There's something wrong here.
Look guys. Just look. A pad:
And a tampon:
Are they anything to get embarrassed about? Are we really this immature that we get uncomfortable about something that half the population of the entire fucking world has to deal with? I'm forgiving of dudes popping random boners now and then because hey, I understand that you can't always control it. Well guess what? I can't control my periods either. I'm good about them - I don't leave bloody tampons in hallways (mostly 'cus i don't use tampons ;) *), I don't stick used pads on the walls, I don't leave pools of blood on your furniture. So give me a bit of credit here. Don't get that furtive look on your face when I complain that my uterus is being an asshole today. Don't avert your eyes when I bring a box of pads to the counter at WalMart. Forgive me if my protection leaks and I get a spot of blood on my pants. It's all natural and, seriously - if I had the choice I wouldn't get periods, either.
Myths and misconceptions about periods:
A girl on her period is irritable...
Well, yea, wouldn't you be? You have to walk around all day with a diaper in your pants or a wad of cotton shoved up inside of you*. Most women have to deal with cramping, some have headaches and nausea. They have to worry about ruining their panties, remembering to bring enough supplies with them, and really, really wishing they had a penis.
...because of PMS
No. A girl on her period might be irritable, but it's not because of PMS. PMS happens before the period starts - Premenstrual syndrome. Usually sometime in the ten days leading up to the period.
A girl can't get pregnant on her period
Absolutely not true. Ok, I'll be fair - it's unlikely. Technically, if her body is behaving and is operating according the the rules we've discovered and expected, a girl couldn't get pregnant on her period because she wouldn't be ovulating. But our bodies aren't machines; they are biological and sometimes they do things we don't expect. Whether it be multiple ovulation in one cycle, ovulation while bleeding, or ovulating shortly after bleeding, a girl could still get pregnant.
If you get your period, you aren't pregnant
Some women report getting regular bleeding while pregnant. It's not common, but it's also not unheard of. For a reason why, see But our bodies aren't machines; they are biological and sometimes they do things we don't expect.
Tampons are awesome
No, they're not. They can cause TSS, are correlated with uterine cancer, are environmentally irresponsible, and aren't actually flushable. Weren't expecting that last one, were you? Yeah, you're not supposed to flush tampons - you're supposed to throw them in the garbage, just like used pads. While modern plumbing can mostly (!) deal with tampons, septic systems and older plumbing are known to fail quite horrendously because of them.
Tampons are made of bleached cotton blended with synthetic fibers which leech chemicals into the vagina. And it's not just when it's in either - when you pull it out plenty of tiny fibers are left behind to chill inside of you.
Don't worry, there's an alternative.*
You have to have a period every month / three months / year
There is not evidence that we are "healthier" having a period on a regular basis - there's even indications in the form of reduced rates of uterine cancer that skipping periods is better for you. Think about the environment we evolved under: short lifespans and females spent most of their time pregnant or nursing. How many periods would she have had in a lifetime? How many periods does a modern woman have in her lifetime? A period is a fairly violent affair as far as the uterus is concerned and can do a lot of damage on the cellular level. There are several methods of birth control that reduce the amount of bleeding or skip periods altogether and there have been no negative effects found.
Now, some women really do need to have a period on a regular schedule because their body won't let them skip it, but that's nothing to do with health and more to do with hormones.
You can't have sex on your period
Absolutely NOT TRUE.
So it's a bit messy. Whatever, put down a towel and take a shower or sponge bath after. Period sex is awesome. It alleviates cramping, feels great (most women are more sensitive on their periods) and some women swear it makes their periods shorter.
A period is a constant flow of blood
Most women's periods start off moderate, get their heaviest, and taper off for a few days. I have heavy bleeding for two days, moderate for a day, and then spotting for something like three days after. Also, it's not really blood like you would think - a fair amount of menstrual fluid is actually pieces of tissue that looks like big clots. It's less a constant flow and more of a trickle every now and then... until you stand up and all the stuff that was cinched off comes rushing out at once. Yea, that feels great. Oh, and menstrual blood doesn't clot, nor is it blood from the circulatory system. It's blood that was specially set aside for use by the uterus.
Assorted facts about periods:- Dogs looove finding used pads, liners and tampons.
- Teenage girls rarely get "regular" right away and often need years for their cycle to even out. Hormonal birth control is over-prescribed to "treat" irregular periods in teenagers.
- The average amount of blood shed is 35 ml
- Almost all societies have traditions associated with menstruation. Most of those traditions suck for the women, such as not being allowed to have sex or having to leave the village and go to a special menstruation hut.
- Groups of women living in close quarters will often have their menstrual cycle sync up. Yet another reason why all-girls' residences are a bad idea.
- The average cycle length is 28 day. Some women have shorter cycles and other have longer ones. Many women with cycles that are over or under 28 days think they have "irregular" periods... they technically have regular, predictable periods that just don't happen on a monthly basis.
Reusable menstrual cups.
This is what I use. There's a couple brands out there, but I like the DivaCup the best.
It's a silicon cup that you insert and can leave in indefinitely (until it fills up). It creates a seal against the vaginal wall and collects all the fluid. You remove it, dump the blood, wash the cup and can put it back in. I usually put it in in the morning and empty it at night - on heavy days I empty it in the afternoon. I've only had to empty it once in a public restroom - you just wipe it off with toilet paper and put it back in, use TP to clean the blood off your fingers and then wash your hands.
You don't have to carry any supplies with you (well, I bring spare panty liners in case I didn't seal properly), there's no risk of TSS, and it has all the advantages of tampons. It's affordable (~$40 and you never pay again - They say to replace it every year but I've never had the need.) and environmentally sound since you're not throwing away disposable items. It's easy to care for (unlike, for example, cloth pads). Some people warn not to use them with IUDs, but I've never had a problem.
You get your hands a little bloody and there's a bit of a learning curve, but you learn to love it very quickly. (And no - you can't feel the blood "sloshing around," as some people have speculated)
There, was that so hard? Plenty of talk about blood, vaginas and "feminine hygiene" products, and no one got hurt.