren’t even talked about in my house, despite them having existed since 1931!

There are so many reusable and safe options available now that it’s hard to choose! That’s why I encourage anyone, young or a little older, to shop around. I’m personally not a fan of inserables, purely because I’m not used to them. But I do make an effort to use either WUKA pants or another form of washable sanitary towel to cut down on waste! And the money you save is just an added bonus.

Yes, you CAN swim on your period! 

That’s right, you read that correctly! You can 100%, no bullsh*t swim on your period! For many, the main concern is leaving behind a trail of blood. But, as long as you wear a tampon or a menstrual cup, you’re good to go.

You can also swim without any protection if you choose to. Water flow can temporarily stop the flow of your period so that it becomes lighter. This doesn’t mean your period has ended, simply that it’s taking a little break!

Good news for swimmers, bad news for sharks. Sorry boys.

Leaks happen! 

Periods are messy, surprising (never in the good way), and continue to throw me curves balls. Yes, even twenty odd years later. You will leak onto your bed sheets, all underwear will eventually become ‘period underwear’, and wearing white is NEVER a good idea.

The truth is that each month the average person losses approximately three to six tablespoons of blood over an average five day period. It’s not that much in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly feels like gallons at the time. And, the best part? Not all of that loss is liquid. There’s some muscus, membrane and uterine tissue in there too.

Sometimes it’s normal to have an irregular period.

Sometimes my period arrives early. Other times it’s here when it said it would be. But, more often than not, it’s late by anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The truth is that those who have a period every 28 days on the button are a rare breed. Every person is different, and so is there flow! And if you’ve jus started your period then you can expect a few months of surprises until it gradually begins to work itself out (somewhat).

What happens between each period is anyones game. Some people experience spotting, others have cramps, and almost everyone has hormonal spikes as mentioned above!

*Please note in some cases irriegular periods aren’t a good shout. They can mean deeper, more troubling issues. Please pay attention to your period and your ‘normal.’ If something feels off, please seek medical advice.

Everyone experiences digestive upset.

Periods poops are a real thing! Between diarrheoa, constipation & just feeling down right ‘shitty‘, you can expect some sort of digestive upset. The digestive tract and the uterus are so close together, that it would be impossible for one not to impact the other!

Syncing is a real thing!

Have you ever heard about syncing up? If you work or live in close proximiety to others who experience periods, then it’slikely you’ll sync up cycles. This is also known as ‘menstrual synchrony‘ and is based on the theory that our pheromones influence each other.

Some might say it’s a myth, other’s say it’s inevitable because of how our periods work. I personally believe that everyone who bleeds regularly is secretly influenced by the moon cycles. We’re all werewolves at heart!


23 comments

  1. I love this post so much! It’s honestly shocking that there’s still such a taboo around periods because they’re completely natural. I’ve wanted to get some period underwear for a while now but I didn’t know where to start so thank you for mentioning WUKA! I think the syncing up thing is honestly so crazy too, it’s incredible what our bodies can do! Thank you so much for sharing such an amazing and informative resource x

  2. I distinctly remember my first period too; at first I thought it was going to be pretty tame — oh, how wrong I was! I think I would have liked to know all these things too but as so many of us who menstruate find out, we tend to discover things as we go along. Thanks for sharing and opening up this conversation!

  3. I do wish I had something like this to read back when I started my period. Thank god the generation of today get to read posts like this to help them through. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely, it really is so helpful. Xo

    Elle – ellegracedeveson.com

  4. So glad to read more about periods and find more people that want to open a conversation about it! Luckily when I first got mine my mom was very helpful and explained everything, no one ever shied away from the topic. It’s true that in the UK there’s not much choice and realise even back home in Italy it’s the same! Syncing was the one that surprised me the most, mostly at work with other colleagues and god, the upset stomach is probably the worse part of my period! Thank you for sharing this x

  5. I wish I was told a lot of these things when I first started my period! I have had irregular periods ever since I can remember. I thought it was something I should be worried about, but it can be completely normal. I know some medications I am on for my chronic illness can affect my menstrual cycle though! x

    Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk

  6. This is just the kind of article I would have liked to find when I was a teen. There wasn’t internet then, so it was harder to find a good resource.

  7. I’m sure a lot of young girls will appreciate your post. I guess most of them are caught by surprise or are not fully ready when their first period comes.

  8. Such an amazing post which is very informative and detailed. Definitely a great help especially to those who haven’t had their period yet. This should be noted as an amazing reference. Thanks!

  9. I remember my first time. It was scary and did not handle well. So, I think it’s important for parents to talk about it and teach them what to expect.

  10. I remember it like it was yesterday! What a trauma! Surely if I had had more information I would have understood everything better and I would have taken less of a beat!

  11. First of all thank you so much for writing about such a sensitive issue. I kind of feel most people try to sweep this below the carpet. My girl is going to be a teenager and I am forwarding this post to her. She and many like her I am sure can derive enormous benefit from such intelligent writing.

  12. I wish I knew more about periods when I was younger. My parents didn’t really tech me anything, I was just given a leaflet to look at. Which obviously at a young age isn’t very appealing at all. I wish our shops were like the one you visited in Spain. I love that they had reusable period products readily available!!

    Claire.X
    http://www.clairemac.co.uk

  13. I wish I knew more of these things before I started. Such an important topic to discuss with young girls.

  14. Great post. I think this is a perfect example of why it’s so important for moms to talk to their daughters about periods and what to expect.

  15. It is sad to hear/read that there is so limited choices in UK. There is a weird taboo around periods and it can cause quite a trauma for a young girl. And all the myths around it like no swimming or exercising during period are mostly ridiculous.

  16. I wish I knew more of the medical side of it and the feelings periods can cause. Thank you for sharing.

    Lauren x

  17. Haha I loved the ending of this post. I do hate it that some people feel that talking about period is a taboo. It is a normal body function. I did not know that swimming without wearing anything would temporarily stop the bleeding. I usually avoid swimming during those days although I do not like it.

  18. I’m very lucky in that my Mum taught me EVERYTHING about periods from a young age plus I was never scared to ask questions. I specifically remember walking through Sainsbury’s with her at around the age of 10, bombarding her with questions about periods. So I was surprised when I got mine in my primary school toilet in year 6! Although I appreciate that not everyone has this sort of education but I wish they did xx

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