Everything You Need to Know About Periods, Period
We’re not going to pretend it’s a super thrilling life milestone to get your period. Prom is a rite of passage; your first period is basic human biology.`But even though it happens to pretty much every woman, recent research shows that a not-OK number of girls (nearly half!) don’t know what’s happening to their bodies the first time they menstruate because no one talks about it. So we are.
Whether you’ve had five or five hundred periods, here are some things you need to know about that time of the month.
Give yourself a break
Believe it or not, PMS is not just a social construct created by dudes to make women feel extra moody. Premenstrual syndrome happens a few days before your menstrual cycle, and causes annoying things like tenderness in your breasts, always-fun mood swings, unpredictable emotions, occasionally-brutal bloating, even food cravings. So if you find yourself inexplicably sobby at not-that-sad episodes of Love or eating an entire pint of chocolate ice cream, don’t be hard on yourself. It's out of your control.
Realize it's not the end of the world
Sure, your period is the worst (in a hyperbolic sense). And sometimes when you’re curled up in bed with bad cramps, in a literal sense, too. But there are sooooooo many worse things. While it’ll feel weird the first few months, even years, into having your period, you’ll eventually get so used to it that you won’t even think about it. Well, except to maybe think twice about wearing white jeans.
Know your options
There are tampons, of course, and pads, too. Both of these are totally comfortable, conventional options. But there are also DivaCups, as well as period undies like Thinx and Dear Kate that let you skip the usual suspects. You should also know that when it comes to tampons and pads, there are a billion different choices—literally aisles dedicated to them! Even *how* you put them in requires some decisions: Do you prefer plastic applicators, or cardboard, or would you rather skip that whole step altogether and use pads? Do some research to find what's right for you.
Ask for help if something's off
If your cramps are can’t-get-out-of-bed bad, or you find yourself having nonstop, uh, accidents, or you just feel like something isn’t quiiiite right, go to a doctor. There’s no reason to spend a week out of every month feeling awful, and there are things—from medications to meditation—that can make it better. And if you find yourself blacking out, see someone immediately. It could be endometriosis, a pretty serious disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. (Learn more about it from Lenny Dunham's powerful essay about dealing with the condition.)
So...what is happening to your body, exactly? "Menstruation, or having a period, is when blood (period fluid) leaves the body through the vagina. Getting your period is an important part of a woman's life cycle,” explained leading pediatrician Dr. Lisa Stern. “A period lasts for a few days each month and usually starts about two years after a girl notices her body is taking on a more womanly shape (breasts growing and new body hair appearing). Having a monthly period is a sign that a female can reproduce." Congrats on that, btw.
A big part of why so many girls don’t know about menstruation is because no one’s really teaching it. The pamphlet you get in health class is about as helpful as watching the movie Carrie. We recommend Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume and Lola’s new First Period Kit, which is a genius way to learn about everything without having to read a textbook written by a man. “Periods are a natural part of life,” explained Lola founder Jordana Kier on the inspo behind the kit. “Although puberty can be awkward, we shouldn't be embarrassed to talk about menstruation—it is 2017, after all!” So let's talk about it.