How Can We Raise Boys–and Help Men–Become More “Period” Aware?

by | Aug 4, 2020 | Uncategorized | 53 comments

How can we help men understand women's periods?
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Women go through so much embarrassment when males fail to clue in to the fact that women may be trying to get out of an activity due to their periods.

Or maybe they need more frequent bathroom breaks due to their periods, and that’s okay! They’re not being lazy. They honestly need it.

We’re doing a mini-series on periods during the month of August, and one of the themes that came up on both Facebook and Twitter when I asked about women’s memories of periods and embarrassment from the teenage years came from interactions with clueless men and/or boys. Then on yesterday’s post about periods and going to the beach, many of the comments told embarrassing stories of men making them feel embarrassed around their periods.

Sometimes it’s in work situations, like Jane Eyre:

 

At work, an almost 50 year old manager got mad at me during a surprise performance review for bringing my purse into the bathroom.

HR got a call about that.

Now, I’m not saying that I was anything but mortified, and I cried while calling hr, but… it’s not okay for men to do that to women. The man had a LOT of other issues with women, and that was just one symptom of a larger problem.

Jane Eyre

Often it was at school, and related to swim activities or to gym class. 

At 9th grade orientation, I remember the male PE teacher telling the girls that he wasn’t going to accept our period as an excuse to sit out, minimizing the very real pain and fears I experienced with my periods. A couple of years later, in a high school where we were required to wear khaki pants/skirts, one of my worst fears came true when I started my period and it bled through my pants. I had to stay in the bathroom until class started. I then sneaked out to the parking lot to my car, and drove straight home, where I tried to avoid male family members. The next day, I was sent to the principal’s office for skipping class. It was so embarrassing.

But so many of them were in Christian situations, at camps, youth groups, or even on the mission field:

How about this: Church camp in high school, put together by our (male) youth pastor. We were mandated to take part in games, including water games in the pool. Well, some of the girls didn’t want to because they were on their periods. So they discretely went to their counselor and she excused them. She marked a special mark by their names on the participation roster. The pastor was very disappointed and demanded an explanation for why so many young women didn’t participate. She tried to answer politically, that they had a good reason and she approved, but he still insisted. She finally said, “Because they are on their periods!” and he said, “So?!” She had to explain to him why his choice of water games in the pool was a bad choice.

The second time I got my period ever I was at Christian summer camp and had swimming lessons. I had to tell the lifeguard I wasn’t going in the water that day. “But why not?” he loudly asked. I kept trying to discreetly tell him it was my “time”, but he was not getting it. So, I had to announce to everyone that I had my period. I was mortified. 

I’ve been that cabin leader that had to discreetly tell a male canoe leader that my girl wouldn’t be tipping that day. He was so confused but I insisted and finally he agreed with me.

I had several awkward situations with my male boss when I was a missionary. A couple of us ladies had our periods at the same time so we couldn’t participate in going to the hot springs (and no you can’t use a tampon there), and our team leader was demanding to know why we couldn’t go. He assumed we were just lazy or didn’t want to participate in a team activity. We had to explain to a man who has a wife and TWO DAUGHTERS why we couldn’t go.

I think this is quite a big problem in the Christian world because we tend to have more shame about periods, and I want to talk today a little bit about why that is, and beg all of us to try to help the men in our lives never, ever make a girl or a woman feel embarrassed about this.

We equate anything to do with the vagina as being about sex

Yesterday I mentioned several women’s stories of being told that tampons affect virginity, and that came up in the comments a bunch, too. 

Because your period affects your vagina, it’s generally seen as quite a taboo thing–and I think that taboo is even larger in the church because sexuality is so taboo.

But having your period is just something that every female of a certain age goes through! It’s universal. And it should not be seen as shameful or secret. It doesn’t have anything to do with sex; it has everything to do with the fact that she’s simply a woman. And there is nothing wrong with being a woman. 

We require women to be secretive about it, and our society gets upset if she demands special favours

Many of the stories that we heard (and I didn’t publish all of them) were men complaining that women go to the bathroom too often, and use their periods as an “excuse”. Or that women should not expect to get out of PE just because they have cramps. Or that women shouldn’t be lazy and use excuses to avoid boating/swimming etc.

And it was phrased that way–that women are being lazy, or are using their periods as an excuse.

But they’re not an excuse.

And when you read through the comments from yesterday and see how many women experience totally debilitating pain (some said it was worse than childbirth, and they had been through childbirth!), you see that women are not making this up. It’s insulting, and it adds so much mortification and embarrassment to call women trying to function at normal levels that they’re lazy. Especially when they’re in that much pain and they have to pretend the pain isn’t there so that no one will know.

What should we tell our boys/men?

A lot of men seem very clueless when it comes to periods, so as moms and as wives and sisters and friends, we need to educate the men around us for the sake of our daughters and sisters and friends. 

Here’s a hilarious story from Kya yesterday:

 

This reminds me of a funny story from high school! I was having a conversation with my best friend (female) and another friend of ours (male), and we told him to ask us absolutely anything he had ever wanted to know about women–anything. His question? “So when you guys have periods, can’t you just…you know…hold it?” We both cracked up for a good minute or two and then kindly informed him that vaginas don’t work that way. But it still makes me think about just how poor our sex and puberty education was that his poor guy was wondering about something like that!

Kya

So let’s tell them:

1. Women can’t control their periods

We cannot hold it in or wait for a more opportune time. If we say we need to go to the bathroom, it’s likely because we’re panicking that we’re leaking right now.

2. Periods aren’t a constant flow

It’s not like an IV drip that just drips at the same level and speed throughout the day. It’s often in big gushes which are really scary when it comes all at once. Often the blood doesn’t have time to seep into the pad when it’s a whole bunch all at once and that’s when it leaks all over everything. And while you can’t feel the drips, you can feel the gushes. And it’s scary.

3. Not every woman experiences the same thing

If you had a sister who wasn’t bothered by her periods, and who didn’t have a lot of cramping, that doesn’t mean that your co-worker that you meet in your twenties who has to take a day or a morning off every month is faking. Some women have much heavier flows. For some women it’s only 3 days; for some it’s 7. And some have abnormal bleeding so it’s much longer than that. Some have no cramping; some have cramping so bad they have to stay in bed or they start throwing up.

So if you’re ever in a situation where you’ve got a bunch of teenage girls and women and  you notice that one is not handling her period well, do not assume she’s lazy. Assume that she’s just got it worse than the others!

4. Treat it as a matter of fact thing

Don’t talk to women about it–that would tend to freak us out. And especially don’t talk to teenage girls about it. But if you’re a gym teacher or a youth leader or a lifeguard or a swim instructor,  you could make a general announcement at the beginning of the term to say something like, “Now girls, there may be times you can’t participate in everything, and I understand if you need to sit out occasionally.” That’s all you have to say. Girls will get what you mean. And it will help them feel a huge amount of relief.

You have no idea how stressful events can be that involve water especially, or physical activity, without knowing if we have an “out”. So give us that out at the beginning. Will some abuse that out? Maybe. But who cares? Wouldn’t you rather save the dignity of the girls? And wouldn’t you rather avoid causing them stress?

And parents–let’s talk to our boys about periods!

Just because you’re raising boys doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook having to explain periods. Boys at puberty need to learn what girls go through, too, and in our Whole Story puberty course, we do explain it to girls (obviously) but also to the boys.

We made sure in the guy’s version to explain what periods are, to explain hormonal changes, and to explain that you shouldn’t pressure girls to swim or make fun of them at certain times of the month. I’ll let Connor, my son-in-law who gives lots of commentary in the course, explain this:

Hey, Connor here!

Dating back thousands of years, there has been this culture around periods being something unclean and gross that should be kept away from males. Now, we don’t really talk about it in quite those same terms these days, but that’s because we pretty don’t talk about it all, and we don’t teach our boys how painful and embarrassing having your period can be. But let’s face it, periods aren’t going away. So it’s time for guys to stop pretending they don’t exist and learn instead how to not make life more difficult form women and girls. An important thing we discuss in the Whole Story for Boys is how to respect and empathize with girls as whole people with their own hopes and problems. Understanding what they have to go through every month is an important part of that empathy.

Connor Lindenbach

The Whole Story

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Are you terrified to give your kids “the talk?”

We want to help. So we created The Whole Story: an online video-based course to help parents tell their children about sex, puberty, and growing up.

Let us start those awkward conversations, so you can finish them!

I hope we can change the conversation, especially in the church, around periods, so that they’re seen as natural, nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing that you have to keep secret at all costs. 

And I’d love your input on how we can do that better! 

I want to end with this rant from Melissa from yesterday that sums up just about everything:

Sitting around a campfire with friends when I was 19, we were all talking about our future marriages and one guy proclaimed he would never buy tampons for his wife. One of the other girls said “You say that now but just wait, one month in you’ll be calling your wife from the store asking if she needs regular or super plus.” His eyes got wide with horror and he blurted out “Wait, there are different kinds???” We girls all laughed heartily and then gave the guys a brief education.

My shame around my period came from the emotional side of things. As a teen I had really heavy periods accompanied by really bad PMS. For years if I got even remotely upset about anything it would be dismissed as “Missy must be PMS-ing!” no matter what time of the month it was. Which of course only made me even more angry. Which of course led to more teasing and invalidation.

When my husband and I got married he took it upon himself to read up on the menstrual cycle, which was great, but there was still a lot he didn’t know. One day during a particularly hard week of PMS I was able to put words to it. I said something like “Do you think I’m enjoying this any more than you are? Do you think I like feeling this way? Do you think I like having these strong emotions and having zero control over whether or not I get to feel them? Do you think I like not being able to enjoy anything because I’m irrationally irritated by everything? And then what do I get at the end of this? I get to deal with blood flowing out of my vagina uncontrollably for a week!”

We have two sons now and I’m making it my mission to educate them about periods when they’re old enough to understand. There is a serious lack of education and empathy out there regarding periods. Periods are still regarded as this secretive, mysterious thing we aren’t supposed to mention. But most women have them!!!! We spend around 1/4 of every month (or more!) dealing with it! That’s a lot of time! And we didn’t choose it. If I could have it my way I would get a text message from my uterus every month saying “not fertilized, you’re good for another month” instead of the massive hormonal temper tantrum that is my menstrual cycle.

Periods are normal. We should normalize them in society. Not like we are all walking around shouting HEY WORLD I’M ON MY PERIOD, but it would be nice if a woman working in an office or a girl attending school could make her more frequent bathroom visits in peace and if men didn’t panic at the sight of a tampon. Which reminds me, to any husbands out there, memorize your wife’s preferred feminine products and buy them for her if she asks you to. And don’t get scented. NEVER scented. Those things should be banned. 

Melissa

So how do we do this better?

How can we make periods more normalized and less shameful? Let’s talk in the comments!

Our Period Series:

  • All about Periods, Going to the Beach, and Teenage Embarrassment
  • How Can We Help Boys/Men Be More Sensitive about Girls’ Periods? (August 4)
  • When Should You Call the Doctor about Your Period? (August 10)
  • The Period Podcast! (August 13)
  • What Should You Do About Sex During Your Period? (August 17)
  • Why We Love Diva Cups (August 24)
Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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53 Comments

  1. Kay

    I credit a lot to terrible sex Ed in school. My very intelligent brother-in-law was in college already having sex with my sister when he first learned that women have THREE holes and do not urinate out of their vaginas. No wonder they think women should just be able to hold it. 🤦🏼‍♀️

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I never even knew “why can’t they just hold it?” was a thing until the comments this week! It never occurred to me that guys would think that!

      Reply
      • Andrea

        You have better sex ed in Canada than we do in the States, I think that’s why you’re sometimes baffled by people’s ignorance. Connor mentioned “sexual education” a couple of times in his previous posts like it was no big deal and I wondered if he was aware of how controversial it is in the U.S.
        Also, this thing about faking periods. It’s orgasms women fake, you ignorant fellas, not periods! 😉

        Reply
  2. Alfabets

    Hi, Sheila, thank you for addressing this on your blog. I have a question. I’m 45 and never had terrible difficulties with PMS or my period. But for the last few years my PMS has gotten increasingly worse. I still don’t get cramps much, but the irritability and moods swings are terrible. I have discussed it with my husband, but he doesn’t seem to get what I am trying to say. And our arguments are getting increasingly more heated and I internalize so much hurt over things said in the 2 weeks leading up to my period. How can I tell him that I am not faking, I’m not trying to manipulate him? I have actually informed him, “Look, my period is on its way. Please can we not have this conversation/argument right now?” But he just doesn’t get it. I feel so much resentment around this subject anymore. I never felt this way about my cycle until the last few years.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s really hard! I think speaking up and saying, “I’ll be happy to talk about this, but not now. It won’t end well for either of us. Let’s schedule it until later.” And then talk to your doctor, because extreme mood swings can be quite common in the perimenopause years, and there may be diet changes that can help. But I do think men need to understand that we’re not faking.

      Reply
    • S

      Alfabets…..I do the same thing! 2 weeks before my cycle starts it gets bad and the week before I am SO moody and cranky and can’t manage to get anything done. It was truly horrible. I got in with an ob asking about it and he said it was PMDD (PMS on steriods). I’ve been on Zoloft for the two weeks before my cycle and every other day the other two weeks. It has been a LIFE saver! Can’t recommend what to do with hubby bc I don’t know either but your dr. may be able to help 😊

      Reply
    • unmowngrass

      Here’s an analogy I would use:
      If you have a daily capacity of ten annoyance points, before things get out of control, dealing with your period or your hormones is going to take up some of those. For moderate periods with moderate pain and moderate irritability/upset, and just general inconvenience, that would be, say, four. So now you only have six points left for everything else in life — laundry and commuting and the government and nosy neighbours and cracked windscreens and all the rest of it. Which means you can’t handle as much of that stuff as usual without getting out of control or causing damage to yourself or others. Your spouse picking a fight is potentially going to take more than six, or even more than ten, on a regular day. Without all of those other irritants too. Think of it like dropping a boulder into a swimming pool. There is literally reduced capacity to dive into before you smack your head and cause damage. That’s what having your period or having mood swings does. It takes up a decent chunk of your capacity to deal with things, leaving less room to handle other things before someone gets hurt.
      Once he’s got that, then you can explain things like, not all periods are the same and what used to (in your case) be a two is now actually a six or seven (or whatever numbers you feel are fair), and then some days women wake up with more energy and love so maybe they can handle 12 irritance points that day, or whatever, on occasion, but the basic principle of having a big chunk of your capacity already spoken for at certain times is still the same. Hope that helps.

      Reply
  3. Nicole

    I am a mother of three boys under 8 and the older two already know about periods. One is interested, one is not but I don’t hide changing pads or underwear in front of them. They understand enough that it means I’m not having a baby and it’s a sign my body is working.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Same. My 3yo walked in on me mid-wipe and saw blood in the toilet and kinda freaked out about “mommy’s booboo”. I gave him the toddler version of a sex talk and told him I was fine and that he and his brother and daddy are different than mommy and other girls, and that it’s okay if mommy and other girls bleed like that every month. Now whenever I’m on the toilet, he has extra concern in his voice and says “how’s your booboo”. 😂😂🥰 So sweet lol

      Reply
      • Meghan

        Awwwww what a little sweetheart! My 3 year old daughter sees me change my pads and sees the blood and just takes it in stride. We talk about how Mommy bleeds every month and it’s normal and one day she will too when she’s older. She continues to play with her stuffed animals and shrugs. And then she proceeds to roughhouse and kick my stomach as usual. Ah, kids.

        Reply
      • AM

        Working through making my sons more period aware and sympathetic is a big deal to me. They’re all still young, but because my periods have always been awful (resulting in a hysterectomy and another endometrial excision this month), they’re also acutely aware of the fact that Mommy isn’t well once a month, but that no, they can’t catch it. However, talking about it with them has also been so difficult for me. Extremely conservative evangelicalism has done so much harm in so many ways in this area, and I’m still recovering. We’re still very passionate about Jesus, but have also left many things behind. We want better for our children.
        I’ve been married 13 years, have four children, and still fight shame for being sexually active with *my husband.*
        I do have a funny story, though. When my 3rd was about six, we were in Costco, and I bought the huge box of tampons, because they were on sale. I was a couple of aisles away with one child, and my husband had the other three. My 3rd, who isn’t quiet about anything, noticed the box, and asked very loudly what a Tampax was. My husband said to ask Mommy. So, from two aisles over, I heard him shout “Mommy! What’s a Tampax?!” My husband wanted to die. I about died of laughter.
        Then, when they caught up to me, we talked briefly about Mommy not feeling well every month, because I’m on my period. He got very excited, pretended to cup breasts on his own chest, and said “oh yeah! Because of the not having a baby sickness!” I knew we needed a little more work on just what was happening, but I have no doubt that we provided some solid entertainment to many Costco shoppers that day.

        Reply
  4. Alfabets

    I also want to share a funny story. I went to a small christian school where kindergarten let out at noon. The school was 40 minutes from my house, and as a one car family, my mom didn’t have access to a car to pick us up from school. One day I got my period at school and, as a rare occasion, it came with bad cramps and nausea. I got permission to go home, and as it was close to noon, my youth pastor was at the school to pick up his kindergarten age son. We worked out the details for him to take me home because “I was sick.” On the way he asked me what was wrong and I told me I just felt sick. He responded with, “Man, I hope you aren’t contagious.” I had to laugh. He wasn’t being mean, and I certainly wasn’t contagious to him or his son. Simply put, I don’t think men have a clue. They might mean well, but just don’t get it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep. I’ve been in those conversations, too. Men who may be reading this: If a woman or girl says a generic, “I’m sick” or “I don’t feel well”, or even, “my stomach hurts,” don’t push it. If she honestly has a cold or the flu, she’ll tell you. And if she says her stomach hurts, don’t grill her on whether it may be food poisoning. If she wants to talk, she will.

      Reply
      • Meghan

        I’ve been known to use the line “my chronic illness is flaring up, but I’ll be fine tomorrow after some rest.” But I do have PCOS so it truly is a chronic illness. Thankfully my boss has a very hands-off management style and doesn’t want or need the nitty gritty details of why I’m taking sick leave. I only include that brief mention for him because he genuinely cares that his staff is doing alright. Plus I want to avoid my desk getting disinfected by my coworkers while I’m gone, haha!

        Reply
        • Alfabets

          Meghan, that’s a great line. I will have to remember it especially for my daughter who is 11 and dreading getting her first period. I am very pragmatic, but she has a very different personality than I do. Having a go-to line may be helpful for her.

          Reply
      • M

        I so wish that all of this information had been available to me as a teenager. The whole concept of everything that has to do with a vagina being sexual has such potential for shame. I know it’s been a source of shame in my life. One thing that I wish I’d learned as a teenager committed to saving sex for marriage is how our cycles are designed to make us desire sex more than usual at certain times of the month. And that biological fact doesn’t make you a wicked sinner. It just means your body is working like it’s supposed to! You can address your uterus and its baby fever with a “Thanks but no thanks” and still walk in purity without beating yourself up.

        Reply
    • Ingrid

      I’ve been reading the comments about how akward it is to call in sivk from work due to your period or excuse yourself from stuff. I think it is important to remember that my medical problems aren’t anyone elses business. I’ve had to excuse myself from work or take a break due to my PTSD and it’s almost just as awkward to explain as the few times I’ve had to excuse myself because of my period. Not everyone understands mental health well. At the end of the day your well-being isn’t anyone elses judgement call. I know people who are sympathetic to period problems as I also know people who are understanding of mental illness but my medical problems aren’t anyone elses business and “being sick” should be a sufficient explanation for taking a break.

      Reply
  5. Ina

    I get terrible sadness and irritability with my periods. One of the reasons I adore my husband is that he never diminishes my feelings. He doesn’t say, “it’s just your period so the emotions aren’t real.” He says, “these are your real emotions magnified. Let me hug you. And no, you’re not ugly, a bad housekeeper, or a bad parent.” He speaks truth over and over again while I’m bogged down with hormonal lies.
    Physically, he often runs me a bath with salts while I put the baby to bed. He will offer a back rub. And last time, -I’ve never loved him more- he sent me outside to supervise the kids in the splash pool in the yard while he planned and made supper. These basic acts of support speak SO much to a wife. And believe me, come roughly a week later, I’m happy to reciprocate a bit 😉 seriously though, my husband shows me selfless love the most during ny period and acts Christ-like towards me most when I’m physically and emotionally vulnerable (postpartum would be another similar time.) Do not underestimate what that can do for your relationship and marriage, men!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      This is my husband, too. 🙂 There are some truly great ones out there.

      Reply
    • Meghan

      Awwww!! What a great guy! I have a sweet story too: one month while my now husband and I were dating, I had a particularly bad period that left me pretty incapacitated. I called in sick to work and just laid on the couch all day not moving, not eating, not drinking, nothing. My husband had a non-traditional work week at the time, and it happened to be his only day off that week. So he drove over an hour to my apartment and made me lunch and literally spoon-fed me, then rubbed my back and stroked my hair while I laid on the couch making sad little moaning noises. It was that day I realized I loved him. Married him less than a year later. He still does things like that.

      Reply
  6. Melissa

    This is a GREAT post! More period education for the world!!!
    While we are at it, can we talk about how the menstrual cycle can affect a woman’s entire month? I explained it to my husband like this: “Okay, so. Day 1. My period starts. Huge relief because I know that in a few days I’m going to feel normal again. But it’s pretty miserable too. Once the flow stems I’m going to have a lot more energy, mental and physical. I’m going to be really motivated with my nutrition and fitness goals. I’m going to want to do a lot more stuff. But somewhere around Day 14, I ovulate. And everything changes. My body is like oh, an egg has been released, we might get pregnant, don’t worry girl we got your back, let’s hole on to those fat stores so your body has plenty of backup nutrition, and you’re gonna need to eat more in preparation for this so we’re gonna make you more hungry, oh and you need to rest up so here let us take a portion of your energy away. Then during the final week, my body starts getting mad at me for not putting a baby in my uterus. The bloating, the irritability, the cramps, the absolutely insatiable hunger, the cluster of pimples I get on the right side of my chin. And then, my period starts, which is a relief in one way but in another it’s like my uterus is throwing a huge fit because it got itself all ready to be pregnant and so it’s stomping around and yelling and ripping it’s wallpaper down. Day 1. Reset. And I get to do the whole thing ALL OVER AGAIN.”
    And that’s with my relatively regular cycle. There are women who experience much worse than that! And we didn’t choose it. It’s important for men to understand that. We 👏 didn’t 👏 choose 👏 this 👏. We are doing the best we can with what we have. It doesn’t make us weak. It actually makes us tougher than we look. The human body is an incredible piece of engineering. The female body? Wow, it’s amazing. Let’s start respecting it instead of stigmatizing it. 👍

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Love that, Melissa! I’m going to put this up on Facebook later! 🙂

      Reply
      • Melissa

        Aw thanks! I’m glad I’m able to articulate things in a way that comes across well. 😊

        Reply
    • Lyndall Cave

      This! My menstrual cycle affects EVERYTHING, to the point that I’ve dubbed the first half of my menstrual cycle the Light Side, and the second half after ovulation the Dark Side. I’ll have plenty of energy and feel happy and cheerful from my period starting to ovulation. Then bam! My mood shifts and I get progressively more cranky until a week or so before my period, at which point I often get depressed and have zero energy. It’s actually a relief when my period arrives, ‘cause then I know I’ll be feeling better emotionally.
      I’m learning I have to work with this. If I have my own big projects planned, it’s best to tackle them while I’m on the Light Side of my menstrual cycle, and I need to be extra kind and gracious to myself during the Dark Side.

      Reply
  7. lavender girl

    My daughter, bless her heart, has had no qualms about trying to educate the males in her circle of friends about periods. She has graphically described her period to them as like a tyrannosaurus rex stomping, ripping & tearing through her belly with a chain saw. She has also offered to have them “feel” her pain if they mock her or tease her about being “weak”. Her boyfriend is very sweet to her now during that week, offering back rubs, chocolate, chips & warm blankets. 🙂
    I’ve had very mixed feelings about her being so open (and graphic) about her period. I’ve always been very private about mine, ashamed of it really, and frustrated that I feel that way so tried very hard with my kids to “normalize” it and try to teach them to be compassionate to women/girls going through it. So I’m glad that she can talk openly about it but I still squirm in my seat when she does it around guys. (But I will not shush her because yes, guys need to be educated on this subject too. And she should not feel ashamed like I always have felt.)

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so great that the next generation is changing things! And even if you’ve always felt shame (I totally get that), it’s great that you didn’t pass that on to your daughter. Way to go!

      Reply
      • Angela Laverdi

        I get really really weak during my period, and sometimes right before. Like, I normally lift weights, say bicep curling 20 lb dumbells and during my time of the month I can barely do 10 lbs. And can get shaky and sweaty. Its so annoying. Where does the weakness come from?????

        Reply
        • Laura Grace

          It’s hormones! There’s actually been some research around this, and the idea is that your strength is at its peak around ovulation — which makes sense as part of the whole range of biological “encouragement” to procreate that happens around ovulation!
          Steph Gaudreau has written about strength training and cycles, and she often refers to Dr. Jolene Brighten as well — those might be good resources for you to optimize your training! 🙂

          Reply
          • Angela Laverdi

            Thanks Laura Grace! I’ll have to check that out.

        • Anon

          Same here – I get a manic burst of energy 48-24 hours beforehand and then completely crash. Remember one time when we’d been shifting huge tractor loads of manure & woodchip all day, and I’d been hopping on and off my tractor like a mad thing – we did the final load, I jumped off the tractor to open the tailgate on the trailer and fell flat on the ground because my legs just decided not to work! The guys I was working with were so worried about me – they thought I must be having a stroke or something. Try explaining that one away!
          It’s kind of useful now though as I’m in peri and it’s the best way of telling when I’m due!

          Reply
  8. Carole Hanna

    I’m so glad you brought this subject up! I volunteer with Days for Girls and we are trying to crush period stigma worldwide – it’s a problem everywhere! We have a curriculum for men called “Men Who Know” https://dfgi.teachable.com/p/men-who-know
    and it’s making a difference. Thanks for making a change here as well!!

    Reply
  9. Kari

    What do you do when your sweet husband perpetuates the embarrassment because HE is embarrassed about it? My husband hates blood of any kind, hates talking about medical things, and acts very embarrassed if I even mention my period. In fact he doesn’t like the word period, he calls it girl issues is he has to speak of it at all. He never makes me feel bad for being unable to participate in things and he is very understanding when I don’t feel well, but his embarrassment for me makes me feel shamed. I’ve tried telling him that but he says he just doesn’t like thinking about blood. He has Vasovagal syncope (sp?) and passed out many times when getting blood drawn. Part of it also stems from the fact that he has no sisters, and didn’t grow up in a house where it was ever talked about. And I came from a house much the same, I was the only girl and periods were hush hush. My mom never even told me tampons were an option and I learned how to use them from a friend in college. I really wish it could just be a normal, non-weird fact of life in my house and I want to make it that way for my kids but with my husband the way he is I’m not sure I will be able to accomplish that.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s tough, Kari! I think once you have kids, you just be a lot firmer about it, and tell him that it’s so important that they grow up without shame, and so he has to get a handle on this, because he’s hurting people. Ask him how he wants your daughters to feel about their bodies, and then ask if he thinks his attitude contributes to that or hurts that.

      Reply
    • Lyndall Cave

      I’ve dealt with vasovagal syncope, and honestly, I think there’s more here than just being embarrassed about periods. It sounds like your husband has an involuntary visceral reaction to blood, which is something that would be controlled by the nervous system and not necessarily conscious (or subconscious) thought.
      It’s possible something like somatic experiencing/ somatic therapy could help with the reaction to blood.
      My guess is not that your husband is embarrassed about your period, but more that he’s trying to avoid extremely unpleasant triggers (eg thinking about blood) that might cause him to pass out. This is definitely a tricky situation to navigate!
      (Also, I’m aware that I’ve made a bunch of assumptions here, and you know your husband and I don’t, so please ignore my thoughts if they’re not helpful.)

      Reply
  10. Chris

    I just can’t understand how anyone in their right mind would think that using a tampon would affect ones virginity. That’s just nuts.
    A good friend of mine teaches middle school P.E. And every year he has at least one and usually more that one girl who NEVER dresses out. They just sit in the stands of the gymnasium doing nothing for the whole time. They fail the class of course. He tries to be sympathetic to the period issue but when you have girls that never do anything, what do you do? There are standards that do have to be met.

    Reply
    • Anon

      Do you mean they never participate or that they don’t participate when they are having a period? Because if they’re being failed for being unable to participate during their period, something needs to change about the assessment process. Some girls CAN’T wear tampons, some girls get serious health problems alongside their periods (e.g. it’s common for auto-immune conditions to flare up around this time). It’s unfair to penalise young women for something that is completely beyond their control.

      Reply
      • Chris

        No, they never participate at all.

        Reply
        • Hannah

          So, if they are on their period every week, they probably need to see a doctor? I don’t think that’s normal. Maybe that could be raised with whichever teacher has pastoral care responsibility for them to contact the parents? And then if you do need to change the assessment that can maybe be done with input from the dr? I have had friends who as teenagers lied about being on their period to get out of things. However, like other commenters, I would say it’s better to preserve the dignity of those who are on their period than to stress about working out which girls are genuine (huge invasion of privacy). And ultimately the only way to truly ‘check’ is to look at their underwear / tampon, which is deeply inappropriate. I don’t know if you could give some sports science written work to those sitting out, at least in good weather?

          Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I find gym a really touchy subject, because I HATED it. LIke panic attacks hated it. And I was in amazing shape as a kid. I did aerobics. I took dance several times a week. I jogged. I swam. But I HATED gym class because it was all team sports, and I felt really uncoordinated. It was a nightmare. I don’t think we should force kids to do this type of thing. I think gym class should be more about personal training and getting in shape, stuff they can do their whole lives. Making kids play soccer or baseball doesn’t get kids in shape, and it’s not something they can do on their own to stay fit as they get older anyway.
      I hope it’s changing now from when I was a kid.

      Reply
      • Longsuffering

        Ditto on this one. PE is usually used to pay/justify some moron coach for the money makers for the school. Paying Varsity Athletics. Cannot teach math or physics or anything else, with exceptions of course, so they created PE to replace recess basically. Not going to give up their smoke break to allow children to blow off some steam and the Nicotine Nazis would be OFFENDED if their little angel EVER saw a teacher smoking. Non smokers don’t want to be the only ones who get stuck with recess duty in the 100 degree heat so recess gets eliminated and kids get put on Ritalin because they cannot control their natural child energy in classroom setting yet. And all the money alloted for playground equipment gets diverted to the varsity sports weight rooms and such that no one that isn’t on a “TEAM” gets to use.
        And the “never participators” are being given too much slack, I think. They are usually the stoners too.
        Just out of curiosity if a wife is too debilitated to do ANYTHING for three weeks out of the month, then shouldn’t she ALSO be too debilitated to go out for Girl’s Night or walk the mall for 4 hours? Or decide to go running as soon as you get home and she is “miraculously cured” of the cramping she has claimed was the reason she did not hold up her side of things the whole time you were at work all day? Cramping and monthly ailments never seemed to exist, or hold her back in ANY WAY WHATSOEVER until she wanted to quit working and become a SAHM.
        Just saying. There ARE abusers out there. If I believed her, she is on her period every time there is something she agreed to do that she doesnt want to do. A pattern that probably started in school. Big test you didn’t study for, “owww I am getting cramps” the period before the test. And this is something a husband, or any male (teacher or Principal), is not allowed to even question? I never told her this, after over a year of her “explanations”, but when married it is certainly easy enough to confirm this lie.
        Mine has been on her period for 35 years straight. She should have bled to death years ago. Now the excuse is menopause. I am sad because now I don’t have the evidence when she is lying.
        And a funny thing, it turns out that research is showing that having condom-less male partnered sex can help ameliorate cramping and several other monthly issues. And orgasms offer more relief than almost ALL “medical interventions” for these same symptoms. Multiples even more so for cramping.
        Go figure. God’s way is best again.

        Reply
    • SP

      I think one of the saddest/most disappointing things was reading on a Christian website about how to have godly friendships with guys/ just stay friends, periods was one of the listed stuff you should not talk about with guys, I guess in order to not get too close to them/share to much personal stuff. I can’t even remember the exact reason why, but it was there. I can’t find the article anymore, but I still remember it. It still makes me feel guilty whenever I’m with guy friends and if we somehow get to talking about the menstrual cycle and how it affects women. My guy friends are pretty open and sincerely want to learn, which I think is really great though!

      Reply
  11. Phil

    I would just like to add my voice of support to the women here. Somebody made comment to me here on the blog some time ago that me (and the men) tend to duck out on the really hard topics around here. I just wanted to voice my support and say that I am glad the ladies (and men) have a safe place to discuss this tough topic. I have been reading and I have learned some stuff. I will say I mostly buzzed/skimmed the now close to 130 comments from the past 2 days but did read some at full length. I have to admit It was a bit tough to read at times. Grace and I have a rule that well when you dont need to give TMI we dont. I have delivered 2 babies in my time and trust me I will never forget what all goes on down there. Thats some tuff stuff! Actually just the past weekend before this series started my wife and I were preparing our list for the food store and she asked me to go count her personal items. I reluctantly said ok and as I was headed to the point she cut me of and said Ill do it so you dont mess it up! Thankfully my wife doesnt seem to struggle with periods although I can definitely see the pain and trouble and sometimes she will complain and or we just talk about some of the impacts of it. I have had a few trips to the store for her over the years but she doesnt get laid up like it seems others do. Anyway. Thanks for the education and God Bless you all for having to do all that for like 40 years. Sheesh.

    Reply
  12. Christina D. Morales

    So period talk has been open here. I will ask my 8 year old boy to get me a pad or tampon. I have had all my children try to use a tampon at on time or other. (Not sure how…) they have all seen me change etc. We talk about it and have nicknames for it. I think the current one is red velvet. The girls are embarrassed but not because they have been shamed. It’s just their own privacy. I didn’t have anyone to talk with as a kid about anything so I am trying to be an open and honest source for my kids. My 15 year old talks to me about everything! I think we are heading in the right direction.

    Reply
    • Sarah Cozart

      I think you’re right about everything coming from the vagina being related to sex, and therefore shameful. When I was diagnosed with endometriosis a few years ago, I was (still am) the worship leader for a church plant and our launch day was three weeks before my surgery. So my pastor HAD to know what was going on. And there was a meal train for us, etc. so the church mostly knew. I am an open book and didn’t mind sharing but I did worry about making some of the older men uncomfortable if I told them specifically what was going on.
      I really appreciated that my pastor wouldn’t do things like say “ovaries” or “uterus” under his breath when asking me about the situation (with my husband and his wife around—he wasn’t being too personal with me, I promise), but just talk about it normally as if it were my liver or my pancreas. It started changing the way I felt about sharing my issues, to the point that I told an older male friend that I couldn’t talk right then because I was essentially having contractions (baaaaad cramps) with no baby. After I had breathed through it, he asked some questions and was able to connect what I said to his experience with his wife giving birth.
      Anyway, this is more specific to diseases connected to periods, but still, it’s SO necessary that men be willing to understand women’s anxiety and pain in this area. We shouldn’t have to justify our pain! I’m so thankful that some Christian men are becoming more willing to embrace women’s symptoms around their periods as just part of normal life, rather than making it our fault or some silent, shameful thing. It makes a difference, both when dealing with normal period symptoms and when dealing with reproductive diseases like mine.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s a great story, Sarah! I’m so glad your pastor was open and normal like that.

        Reply
  13. Renee

    I was always very ashamed of my period. Had a few public leaks and was so incredibly embarrassed… But once I got to college I decided I wasn’t going to dance around the issue anymore or “lie” about why I didn’t feel well. It was a Christian college, so I hoped that the guys I ended up talking to would be understanding and compassionate. It really only came up a few times, though, after that decision. There weren’t any weird reactions that I could tell. When my husband and I started dating, I was upfront with him about it from the start, and he has always been caring and helpful during that time. Now that we have two boys together (under 3 yrs) I will have to start thinking about how to teach them about what I go through.

    Reply
  14. Misty S.

    I think you should include in this series the note that all periods are different. Perhaps the ones who talk about it – if talk is the best word! – are those who have a hard time, but we’re not necessarily the majority. So we can understand and help guys to understand that, just because your mom or your sister didn’t struggle doesn’t mean I don’t. I have checked some of the statistics, and the “average flow” is supposed to be 35 mL/ month. But that quantity won’t produce the “days and days of soaked pads” that we who talk seem to experience most. Both men and other women should get a heads-up to the situation. Again, if that’s the average, that’s also perhaps why in biology class it doesn’t seem such a big thing.
    I have always had heavy periods, but I didn’t actually look it up til about 6 months ago. I had always wondered, though, about women who could disguise themselves as men in armies, or stories about women warriors – I guess those real women or the authors of the novels were the ones who don’t have such heavy periods! 🙂
    My funny story is that my husband always said, I never remember my mom having such a hard time. And I had to tell him, Love, you were born when your mom was 46! She was past menopause by the time you would have noticed anything!

    Reply
  15. SP

    I think one of the saddest/most disappointing things was reading on a Christian website about how to have godly friendships with guys/ just stay friends, periods was one of the listed stuff you should not talk about with guys, I guess in order to not get too close to them/share to much personal stuff. I can’t even remember the exact reason why, but it was there. I can’t find the article anymore, but I still remember it. It still makes me feel guilty whenever I’m with guy friends and if we somehow get to talking about the menstrual cycle and how it affects women. My guy friends are pretty open and sincerely want to learn, which I think is really great though!

    Reply
  16. Kat

    I posted a comment earlier, not sure if got through or if it just hasn’t been approved yet . I used my phone and it was having issues.

    Reply

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