When I was a young girl the information I received about menstruation was minimal. My mother didn't have "the talk" with me until it was far too late and the information I received in school covered just the bare necessities. Thankfully, the times are changing but not fast enough. No girl should be ignorant of what is happening to her body and why. With this in mind I have created here a top 10 list of things I think all girls should be taught about periods beyond the biological facts of how and why.
- Menstruation is nothing to be ashamed of; it is a natural part of life for all females of reproductive age. If along your journey you have any questions or concerns, do not feel embarrassed to ask an older relative, teacher or healthcare professional.
- A girl's first period (menarche) should be celebrated. If you're family does not honour this special occasion in your life, do so yourself with friends or even alone. Some ideas are hosting a small gathering with friends and serve period inspired food like cranberry juice, red-velvet cupcakes and strawberries.
- Getting your first period doesn't automatically make you a woman. It is a sign that your body is maturing into that of a woman's but it will take many years for this growth cycle to complete (both physically and emotionally). Try not to feel overwhelmed by this new happening in your life...your mind and heart will eventually catch up with your body.
- Mild pain (bloating, cramping, irritability, headache) during your period is normal; excessive pain is not. For mild pain try easy at-home remedies like a hot water bottle, a pain reliever like ibuprofen and rest and relaxation. Visit a doctor if you experience debilitating pain that interferes with your normal daily routine.
- The birth control pill can be a marvelous medicine for regulating your period (and your doctor may advise it) but be aware of all the potentially harmful side-effects (both short-term and long) before committing to it.
- Explore all your menstrual cycle options. Traditional menstrual products like sanitary napkins and tampons do a fine job of absorbing period blood but may contain toxic chemicals. Always read the label, especially on products that sit close to or inside your delicate vaginal region. Organic cotton products are best for your body but may be more expensive. Reusable pads are a healthy and viable alternative. A menstrual cup is also a great option for both your health and that of the environment. Do not feel daunted by the prospect of the intimacy required with your body to use a menstrual cup. It is your body and you should be intimate with it. Some favourite alternative menstrual products are DivaCup , GladRags and Natracare
- Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a very real and potentially fatal disease caused by a bacterial toxin. Most cases of TSS are caused by a chemical component found in many tampons which may either be left inside the user too long or which stray fibres remain inside the body after the tampon has been removed. The best way to combat this is to use organic cotton tampons (if using tampons at all) and to change them every 4 hours. More information about TSS can be found here you-are-loved
- Be prepared, especially during the first few years of menstruation when your period can be highly erratic and unpredictable while your body is adjusting to this new process. It is ALWAYS wise to have a pad and/or tampon in your backpack or purse just in case you (or a friend) get caught by surprise.
- Menstrual blood isn't gross and can, in fact, be miraculous. Stem cells in menstrual blood are highly proliferative and possess the unique ability to develop into other types of healthy cells including cardiac, neural, bone, fat and cartilage. Banking your menstrual blood can be an investment in your future and can potentially treat stroke, heart and neurodegenerative disease and diabetes. For more information please visit cyro-cell
- Your menstrual cycle is all month long, not just the days you bleed. Become familiar with the ebb and flow of your cycle as it relates to physical and emotional moods. Getting a feby bracelet can assist in this endeavour, as can assorted apps such as MyMonthlyCycles and PinkPad
I hope you find this list helpful and informative.
Please let me know if there is anything else you would add.