The PERIOD SERIES: Let’s Talk Periods, Going to the Beach, and Teenage Mortification

by | Aug 3, 2020 | Parenting Teens | 102 comments

On Periods, Beaches, and Being a Teenage Girl
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Do you remember being a teenager and having your period come right when the youth group was going swimming or going to the beach?

This month we’re going to be talking a bit about periods–about what’s normal and what’s not; about how to help men and boys be aware but also treat it in a healthy way; about how to handle (and not handle) period sex. We’ll even talk about new ways to handle periods, and how Diva cups can transform women’s lives in the third world!
But I thought I might begin our series with more of an emotional post.

For most women, periods and embarrassment or shame go hand in hand.

Many of us got our periods when we were so young, and often not mature enough to handle it well. We leaked–and we were mortified. Or we just were young and scared of tampons, and then swimming became super difficult. So what do you do if you’re 11 years old and you’re at summer camp and there’s a “Water Olympics” day and you can’t use a tampon? But you’re afraid to speak up, and the counselors get mad at you for sitting out?
Or you’re 15-years-old, and all of your friends want to go to the beach for the day, and you’ve been preparing for ages, and then that morning your period comes. Do you want to be the only one wearing shorts?

Summer and periods and beaches are just difficult.

And I think they’re a good example of two twin forces that are at work in how women feel about our periods (and our bodies). We simultaneously feel:

I must not let anyone know ever that I am on my period, because that would be embarrassing.

But I cannot let my period stop what I would be doing in any way, or else that, too, would be embarrassing.

We have to carry on as normal, even when we can’t.

And the fact that we can’t carry on as normal sometimes adds to the shame that we feel.

I asked about periods and the beach on both Twitter and Facebook last month, and the replies were heartbreaking, interesting, and poignant all at the same time.

 

 

And then there was Facebook:

Can we talk PERIODS, SUMMER, and going to the BEACH?When you were a teen, how much did your period make summer,…

Posted by To Love, Honor and Vacuum on Sunday, June 28, 2020

I thought today I’d just paste some people’s comments, and encourage us to let ourselves feel badly for the little girls who felt such embarrassment. I think for many of us, this has impacted how we feel about our bodies as adults, how we feel about sex–and even how we talk to our kids about puberty and sex.

About 1/4 of women said their period was “no big deal” as a teenager.

I did have a lot of responses like this one:

I felt so cool that my body could make a baby now, and I felt really grown up. No stress or embarrassment here!

That’s awesome, and I’m glad, and I hope we can work towards helping our girls have that story when they’re adults, too!

But far more common were sad stories and stories of embarrassment. I’d like to invite us to read these (and even click on the links through to the original Facebook post and read them all) and just feel the emotions that are here. Ask yourself, “How does this level of shame and embarrassment affect girls as they grow?” And “How can we be kind to ourselves now if this has been our story in the past?”

Before we start our series on periods, then, I’d invite us to enter into the emotions of it. So here we go!

Just plain mortifying memories of leaking or trying not to leak

 

My first tampon experience was my second period in 5th grade. We went on a field trip to Wet n Wild waterpark. I made one trip around the lazy river and a chaperone called me out and guided me to the bathroom to clean up as I was trailing a blood cloud! Somehow I was not beyond embarrassed and put another in, and went swimming again! Lesson learned though! Always put a fresh one in right before swimming!

There were only a few instances that really affected me as a teen. One was going to a pool party and starting my period that morning so my only options were not going or using a tampon for the first time. We had the cardboard covered tampons which were awful to insert and the thought of any foreign object in my body terrified me at only 13. That was right before they came out with the sleeker plastic ones. I cried trying to get it in and that only made me tighten up which made it worse! I think I opted to wear a light pad in my swimsuit which I’m sure was super hygienic. I just hoped no one could tell it puffed up with water in the pool. Definitely stressful. So my solution for my girls is to start them out in menstrual cups as early as possible so they’re used to it. They’ve already seen me use them (by ages 6, 5, and 3) because I wanted periods and products to be SO normalized that they wouldn’t have the fear surrounding them that I did.

And here are some others:
  • My first time learning to use tampons was at a park outhouse in preparation for going on a week-long hike in the Rocky Mountains. It was very stressful, and there was an impatient person outside, knocking on my door and making comments, that made it even more stressful. Thankfully? when I was a teen stressful situations often delayed my period so even if it was scheduled to come it didn’t. But leaking was stressful and is stressful and embarrassing and frustrating.
  • 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
  • I have a horrible memory of having my period during a white water rafting trip. I was so so worried about leaking that I couldn’t even enjoy the trip. We were in a third world county on a missions trip and I couldn’t just ask someone to take me to the nearest Walgreens to pick up more supplies, I was worried that I hadn’t brought enough and didn’t tell anyone!
  • Being athletic and a dancer it was very stressful. Running long distance was an issue. Tampons were considered risqué. When my girls were teens and athletic I recommended tampons and they were so thankful. I’m done allowing others to shame any of us about a body function beyond our control. But when I was a teen it was a terrible thing to deal with.
  • I got my first period at 10 years old. Yes. TEN. And I had horribly irregular and heavy periods – I’d bleed for months at a time and it was never light. Every month – not just the summer – was filled with dread and embarrassing moments. One year at summer camp I was sitting on my feet because I didn’t want to get blood on the seats. I wore the same pair of black pants almost all week to hide that I couldn’t contain the blood. I can’t count the number of incidents I suffered before I was finally regulated in college. Even then it was still difficult. I didn’t figure out tampons until college either.
  • When I was young (end of elementary and early high school) so many moments of uncertainty. Days worrying before it came… would I be able to do this or that… would it come during this or that… always knowing where the washrooms were during those “waiting” days, constantly “checking”, planning a tactful means of escape. I often brought a hoodie with me, never wore it on my upper body, work it tied around my waist “just in case”.

When you felt forced or like you missed out on important things because of your period

So many women recounted stories of being forced to do gym class or swimming when they had their periods! Or they missed out on important activities:

I literally spent years with my cycle going on right before we went camping or anywhere we were going swimming. I can count on one hand how many times I actually got to swim. I couldn’t use tampons or anything because they didn’t fit me before I was married. I got annoyed, but it wasn’t the end of the world for me. I usually just let people know that I just couldn’t swim today but I would totally tan and sit in the sunshine with a book while everybody did it. I wasn’t a huge swimmer, but think that because of this issue, I’ve become less of one.

Swimming was definitely an issue for me, but my anxiety was more with school. I’ve always had very heavy bleeding and horrible cramps. I’d usually have to stay home because it was so bad.

The embarrassment girls felt when men/boys challenged them on not doing something–when it was because of their period

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 grew up in a place/time where periods were embarrassing and secretive and hardly ever talked about. Now that I have a 13 year old daughter and she has 2 older teen brothers, I make sure we talk openly and honestly about it all the time, so that she (and they) are spared similar situations. I want them to know that periods are normal, healthy and sometimes messy and painful and it’s all part of life.

And some more!
  • And the cringe having to explain to the non-comprehending males why I wasn’t going in the water this time!
  • I went to a family pool party once on my period. Didn’t swim. I made the excuse I didn’t bring a swimsuit and one of my cousin’s kids tried to convince me I could borrow one of her mom’s. I didn’t take it.
  • I LOVED swimming until I got my period! And body hair. Caused me to miss out on things and feel embarrassed to have to think of excuses for not swimming. And boys were of course clueless and always tried to push us in!
  • I had mine during the week of camp one year and said I couldn’t do the canoe training because of it. The camp dean made me do it anyways even tho I did the training in the other years. So, that was interesting since I couldn’t use tampons.

When tampons just didn’t work for you and you felt like you had no options

A number of women said that tampons never worked–either they couldn’t get them in, or they always leaked.

Yes! As a teen I didnt use tampons and always made up excuses why I couldn’t go swimming or go to the beach bc I was too embarrassed to admit the truth. Older cousins tried to get me to use tampons as a teen and it was very painful even when done properly. As a young adult (married at 19) sex was painful for a long time too. I didnt know any better to talk to anyone about it. It wasn’t until I those issues were resolved that I could comfortably wear tampons. However, I still tend to avoid summer activities when I have my period bc of the past and the impression it left on me.

I’ve tried tampons since a teen (now 39 with 3 kids) and they have never been comfortable for me. I remember trying them once again on a youth beach trip and all I could think about the entire time was the tampon. Even now 20 years later, I can envision sitting on the beach towel so worried there would be a spot when I stood up. Another time on a youth trip, everyone was swimming in the hotel pool and I wasn’t and a boy asked me why. I told him a couldn’t and I still remember his blank stare. I also had/have severe cramping the week leading up to my period that gives me hot flashes and even vomiting. That is even harder than the actual period. It’s hard to miss out on things because your body isn’t “working” like it should, but embarrassing to try to explain it’s basically hormones.

When you were shamed for wanting to use tampons–even by your mom. Or you were scared of them!

Lots of women commented a variety on this!

It was always so awkward as we didn’t use tampons. Yes, to sitting on the sidelines while everyone else swam. So embarrassing. Now, a menstrual cup takes care of everything. So glad I have options for my daughters

I was at the water park today on my period. I’m over the fear/concern now but as a teen I hated it. I used pads because I didn’t know how to use tampons (my mother just handed us the box when we asked to switch) and pictures were just intimidating.

​How about being told tampons impact your virginity?? Yeah. It was so stressful. I was absolutely made to be TERRIFIED of tampons. So period meant no swimming.

As a kid it sucked. My mom wouldn’t allow me anything other than a pad. As soon as I had babysitting money, I bought them myself and hid them.

The embarrassment about your period doesn’t end when you’re an adult!

And many, many women, especially those with heavier bleeding, mentioned that it’s STILL happening, like this woman:

Yes. Not just as a teen though. Honestly until I had a hysterectomy at age 34 I hated the outdoors, especially camping and swimming (lake/beach). I had horrible, heavy, irregular periods that were messy and painful, camping took away all of my ability to comfort myself (heating pads, hot shower, comfy bed). Getting caught out in nature when my period would randomly start was embarrassing and nearly impossible to manage.

Even some familiar faces chimed in!

 

So many did talk about how menstrual cups changed everything for them, and they’re encouraging their girls to use them too!

We’ll be talking about that later this month.

In The Whole Story, our puberty course for moms to share with daughters or dads (or single moms) with sons, we do talk about how to prepare for leaks and what to do about swimming (both my girls, who do the videos, were lifeguards and had to deal with this!). And in the boys’ videos, we tell them about periods and how to be kind and aware of what girls are going through.

You’re telling me WHAT goes WHERE?!

Talking about sex with your kids doesn’t always go smoothly. 

That’s why we created The Whole Story, our online course that walks parents through the tough conversations and does the hard parts for you!

But for today–let’s give grace to the little girls who were mortified, especially if you were one of them.
And let’s apologize to that little girl inside of you who was made to feel shameful or embarrassed.

Were you mortified as a teenager? Or did you have a good experience? Let’s talk about how we can do this better!

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

Related Posts

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

Related Posts

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102 Comments

  1. Anon

    Oh my, this resonated with me SOOOOO much – started at 12 and my periods were agonising and heavy from day 1. I would flood a nighttime towel in an hour and was pretty much continuously on iron supplements from 13 to 30 because I was constantly anemic from blood loss. My mother thought tampons were ‘bad’ for virgins, and anyway, I had severe vaginal pain during my period, so doubt I could have used them anyway.
    I was 30 before a GP told me that the level of pain and bleeding was ‘abnormal’ and I needed treatment. Basically, my hymen was too thick to let the blood through properly and I also had abnormal hormonal levels which were causing the severe cramps – bad enough that I would be bent double, unable to talk with the pain for several hours each month, but continuing less severely even when I wasn’t on my period. Enlarging the gap in the hymen and taking hormone therapy to regulate the levels totally transformed my life, but it makes me cross that it took so long for these issues to be picked up. Basically, my teens and 20s were governed by my period! So glad you are looking at ‘when to see a doctor’ because so many women hear about ‘period pain’ and assume that what they are experiencing is ‘normal’, and so often, it isn’t!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m going to keep your story and run it in our posts on when to see a doctor! Oh, that’s awful. I’m so sorry! Did you try to go to school during all of that, too? Yikes! I remember the girls had a baby-sitter when they were little who had to have cysts removed when she was 15. I’m so glad her mom recognized that this pain wasn’t normal and had it investigated. I’m so sorry that you didn’t have that workup done earlier!

      Reply
      • Anon

        Yes, I had to keep trying to study/work during all of this while being made to feel I was ‘pathetic’ by other women and by my doctor for not ‘coping better’ with something ‘normal’. One doctor even told me that my issues were caused by hangups about my sexuality and were ‘all in the mind’. It was such a relief to finally be told that there was a physical reason for my pain and that they could do something to fix me!
        My mother was concerned that the level of pain I was experiencing was abnormal and took me to the doctor when I was about 15/16, and the doctor (a female) just said ‘period pain is part of being a woman, just take an aspirin and deal with it’.

        Reply
    • Meghan

      OMG YES! My periods used to be so bad that I had to take a sick day to stay home from school or work. I remember one particularly bad one that had me curled up in the fetal position on the living room floor and my sweet dog came to lay beside me. Finally got diagnosed with PCOS at age 21, then it took another 5 years to find a doctor who could give me a solution other than birth control, which honestly did nothing other than make the cycles more regular. I kid you not, 2 months after I started her treatment plan I actually thought “holy guacamole is this what it feels like to be normal?!?” You never realize how much pain you lived with on a daily basis until it’s gone.

      Reply
      • Natalie

        Ditto! On the bright side, my labor pains were a cinch! 😝 I went up to transition without feeling like it was anything super terrible. Then about half way through transition, I was like “oh, ok. This is different than a period!” Lol
        At least with labor, the pain comes and goes in waves. With menstrual pain, you just have to sit in it for hours and hours and sometimes days. Uuuuuugh 😩

        Reply
        • Meghan

          So true! Labor was not a big deal in comparison. Well, up until my kid got stuck. But that’s a story for another day.

          Reply
        • Anon

          Natalie, that’s so interesting – for years, women with kids would dismiss my pain with a ‘just try giving birth’, but last year, I met two women who had the same hormonal imbalance that I had and who have also had natural births, and both said that the ‘period pain’ they had while the imbalance was untreated was actually WORSE than their labour pains – and no one expected them to go to work, study, do housework while they were in labour, the way they were expected to during a period!!!

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yep. Isn’t that sad? And sometimes female doctors can be just as bad, because they put up with periods and pain while they were on call for 36 hours straight, so who are you to complain? It’s interesting, but studies have shown that women are not more sympathetic to period pain than male doctors.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Rebecca found something similar! When your period pain is that bad, labour isn’t as bad.

          Reply
          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            I will say, labour that wasn’t back labour wasn’t as bad as period cramps I get. But back labour was HORRIBLE. SO MUCH WORSE. And that was like 16 out of the 23 hours I was in labour. So hopefully I have a “normal” labour next time because I agree with Natalie–the fact that it comes in waves is so much more doable than the unending agony for 3 days you have during your period.

      • Jennifer Thompson

        So glad you found a doc for real treatment for PCOS! My cycles were heavy and frequent and I never got pregnant. God knew best- I have a stepson and gifted myself with a lovely hysterectomy at 40.

        Reply
      • Steph

        I figured out tampons as a teen as best as I could, they always hurt, it took me a while before I was able to insert them properly. In college, my periods became really heavy and I had to use the heaviest tampons plus pads or I would leak. They said they didn’t affect virginity, but after I was married for about 10 years, somehow the subject came up and my husband shared that he felt like I wasn’t a virgin when we married because my hymen was already broken, even though I had told him that I hadn’t even kissed anyone except him. So we figured out that it was probably the tampon usage, because it did hurt horribly to put them in for a long time. I don’t want to give my daughters shame, but my husband requested that I encourage them to not use tampons until after they are married because it can cause their husband to doubt their virginity. He always loved me anyway and trusting women was already hard for him because of life experiences. I just feel bad that they can’t swim on their period.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Steph, I’m so sorry for what you went through, but please don’t pass on this shame to your daughters. They should be able to swim on their periods, or do anything they want to do!
          Having your hymen broken does not mean that you aren’t a virgin. And tampons usually don’t break hymens anyway.
          But beyond that, our worth is not in our virginity. Our worth is in Christ. When girls grow up thinking that their worth is in their virginity, it can cause a lot of shame, even if they are virgins when they marry. Now their identity is gone (once they are married) because so much was wrapped up in being a virgin. It’s just very misplaced emphasis, and it also hinders their lives.

          Reply
    • Natalie

      Didn’t see this comment till I posted mine before. But this is essentially what I had too. I’m so glad it’s being talked about more now!!! Before the internet became so pervasive as it is today, you basically couldn’t find out your symptoms were abnormal unless your family, friends or doctor told you so. For me, my mom also had really awful periods before having kids, so she attributed my extreme pain to what she had (they were NOT the same). My friend all knew that different women reacted differently to menstruation, some worse than others. It was just assumed that I was one of the “worse” ones (even though I literally had to miss class and later work cuz of my period). And I never saw a gynecologist growing up. My mom said I didn’t need to cuz I wasn’t sexually active. When we asked my pediatrician about my really bad menstrual pains, she said there was a wide range of normal at this age and that I’d probably grow out of it (I didn’t).
      Story time: when I was a recent college grad, I worked as a tasting room hostess and an event coordinator for some local wineries. On one week day during the slow season, I was the only one in the tasting room. Thankfully there were no customers, so I went to the cellar where it was nice and cold, curled up in the fetal position on top of some boxes of wine, and tried to ride out the worst of it. The following month, I wasn’t so lucky. It was a busy Thursday, I was again the only person serving in the tasting room, and I was literally in cold sweats from the pain! One of the customers noticed. I apologised and said I had really bad female issues and today was one of those days. She said “are you sure you’re not pregnant”, probably thinking I looked like I was gonna vomit at any minute. Since my husband and I (still dating) had stopped having sex a couple years before, I knew pregnancy wasn’t my issue. But trying to convince that female customer of that was super awkward, and she was super insistent that I should take it easy and probably lay off the wine (I literally never drank, funny enough, even though I worked at a winery). That was probably one of the most awkward exchanges of my life due to the highly personal subject matter and her drunken insistence that I do what she said. 🤦🏻‍♀️ OMG, so cringe!
      I’m so glad that phase of my life is over!!! 😩

      Reply
      • Kristen

        Wow, I thought I was the only one who experienced cold sweats during my period. Your symptoms sound a lot like the ones I’ve had. My periods usually aren’t too bad, but two or three times a year I have one that knocks me off my proverbial feet, and I feel all the things you described. Cold sweats and extreme nausea. There have been times when I was at work and I had to run to the restroom, where I would just sit and tremble/convulse from the intensity of my cramps. Another time I was working alone, and I almost passed out. It was so bad that one boss pulled me off of my job waiting tables (which I really enjoyed) and stationed me as a cashier because she thought I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t bother telling her I’d simply had a rough period, because I knew she’d be the type to roll her eyes and tell me to get over it.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Kristen, I’ve had that, too. Cold sweats and extreme nausea. It is terrible!

          Reply
          • Anon

            I’ve had terrible pain during my period since my teenage years. I used to use prescription strength pain meds from my doctor but I’d have to start taking them before my period started or I’d be in debilitating pain. I also had the experience of not being taken seriously by all doctors- when I was trying to get better pain control and told a doctor I had severe cramps, he gave me a medicine for mild cramps that didn’t work at all. When I got married a few years ago, I got a mirena IUD and now I don’t get periods at all anymore. It’s been life changing to not have to manage painful cramps every month. There’s unfortunately a lot of negativity in the Christian community around IUDs due to misinformation but it’s a fantastic form of birth control. We are hoping to try to get pregnant soon and I’m definitely not looking forward to having a period again!

  2. Anonymous

    Anyone who works at a camp should be instructed to never try to force a girl into water activities. I went to a camp and got my period the next day. It was so hot, I had terrible cramps, and heavy flow. My mom didn’t allow us to use tampons, as she thought that would affect our virginity. So I had none with me and didn’t know how to use them. Every activity at camp was mandatory, you couldn’t sit out and watch. Including swimming in the lake. I showed up to the lake in my clothes and didn’t jump in. I was told I had to participate. I told the counselor I couldn’t because I had my period. She told me to just use a tampon. I had to embarrassingly tell her that I didn’t have any, didn’t know how, wasn’t allowed to. Apparently the only girl at camp who couldn’t. They all went in the water and had fun without me. Then she had to tell other counselors why I wasn’t going in when they wanted to know why I was not participating.
    I was mortified, as a shy, private, totally uncomfortable teenage girl. And it still is a hard memory 28 years later. I have lots of similar bad experiences on my period as a teenager/young woman. I’m glad our generation is changing how we deal with our daughters and their periods. I’m not mad at my mom, she was only doing what she knew/thought/had been told. She wasn’t trying to cause me more issues. I had PCOS symptoms then, but that wasn’t diagnosed until after I was married. The symptoms left me feeling like a broken girl. I wish I had had the words to speak up about what wasn’t right in my body.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Oh my goodness Anonymous, I want to give little teen you a great big hug!!

      Reply
    • Jennifer Thompson

      Camp and periods are an awful mix. As a counselor one summer, I had to explain to a young deaf girl that she was not injured and bleeding was normal- she was 12 and nobody warned her about periods.

      Reply
  3. Ina

    These are horrifying! I’m so grateful for a mother who was extremely open regarding these things, though her first attempt at explaining did cause the misunderstanding for me that a the egg died in the uterus every month and that the blood was the potential baby’s blood… that really troubled my 11 year old self.
    I do want to note, I couldn’t use a cup until I had my first birth. I tried to use the… moon cup brand, I think? It hurt so bad trying to fit it in. Once I wasn’t a virgin it helped but it was never comfortable until a baby stretched it out!
    Unfortunately, I discovered postpartum that disposable pads give me rashes so now I’m that crunchy mom that uses cloth pads and cloth diapers and they’re so comfortable I’m never going back!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Oh my goodness, Ina, poor 11-year-old you! Your mother must have been so mortified to learn that was the takeaway you got!!!
      Edit to add: Also, cloth all the way!! Fluffy cloth-diaper butts are great. 🙂 And disposable has given me rashes since I was like 15 so yup. Cups and cloth pads forever for me, too.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Ina, that’s so awful! I’m laughing and feeling so bad for you all at the same time.
      Personally, I say crunchy moms unite!
      Here’s my story: when we started going to Kenya in 2006, we brought along some cloth pads and tons of flannel to help the girls make some. Last time we went (in 2018) we brought along diva cups as well, and did a whole class in them. The girls loved them.
      But we used to have all of these “parties” at my house making cloth pads with all the girls in the youth group. And so I tried them to make sure they worked, and they were so much more comfortable. And I used cloth diapers on my kids, so it wasn’t a big jump. And so I’m totally with you. It was so awful having to go back to disposable pads on occasion when I was on vacation!

      Reply
      • Elsie

        Hi Sheila, it’s great to hear that you’ve been helping young women in Kenya with menstrual hygiene – it’s such a challenge in low income communities. I’m wondering though – there are concerns about using diva cups in developing country settings because lack of clean water for washing the cups can lead to infections and women don’t always understand that cups can’t be shared. You may have addressed that in your education but you might want to follow up with the ladies when you go next to see if there were any problems. I’m not sure if anyone has done a study on this but I remember reading in the past that Diva cup didn’t distribute their cups in developing countries for the reasons above

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, no , we definitely discussed all that. It was also the staff that adopted the diva cups so they could get used to it, not the girls themselves. There’s also a big “fear” (maybe that’s not the right word) of tampons or anything internal, so it’s definitely out of their comfort zone.
          But, yes, the water issue is a big one, but the cost of disposable pads is so huge (it’s the equivalent of two days’ wages for us a month). So they really need an alternative.

          Reply
          • Joy

            My mother was TERRIFIED of tampons and TSS, which also made me deadly afraid to use them. Ensue much stress and me feeling inadequate as all my friends could run track/swim/do cartwheels with their tampons while I sat on the aside miserably on my gigantic, itchy pad like it was 1950. Once I made it to university I took the plunge (pun?) and started using tampons for swimming and for other sports. It was amazing! What a liberation! I cannot wait to share the tips and tricks with my daughter.

    • Rebecca

      I can’t use most disposable products either – only the “organic cotton” type. Otherwise I get horribly itchy- it’s awful!
      I got a cup after my second child was born, and some period undies/panties. It’s been so great! When I used pads I was always worried about leaks.
      I have two daughters – I’ll definitely be encouraging them to use period undies to start with. I will teach them how to use a cup if they are comfortable with the idea. Reusable products have made my life so much easier! You can also get swimmers that are “period-proof” so that might be an option too for teenagers that do a lot of swimming but aren’t comfortable with using a cup.

      Reply
  4. Lisa Johnson

    The idea that using tampons is wrong.
    Here is another area where weird ideas about “purity” make things weirder and adds unnecessary shame. And makes participating in sports or swimming or other activities difficult
    A close friend’s mother wouldn’t allow my friend to use tampons because it would somehow tarnish her virginity and purity to give to her husband later. Ugh
    The weird idea of a female body being *useful* only for purity and then later giving sex to her husband and birthing and nursing children.
    This basic idea is present even in lesser forms where people are told that women’s design and value is only or primarily in being a wife and mother and serving others.
    There is so little, if any, room for your body being useful for YOU. It’s so *unbalanced* it causes all kinds of problems.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So true! I was amazed at how many women commented that moms said tampons would affect their virginity.
      And then what happens to these women if they have medical issues? A while ago we were having a debate on Facebook about a medical device to help with Kegels that she kept insisting was a sex toy because it went into the vagina. When you have an internal pelvic ultrasound, then, are you having sex with the ultrasound technician? Like, sometimes a vagina is just a vagina. And it is YOUR vagina.
      It’s so sad! And the hymen/purity myth is alive and well, too.

      Reply
      • Anon

        I think my mother’s worry was more that the tampon would hurt me because I was a virgin – so it’s not always about taking away virginity but concern about the daughter experiencing pain and maybe that making her more anxious about sex later on. (And in my case, with the abnormal hymen plus the vaginal pain, it probably would have been excruciating.)

        Reply
      • Danielle

        In this vein, the way I discovered the mechanics is sex was from a tampon box’s FAQs, one of which was, “Am I still a virgin if I use a tampon?” Young me: 😳

        Reply
      • Cristina

        I started my cycle at 10. I was frequent, irregular, and heavy, which led to lots of embarrassment and ruined clothing. My mother only bought us pads. Road trips were the worst because who knew what I’d find upon arrival. Bleeding 20-25 days of the month left me paranoid, wearing a pad all the time (which caused unpleasant itching until I figured out increased hygiene and cloth pads). Thankfully, pills helped for a few years, and a friend gifted me a cup for my birthday. I enjoyed it thoroughly until an IUD required going back to tampons. (I look forward to going back to it once we’ve had all our kids and can choose a more permanent option, but we’re not in a position to risk expulsion)
        I was in my twenties, returning from a ministry conference with a group of ladies when I first heard the idea that tampons take your virginity. The older women were insistent and judgmental. My abuela helped me laugh it off. ‘What exactly do folks suppose we’re doing with these tampons?’

        Reply
  5. Melissa

    Funny story. 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. Yes, there are different kinds. 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. Okay that was a long comment. Thanks for reading my rant. 😁

    Reply
    • Kya

      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!

      Reply
      • Melissa

        There’s a story out there on the internet written by a young woman who worked in a Congressman’s office in Washington DC. She was on her period and was getting up from her desk to go use the bathroom because she could tell it was time for a tampon change. The congressman for some reason had been observing her frequent bathroom trips and told her she wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom and then went on a rant about how entitled women are that they get all these extra bathroom breaks when they’re on their periods. So this young lady, she’s my hero, sat there and calmly yet firmly detailed what would happen if she did not go to the bathroom. Blood on her clothes, blood on her chair, blood everywhere. The congressman’s eyes got huge and his face turned pale and he said “You mean you can’t just turn it off? I thought women could just…make it stop!” Her response to that was IF WE COULD DO THAT DON’T YOU THINK WE WOULD??? 😂

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, dear, that’s awful! But it serves the congressman right. Isn’t that terrible? Good for her!
          And that’s too funny that men think we can turn it off or hold it in, like urine or something.

          Reply
  6. Natalie

    And then there’s me over here (as well as one of my high school girl friends, so I know it’s not totally underheard of) who physically could not insert a tampon until I was 19 and had my hymen surgically removed!!! I was 19 in 2008-2009, so this was before there was copious amounts of information on the topic online. I first tried a tampon when I was 11 so I wouldn’t have to quit the swim team, but it hurt too much and I couldn’t do it. So I quit swim, the one sport I actually loved and that made my body look exactly as I wanted it to. Very sad. I spent the rest of jr high and high school and into college feeling like my body and reproductive system was just broken. So when my husband and I first started having sex and I didn’t orgasm, I figured it was all related and I’d just have to accept that I was one of those women with a messed up body internally who wasn’t gonna orgasm and was probably going to have a lot of difficulty conceiving, if I was even able to at all. (And I thought the latter before I had PCOS symptoms/pains monthly since I was 14… wasn’t actually diagnosed with PCOS till I was 26 since I was never excessively overweight and the doctors always said that was the primary symptom).
    If I could go back to my teen self and tell her something, it’d be that her body is NOT broken. She just needs to eat super low carb and work on her insulin resistance so the PCOS and pain go away. I never felt ashamed of having a period, but given my hymen history, I did feel abnormal and attributed future body and sex issues to it. It’d tell my teen self starting at a young age that my body was not broken and that I did deserve pleasure, and that essentially ALL women take longer and get turned on differently than men, and that’s okay and normal. It doesn’t mean you or your body are broken.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      And I should mention that it wasn’t till a couple years ago – 10 years after high school – that I learned one of my good friends also had a huge hymen that had to be removed. She was so ashamed and embarrassed about it that she never talked about her tampon issues in high school. All my friends knew I had awful, painful periods (I’d often spend one or a couple classes lying down in the backseat of my car on days it was really bad), but she never thought to talk to me about her issues. And at the time, I didn’t know one of my issues was my hymen (I also didn’t know I had PCOS or jus how much my diet was effecting my pain level). It wasn’t till we both saw a gynecologist for the first time that we learned we had abnormally large hymens that basically covered the whole opening of our vaginas with a couple holes in it to let the blood out. So inserting a tampon would’ve meant we needed to break our own hymens…. yeah, no thanks! Personally, I’m very glad a local anaesthetic and a scalpel were used instead of my husband’s penis. 😝

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Absolutely! This is one of the reasons it’s good to see a doctor before you’re married, too. I have known many readers of the blog who needed that surgical removal. Really painful! And it does increase the pain with periods, too.

        Reply
      • Lindsey

        Is it weird that I’ve often thought I would just recommend that my daughters have it surgically removed before marriage just so that they can enjoy their wedding night without the hymen breaking pain?

        Reply
        • Mel

          Hi Lindsey!
          Not all of them break and are painful.
          Maybe tmi but mine is stretchy and never really broke (now I don’t have children and maybe birth would break mine). My GYN told me that’s just one kind of hymen.
          My mom encouraged me to go to the GYN a month or so before I got married so I could avoid any unpleasant surprises. So I would say, yes encourage your daughters to go, but they might not need surgery 😉.

          Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So good, Natalie! I’m sorry you went through that all through your teen years, too! That’s really tough.

      Reply
  7. Natalie L.

    I started when I was 10, and my mom was totally unprepared, so hadn’t told me anything! Around my 2nd or 3rd period she gave me a box of tampons and basically said figure it out for yourself. The pictures freaked me out so bad I couldn’t put them on, and I do believe it was the beginning of developing vaginismus for me. I constantly leaked out of my pads, and one time when we had a big family gathering my brother came out and asked loudly enough for all to hear why there was a bloody pair of panties in the hamper. I know he got in serious trouble for that since he never did anything like it again, but I don’t remember him actually apologizing to me. I was still having leaking problems especially at night after I got married, and my husband thought he was doing me a favor by buying a new set of dark red sheets so the stains wouldn’t show, but I took it as a reminder of how I just couldn’t get it under control. I finally bought myself a cup a few months ago, but still can’t get it to work properly.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so tough, Natalie! And I think that likely was linked to vaginismus. I hope you’ve had some success with treatments for that. I’m sorry you’ve been through this!

      Reply
      • Natalie L

        When we got married we had no idea there was such a thing as vaginismus, and felt like we hadn’t been able to properly consummate our marriage on the honeymoon. When we told both sets of parents about it afterward none of them had any idea what had happened or how to fix it. It didn’t occur to anybody that maybe seeing a doctor would be helpful. It wasn’t until I found your blog 3 or 4 years later that true healing started to begin.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’m so sorry, Natalie! I was the same as you. I didn’t know it was a thing, either, and we really struggled. I’m glad you found me, and I’m glad you’re starting to heal!

          Reply
  8. A

    I was a teen that dealt with periods and awkwardness and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that some girls get their period so young. Seems unfair!
    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.
    Leaked through pants at school. Thankfully I had awesome open friends that could help me shrug it off and watch the door for me during lunch break as I stood under the blow dryer to dry what I had tried scrubbing out.
    I’ve gotten my period unannounced while doing field work and sat on plastic bag over the seat waiting for my mom to pick me up. Just to add to the situation, tractor repair guys showed up before she did and I could feel the blood had started soaking through my pants so I tried my best to not turn my back as I descended the steps.
    Other days doing field work you kept your dirty pads in plastic bags with you in the tractor and swore to yourself not to forget that bag at the end of the day to be found for whoever used it next. I grossed myself out so many times.
    I struggled with being able to rely fully on tampons, they leaked no matter the absorption or length of time inserted. Always needed a back up pad which felt like it defeated the advantage of a tampon.
    Now I’ve been using the diva cup and it’s a lifesaver. Except for a camping trip where I was still getting used to it and there were only porta potties to use. Ugh. Totally awkward and disgusting and I feared dropping it in. Brought pads with me incase of that scenario. Tried leaving enough toilet paper to cover the blood so I wouldn’t scar whoever used it next. I suppose it wasn’t enough- or maybe someone else had their period- but someone in our group commented outloud referencing it. She was a grown adult woman- you’d think she’d know better!
    I havent tried them, but have heard great things about nix(?) underwear and wish I had them as a teen.
    My husband is understanding, sympathetic and doesn’t squirm about getting me products. As much as I don’t wish periods on anyone else I still wish men could have one day in a girl’s shoes just to get an idea- we’re not exaggerating!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I ALWAYS needed a back up pad as well. I’d leak through everything unless I used a pad-tampon combo. For years I thought everyone did that! I didn’t realize that most people only used one. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Wild Honey

    I’m just curious, and maybe this will come up in later posts, but in your research, has having a tipped uterus had any impact on ease of use of tampons or menstrual cups?
    I was in the middle of a rather painful infertility procedure (one of the feet-in-stirrups kind) when the doctor mentioned as an aside that, “Yeah, a tipped uterus can make this more painful.” Despite having had any number of gynecological exams at this point, no one had thought to mention this to me before. Google told me that up to 25% of women have this.
    I have never used tampons, so totally relate with the “crunchy” (and sometimes “smelly”) feeling. I’ve used a menstrual cup for a couple of years now, and it’s always painful for the first day or two, then gets more comfortable.
    And I can’t believe I just shared that personal information with the internet…

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m going to go look up tipped uterus now! I’ve never heard that, but it does make sense. 🙂

      Reply
      • Annon2

        I have a tipped uterus and apparently the menstrual cup is not recommended – but I didn’t know this until using them for a number of years. I did find I needed to use a pad as well as I could leak at times but I also used to have super-heavy periods. I read that the cup only has to be emptied twice a day – morning and night. Try up to every half hour for me on a heavy day. Like others, I thought it was just normal to be that heavy. I’ve now gone 8 months without a period (change of life) but I still carry my cup everywhere and I daily wear the period panties just in case. I really wish these had been around when I was younger as they are great peace of mind. I don’t know if I’d ever use them without a cup and pad on a period, but it’s great to wear them as an extra protection against leaks and spills.

        Reply
    • Natalie

      I’d be interested to hear this as well. While my mom didn’t have the hormonal imbalances and PCOS during her teens years as I did during mine, she did have a tilted uterus which caused her bad menstrual pains. She too had to stay home from school and sometimes work during the really bad days. She said her pains went away once she had kids since her uterus wasn’t in the exact same shape as before she had kids. 🤷🏻‍♀️ That was her experience, at least.

      Reply
    • Alfabets

      Wild Honey, someone I am close to has a tipped uterus. This has caused her a fair amount of discomfort. She told me she uses a period disc rather than diva cup. I love her because we can always talk about really deep topics together without fear or shame.

      Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      I have a tipped uterus and it makes tampon insertion rather difficult: I have to double over to get it in. All of the strategies on the pamphlets about one foot on the toilet or somesuch just make it worse.

      Reply
    • Kristina G

      A very close friend has a tipped (also called tilted) uterus and for that reason tampons have never been workable for her without a fair bit of pain. Definitely a thing.

      Reply
  10. Charissa

    As a teen my periods were fine. I was also on the swim team – so we got over the period/tampon issue pretty quickly because we had to. But as an adult my periods became increasingly painful – such that pain killers didn’t even take the edge off. Because the pain increased slowly over time, it didn’t occur to me that my experience wasn’t really normal anymore. I’m so glad you’re talking about going to the doctor! We have normalized women’s pain around periods so much – it really isn’t ok. It turns out I have endometriosis and just had a surgery to help fix it – but on average it takes women ten years to get that diagnosis 😳. So glad you’re having this conversation so women can be more informed and equipped to advocate for themselves – and hopefully people can be more sympathetic to the struggles of managing periods. I currently teach high school, and we have kits with tampons and pads readily available in every classroom. It’s so important for girls to know they will always be safe at school – and we have their backs if they forgot to pack a pad or had a leak or something ❤️

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I was like the frog in the boiling water as well. It got worse and worse over a number of years and I didn’t realize it until I literally collapsed with a nervous breakdown caused by massive anemia. We do think that women’s pain is normalized and shouldn’t be complained about, but a lot of this ISN’T normal at all.

      Reply
  11. Amanda

    I remember my friends and I all through high school asking each other to check the back of our pants to make sure we weren’t leaking. It was almost a constant conversation and fear!
    I also remember feeling mortified to even let the plastic packaging make a single crinkle noise, in fears that another girl in the bathroom might know I was on my period. Which is absurd because she had one too!
    After reading through these comments I have made it my mission to normalize everything about periods for my daughter AND my son. I want him to grow to be compassionate to his sister and female friends!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I remember being at friends’ houses and not knowing what to do with dirty pads I had to change. I remember a few times I brought them home to put them in the garbage, because I didn’t want to leave them in the guest bathroom garbage, which was normally empty. So embarrassing!

      Reply
  12. Boone

    Way back in 1977 my dear wife was a junior in high school in a small town in Mississippi. She played on the girl’s basketball team. She also suffered severe cramps every month. One afternoon they hit. She tried to tell the coach that she was cramping and didn’t feel like staying for practice. He chewed her out and accused her being lazy and a wimp. She dressed out anyway. The team was working on free throws and she was missing every attempt. Normally she was quite good but since she could barely stand up her accuracy was way off. The coach went and got a paddle and told her that she was going to get one lick for ever shot she missed. Well, of course she missed the next shot and he popped her butt with a two handed swing. She missed the next one and bang! She missed the next one and bang again. Now she’s crying. She turned on him and through clenched teeth yelled at him, “Do NOT hit me again!!!” He got up in her face and yelled for to go run the bleachers for the rest of practice. She went straight to the locker room changed and headed out the door with him screaming at her all the while. She told her mother when she got home who told her father when he got home. Now, I should tell you that my father in law ran away from home, lied about his age and joined the Marines during WWII. He turned 17 on Guadalcanal where suffering from a ruptured appendix he took a Browning Automatic Rifle and stood off six banzai charges. His Silver Star citation says that when the sun came up he was still holding his position with a Colt .45 in his right hand and a KaBar knife in the other. In short, this is not a man to be taken lightly.
    The next morning all three of them and the principal are all in the big man’s office. As she relates the story it got quite heated. The coach. Tried to flex his muscles and my father in law looked him in the eyes and explained that his daughter was done with his pathetic excuse for a team and that if he ever laid a hand on her again that his own mother wouldn’t recognize him. My wife said that the coach turned rather pale and began to stutter. My father in law and my wife got up and walked out. She quit basketball and never had any more trouble with him.
    Boone

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow! What a story!
      I’m so sorry that she had to quit basketball, though. Isn’t that sad that she had to quit something she loved just because her coach was an absolute tyrannical idiot? Too bad the coach didn’t quit instead.

      Reply
  13. Kya

    Just throwing my story into the pile. I worked at a summer camp every summer through college, and I had/have heavy periods. (I definitely did the pad/tampon combo, and often had to change both every few hours!) One thing the staff did almost every weekend was go boating on the manager’s boat. It was a great time, and I loved it, but it was so nerve-wracking on my period, because I didn’t know how long we would be out and when I would get back to shore to change my tampon (and we were wearing swimsuits for tubing, so there was no pad as backup). Sometimes I skipped, but one weekend I really wanted to go, so I confided in one of my coworkers that I was concerned about leaking on the boat, and she said she would help cover for me. After we had been out on the lake for a while, I noticed her discreetly trying to get my attention and sure enough, there was a thin red trickle running down the white seat under me. I quickly grabbed my towel and sat on it, bunched up, for the rest of the outing. When we finally went back to shore I sprinted to the vault toilet and found out the stupid tampon wasn’t even full–just leaking. I don’t think anyone else saw, but the experience was completely nerve-wracking.
    And a note on cups! I love them!!! Prior to having my daughter I used both a Moon Cup and a Diva Cup, and they were both great. Post-childbirth I bought the size 2 Diva cup, and it leaked like crazy! So I bought the XO Flo, and that was a little better but still leaked all over. Somehow I found out about PutACupInIt.com and their cup quiz. I highly recommend it. I took the quiz, which asks about cramps, flow heaviness, and any issues you have had, and it recommended the Saalt Soft. I bought one, and it has been PERFECT. Just like Diva used to be for me. So if anyone is having trouble finding a cup that works, I highly recommend the quiz. Their Facebook group is also great for trouble-shooting issues like how to deal with things like camping and long fingernails. (Disclaimer: It is not a Christian organization, for sure. The information is gold, though.)

    Reply
  14. Arwen

    I got my period at 10 and since the age of 16 i have never had cramps, i’m 29 now. I’m grateful to God for taking away my pain, i have no idea why, but i’m not complaining. My period lasts 3-4 days with zero pain but it’s irregular. Sometimes i get it at the beginning of the month other times at the end of them month.
    I’m glad you will be talking about Diva Cups. As i have some concerns about it. Something is just not sitting well with my conscious about encouraging virgin women to insert foreign objects into their most intimate parts of their body. I don’t wear tampon as it’s beyond words painful and looking at that plastic cup is even more terrifying. There is just something sacred about not having something up there and the first thing to enter your body will be your husband. Tampons & Diva Cups for me take away the surprise, the newness, the being stretched for the first time, by your husband and instead objects have done the job before him. I feel almost violated. I don’t know, it’s just not for me, i’ll delve more into this on the 24th. Maybe you can touch on those concerns when you write the article. It will help answer some of mine and others concern.

    Reply
    • KMMC

      Honestly, I think it’s ok if you feel that way about YOUR OWN BODY. But a lot of women do not feel the same way you do. Wearing a tampon or a diva cup does not ”diminsh” the sacredness or newness of a first sexual encounter with a husband… If it does for you AND YOUR OWN BODY, then it’s okay to not wear either. Just stick to pads.
      By the way, some teens and young adults are in swim teams or in gymnastics. If you’re in a swim team, you can’t just say that you cannot train or compete on your period because you can’t wear a tampon.
      And also, there are countries out there where teen girls can’t go to school when they have their periods because they don’t have money for female hygiene products. An organisation that supplies divacups would be great for them (for those who want it, obviously) because it would be a cost-effective way to help them during their periods instead of supplying tampons and pads every month.
      Also, my personal bias when I read comments like yours is to ask myself how much information were you given regarding the intricacies of the female body and also the intricacies of the female sexual experience/stimuli….
      It also makes me ask myself if you were raised in a conservative christian environment. Nothing wrong with that… it just makes me ask questions

      Reply
    • Kya

      You have some valid concerns–I know I was very, very nervous about trying a tampon for the first time because the idea of putting anything into my vagina as a virgin just seemed wrong somehow. My periods are so heavy that pads alone have never been a good option, though, so eventually I had to try them. It took multiple attempts, over several months, before I got tampons to work, mostly because I was such a basket of nerves every time I tried.
      Now I’m a devoted cup user, and have been for several years. I’ve also been married for 9 years and I really do want to assure anyone with these concerns that there is no similarity between sex and using a cup or a tampon. Absolutely none at all. The entire point of both tampons and cups is that if they are inserted correctly you won’t even know they are there. If you can feel them, you probably have them in wrong. Also, if you can feel them, it is NEVER pleasurable. At best it is irritating, and at worst it is painful. There is nothing remotely intimate or sexual about the experience. Once you get the hang of it, it really is just like using a pad, or brushing your teeth, or putting on deodorant, or any of the other mundane personal care tasks you do every day. I know it sounds crazy if you’ve never done it, but it’s true. As for stretching, a pap smear does more of that than a cup or tampon ever will, and I hope you are getting regular pap smears. Sex is a whole ‘nother ball game, and if I were to describe it, the experience of using menstrual products would not be included in the description!

      Reply
    • Anon

      If you feel really strongly about using tampons or cups before you’re married, then don’t use them. But there really is no similarity between having anything else inserted there and having sex.
      I was raised around a lot of people who had the same views that you do – that using tampons before marriage would violate your virginity. Well, I had to have a d&c before I was married (due to excessive, continuous bleeding for a year) and also had to have my hymen partially opened, although they didn’t remove it completely. I got married a few weeks ago, and the fact that I had had a lot of surgical instruments stuck inside me in the past didn’t take anything away from our wedding night (we were both virgins).
      You might find you can’t use tampons or a cup anyway – I have never been able to use tampons (haven’t tried since we got married, but guess there will be no change), but please don’t let a fear of damaging your virginity or spoiling your wedding night put you off. Because they won’t affect either of those things.

      Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Other women have chimed in with great stuff but I just want to say that if inserting tampons is painful for you, Arwen, you may want to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Most women do not find inserting tampons painful, but pain with inserting smaller objects like those is associated with pelvic floor issues such as vaginismus, incontinence, and the like. It can even affect your back if your pelvic muscles are all too tight, leading to joint issues later in life! It’s all very inter-connected.
      If more women knew that if tampons are painful, something may need to be addressed, a lot of pain could be spared later! So please consider seeing a PFPT just to make sure everything is all good. 🙂

      Reply
  15. Jess

    Yes. These things can be so hard. And getting answers to questions is the hardest. My periods are so so heavy. I always have to use a pad and a tampon and I still leak. I have to set an alarm to wake up a couple of times in the middle of the night or else I will leak all over the bed. And I get terrible cramps, nausea, extreme fatigue. I have asked doctors about this and they all do just seem pretty dismissive. If they can’t find cysts, endometriosis or a hormonal imbalance, it seems as if you are just out of luck.
    They all tell you that birth control is the fix. I have a history of depression already and the pill made it worse and gave me migraines (which I was told was not a side effect of birth control). I currently have an IUD which has “fixed” my heavy periods but has caused me to lose about 50% of my hair (I was also told hair loss is not a side effect of the IUD but there is no other plausible explanation for my hair loss).
    So I am about to have my IUD removed so I hopefully will not go completely bald and will maybe stop crying in the shower every day, but that means I go back to extremely heavy, debilitating periods. I refuse now to be on birth control of any kind because it seems they tend to cause me all kinds of problems.
    It seriously sucks that now my options seem limited to absolutely horrible periods, going bald, or having a hysterectomy at the age of 31. How am I supposed to make that choice?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Jess, I’m so sorry! Have you tried any dietary changes? Like trying the Whole30 diet and then slowly reintroducing things to see if you can figure out what may be really bothering your hormones? I know some women who have found a lot of relief that way, and if you’ve tried everything else, it may be worth it. I don’t know if it will do anything, but in some of us, certain foods trigger problems that can show up in hormone issues that cause period problems.
      Also, have you been checked for fibroids? I had really heavy bleeding because of fibroids, and when they were removed things got a lot better.

      Reply
    • Kya

      That’s just terrible the way doctors are treating you! If they are being dismissive, please please please keep looking until you find one that isn’t. There are good doctors out there. Another option would be to look for a local midwife. Midwives aren’t just for births–they are often experts in women’s health too. A local midwife even did my most recent pap smear (she did the procedure and then I drove it to a local lab and dropped it off). And when I told her that I get migraines with my period, she validated that that definitely happens to some women, and then she went to her bookshelf and got a book covering a HUGE assortment of period issues + natural remedies and gave me some ideas to try to prevent it. My visit was just what she calls a “well woman check” and had nothing to do with pregnancy or birth at all.

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        I second the midwife comment. My midwives were fantastic and if I were still in Ottawa I’d be going to them for all of my female-health questions/concerns. Very holistic, and they are specialized caregivers in the realm of female reproductive system.

        Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      Try taking a LOT of iron. Don’t overdose, obviously; just take a lot of it. The slow-release capsules are gentle on your stomach.
      Anemia can cause heavier periods, and yes, that’s a really vicious cycle because heavy periods also cause anemia.

      Reply
    • Jess

      Thank you for the replies! I have tried a couple of different elimination diets and was not able to see improvement with my cycles. I have also had stretches of time where I have been on an iron supplement per doctors orders but they caused horrible constipation and still no change in cycles. At this point I am leaning towards a hysterectomy because luckily I already have 4 kids and had my tubes removed anyway. But I am nervous about long-term effects from that choice as well.
      With depression and often debilitating fatigue, it is very difficult to stick to a specialized diet plan or anything that takes a lot of additional planning/mental load because most days, I can barely stay afloat doing the bare minimum! I am very grateful I have an amazing and helpful husband who does way more than his fair share!

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Jess, that sounds just so hard! I’m so sorry. That just sounds awful. I’m sure the hysterectomy will help a lot!
        I hear you about the constipation with iron pills, too. So gross.

        Reply
    • Rachael

      Have you had a thyroid panel done? Thyroid issues can also caused heavy bleeding and hair loss. I also lost half my hair last year due to a thyroid issue but luckily it seems to be growing back. If it’s not that, I recommend keep trying doctors until you find one who listens to you. I’ve found that few doctors are good at diagnosing, let alone treating, chronic issues.

      Reply
      • Jess

        Thanks Rachael. Yes, I have had a thyroid panel done several times over the years. It’s a little frustrating because I know something is not right with my body but no one can ever find anything to point to for what might be causing my issues. All of my labs always come back “normal”. Now that I am done having babies, I plan to try to invest more time/money/energy into finding answers if possible!

        Reply
        • Soup + Celery

          Hey, Jess!
          If you’ve had multiple thyroid panels done, then I’m guessing this won’t be relevant for you… but I’ll go ahead and throw this out there.
          My sister has Hashimoto’s, but the first thyroid panel didn’t catch it because the levels her doctor tested for came back “normal”. She had to get a FULL thyroid panel done before she was finally diagnosed accurately.
          I have also been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, and here are the thyroid tests I had done:
          TSH
          Total T4
          Free T4
          Total T3
          Free T3
          TPO
          Anti-Thyroglobulin Antibody
          If you haven’t already, you could ask for a full thyroid panel if you decide to do more testing in the future.

          Reply
          • Jess

            Thank you! This is really helpful to know.

  16. Active Mom

    In my house growing up bodies and their functions weren’t talked about, ever! I had to figure out how to use tampons myself by reading the box. My cramps in high school got so bad that I was on prescription naproxen. When that wasn’t effective my doctor suggested potentially exploring birth control. My mom who insisted on being in the room asked the doctor if there was one that would work on cramps etc but not stop a pregnancy. She was concerned that I would turn into a harlot (her words) if I had the reassurance that I wouldn’t get pregnant. It was mortifying! My doctor looked at her like she was crazy and said that no that wasn’t an option. She refused to allow me to use them. Later in life I did discover a medication for the heavy periods (after 4 kids) and it is a lifesaver. I take tranexamic acid. It’s a life saver ladies and isn’t a hormone. Hallelujah!! My periods are no longer heavy. Now, I try to be open with my kids and always carry supplies with me. I am always shocked at the number of my daughters teammates who will approach me during games etc asking for a tampon. Girls need our help navigating their early period years. I am amazed how much better moms are now than when I grew up.

    Reply
  17. Sarah

    I’m lucky to have very easy periods, albeit somewhat irregular ones. For years they started in the middle of the night, every time, and I never knew when it would happen. It made sleepovers and traveling and house/dogsitting nerve wracking, because blood always got on the sheets, and then I’d have to figure out how to hide or clean it up, plus make a dash to the bathroom to change.
    And another plug for menstrual cups – since I don’t have a super heavy flow and little to no pain, using a cup almost makes it seem like I have no period at all. Seriously life changing. I got one of my sisters to try it and my little sister wants to (although she’s going to start with tampons, since that’s a bit less intimidating).
    I know the cup isn’t for everyone, but seriously, it’s worth a try because it might revolutionize your periods.

    Reply
  18. 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.
    My husband and I dated long distance, which meant that we were together for days on end every month or so. For a while, I had my period on every single date we had. It was never an issue because he never fought me on going to the bathroom every couple of hours or may I go to the bathroom before we go swimming / go out /whatever.
    My periods are easy: regular, manageable flow, painless. I get very growly, however, if people (i.e. men) assume that since *some* women can swim/run/do normal things while on their periods, that *all* women *must.* It’s such an individual thing.

    Reply
    • Kylie Grayston

      Sorry I commented this in the wrong place and don’t know how to delete it! But I moved it down to main thread as well.

      Reply
  19. El

    Can I throw in a plug for fathers to read some of your series?
    The shame and embarassment doesn’t end with teenage years.
    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.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s terrible! I’m going to put that in Tuesday’s post about men and periods!

      Reply
  20. Kylie

    I’ve just had my 3rd baby boy 4 months ago and I’m just here thinking… it’s interesting how much easier it is to talk with friends/health professionals about bleeding after birth than it is to talk about a period. Lochia is somehow less embarrassing and expected and then even as an adult I’m awkward if I have to tell anyone I’ve got my period!
    Total embarrassment as a teenager, although it didn’t start till 15.4 yrs old so I skipped the school swimming lesson dramas but I remember trying to use a pad in the pool/river as a teen 🤦‍♀️ And I remember the mortifying day I wore cream coloured pants to university (age 17) and leaked without realising 😩 I didn’t know leaking was a thing! I remember the shock and relief when I started seeing on the internet (years and years later) that other people had period leaks, blood on clothes, or on sheets! I seriously thought I was just weird. I didn’t even know to wear sensible clothes. For some reason I thought a pad was meant to be foolproof… you bleed, you have some cramps, you catch the blood in a pad 🤷‍♀️ But no, it’s all so much messier than that isn’t it.
    Then I went on to have chronic health issues and start having years of periods that put me in bed every month with fatigue, aches and nausea. Really sick. I started scheduling my life around the bad weeks and had to do that in SECRET which was exhausting, even in my late 20’s when really we shouldn’t be so awkward about these things. I’m now 35, three little boys, and finally feel like I might be brave enough to mention my period when I’m trying to deal with it, when the time comes. Maybe. By the way my mum never ever showed any sign of having her period, and that made it super hard for me to not die of embarrassment when I had mine. We didn’t even discuss pads, she just quietly kept refilling the stockpile in the bathroom for me. I still don’t mention periods to her. Or sex. Yeah I’ll stop now, just wanted to vent a bit 😅
    I’ve definitely noticed that being able to talk freely about stressful things in our lives makes them way easier to handle. So many women suffer with periods and feel they have to be silent. 😢

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, the silence and the secrecy is so hard and I do think it adds a lot. So difficult. I hope that the next generation can be much more open with their kids.

      Reply
    • E

      Well I honestly had no idea you bleed like that after birth until I had my first!!

      Reply
  21. Alicia

    I just felt led to comment. I used to have very heavy periods as a teenager and even well into my twenties, thirties and forties. Turned out I had fibroid, really large ones. Whatever you do do not take contraceptive pills ad it makes the fibroid grow bigger and the periods heavier.
    I used to get periods non stop for 6 months, then stop for a week and start again for another 3 months and it went on and on. I had periods most of the time with very few breaks. I finally realized that food has a big role to play. Milk, cheese, pastries cakes, ice cream and coffee are to be avoided at all costs. Refined sugar aggravates the periods and makes blood flow very heavy. I believe that for many women, once changes is made with their diet, the flow will change for the better.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I have almost the same story, although I never bled for as long. But it was fibroids. Getting them removed, and then changing my diet, helped manage things a lot.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        I have always had irregular heavy awful periods due to PCOS. But after my 4th child 13 years ago, I started having longer periods, bleeding between periods, passing huge clots. Discovered I had fibroids, and unusually thick lining. As well as a polyp on my cervix (not the type of polyp pap smears check for) that was now causing me to hemorrhage after sex. That was the tipping point. I had an ablation 1 year ago. No period or other bleeding at all since. I was just telling my husband a couple days ago, this has been such a great year. So freeing! I’m pretty sure he’s been enjoying it, too. 🙂

        Reply
  22. Natalie

    Don’t know if you’ll talk about it, but there’s this thing called the Flex. It’s similar to a Diva cup in how you insert it, except it’s a disc so you can have sex with it in and not have period mess. 👍🏼 Now that I’ve discovered my sexuality, I find I sometimes want sex while I’m on my period on days when it’s not too heavy and achy. The Flex has been a lifesaver! Highly recommend! The only con in my opinion is that it’s not reusable like the cups are. But it’s the only way I’ve found to have sex while on your period without getting blood everywhere. My husband is also squeamish about blood, so since none of it touches him during sex, he’s fine with it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Interesting! I’ll definitely look that up for the post we’re doing.

      Reply
  23. Susanna

    Growing up, I had 5 sisters, but we kept our periods a big secret from our four brothers. We’d wrap our used period products in reams of toilet paper and hide it in the trash can. I never really had trouble with leaking and if I did, I almost exclusively wore long Jean skirts so you really couldnt see much. Our swimwear was black men’s shorts so aside from the gross feeling of a wet pad, it wasn’t too inconvenient (plus we didn’t really swim much) My mom didn’t want to us to use tampons because of toxic shock syndrome and told us putting something with that many chemicals inside us wasn’t healthy. Since I’ve gotten married, I started using tampons and love them. I also use a Diva Cup which has been incredible (though quite the learning curve for me!)
    I’m very excited for this series as my hubby is also from a conservative family who never talked about periods and he’s a little weirded out by them (plus he’s squeamish around blood so that doesn’t help). I hope to show him them articles to help him feel more comfortable about periods. And also to help prepare both of us for how we’ll help our daughter through this when she’s older (she’s 5 and already asks a million questions about all kinds of things like wear babies come from, where did that bloody thing in the trash come from, etc. She’s already emotional so will be lots of fun once we add teenage hormones and periods to the mix. 😅)

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Ah, yes, when they’re emotional and in puberty all at the same time! That is a fun mix.
      I hope you like the series!

      Reply
  24. Katrina

    Thank you, Sheila, so much for sharing about the shame of periods. In the past couple months, God has been showing me that I have a lot of shame surrounding my period. However, my shame is not linked to sex at all. Instead, my thought process is as follows:
    1). God created me and all of my bodily functions including my period.
    2). God is perfect. Therefore, my period and all pains and emotions that go with it must be what God perfectly intended.
    3). I consistently cannot “deal” with the cramps and emotions.
    4). Because God perfectly created me and I cannot handle the regular bodily process of my period, there must be something wrong with me as a human, aka shame.
    It doesn’t help that both of my sisters have really light periods. Additionally, my mother used to have really bad periods before she became a Christian. But after she got saved, she prayed and God took away most of the pain.
    I would really appreciate any thoughts or suggestions.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, really interesting, Katrina!
      I would just say that it could be that your period is far worse than your sisters’ periods. It could be that you have an underlying condition that needs to be looked at by a physician. But just as some of us may have anxiety or depression or some other thing that weighs us down, some of us may have bad periods. That says absolutely nothing about your spiritual health. We live in a fallen world; we know that the fall affected our bodies, too, and even women’s reproductive systems. If things flare up and make life difficult, that doesn’t mean you’re more of a sinner. It just means we’re in a broken world! And be grateful that we do have medical help. I hope you can seek it if the pain is too much, because you shouldn’t have to live with that when there may be solutions available.

      Reply
  25. Christina Edwards

    One time on a family beach trip my period came and I had to use tampons. We went swimming in the ocean and I remember being honestly terrified that I would leak into the water and attract sharks! I laugh about it now, but tampons never liked me and were always leaking no matter what size I tried. Thank goodness for diva cups!!! Those are a game changer!

    Reply
  26. Ella

    My biggest problem swimming as a teen was not the period, but the hair. I had the boys teasing me for the amount I had (saying that I had a penis, I was 10 and had a lot of hair down there), and when I told the youth group’s leaders they would tell me to wear a swimsuit that covered more, and as I was wearing a normal swimsuit the only way to wear one that covered more was to wear boy trucks over my swimsuit, which caused a whole new slew of teasing, and again they blamed me for the teasing, as now I was not dressing like the other girls.

    Reply
  27. Lisa

    It was AWFUL. I was 11 when I started my period. I had very painful cramps. I remember being at school in so much pain. It felt like food poisoning or some horrible stomach bug. My Phys Ed teacher barking at me that there was nothing wrong with me while I was doubled up in pain on the floor. I wish I had just screamed at him, “I have menstrual cramps!” because he would have been so embarrassed. But I was too embarrassed to say that.
    As far as swimming and being able to participate in activities, I bought myself some tampons but I could not get them in. I didn’t know why. All the teen magazines said they should go in, even if I was a virgin. My mother was no help at all. She said that ladies just sit things out when they have their period and I better not be snippy just because I didn’t feel well. It was the first time that I felt like growing up was not what I thought it would be.
    There are so many options now, from period underwear, organic tampons, sea sponges, and menstrual cups. And many teens and women wear “boy shorts” or wet suits for swimming so we can be less exposed, if we choose. Some things in our society are improving and I’m grateful.

    Reply
  28. Lora

    I just stopped in to say that I just listened to your TMI podcast and it resolved me to do better!
    The only conversation I ever had about periods with my mom was this “i don’t need these anymore if you want them (mom offering pads and tampons to me and my 18 year old sister ) I replied “i don’t have periods” they both looked at me a little strange but didn’t say anything else. I was 17 at the time and my period did start that year. All I knew about them was that some people leak blood from down there. When I did get my period I was so so ashamed and Sadly I was like the unsympathetic people in your podcast because I assumed everyone’s were like mine—so easy! I’ve never had a cramp or ache. When I got married and my husband who was very practical about it just being a normal bodily function wondered why I thought it was so gross. The first one I had after getting married he was being all nice, I was like “I don’t need sympathy that’s just somthing woman claim so they can sleep all day and eat chocolate” 😥 but I really believed it because like I said we NEVER talked about it and that was MY experience, I have a 5 year old boy and a 2 year girl and I am going to do better with them! ❤️

    Reply
  29. Anonymous

    Ahhhhhh. Reading these comments gave me a flash back to my teen job at Chick-fil-A. I needed to change out my pad, but didn’t want to draw any attention, so instead of bringing my purse to the bathroom with me, I decided to carry the pad in my pocket, which was a big pad, so I trying to hide it. I think I looked even more suspicious this way, because a boy coworker stopped me and asked what I was doing, noticing my pocket. I didn’t reply and just kept going. I felt like he thought I was leaving to go do drugs or something. He looked rather confused. Wish I had just acted normally and told him the truth. I was just embarrassed.

    Reply

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