Monday Roundtable: You and Your Period, Bloody Hell

The menstrual cup in the feature image is the GladRags XO Flo Cup.

You shed your uterine lining every few weeks! Or maybe you suppress that shedding and call it a day! Either way, we want to talk about how that’s going. We asked the bleeders on staff to tell us about how they experience their menstrual cycles — the first time they bled, what blood-catching methods they use now, how they relieve the pain. We were also interested in their personal rituals around menstruation and how they felt about their cycle in general. I’ll tell you one thing, this involves a substantial amount of marijuana.

Laneia, 36, Executive Editor

First Time: It was summer vacation and I was 12 years old, watching Regis and Kathy Lee at my grandmother’s house. I’d been obsessing over getting my period (and getting my boobs), so it was surreal and exciting. My grandmother told her next-door neighbor, Mrs. Hickerson — an older woman who was really sweet and had never had children — and they were both ecstatic, which was super embarrassing.

Method: Disposable pads if I’m leaving the house or will otherwise be active, and reusable pads (which I buy on Etsy) when I’m at home, which is most of the time. I free bleed when the cramps are unbearable.

Pain Management: My cramps have been getting consistently worse for about 12 years, after I gave birth for a second time (which they say will help alleviate cramps for the rest of your life! FALSE.) — to the point of blacking out, throwing up, and other dramatics. For those one or two days when it’s at its worst, I take prescription strength Naproxen and alternate ice packs and heating pads on my abdomen and hip joints. I’ll also eat some of a Kiva bar so I can just fall asleep. I’m so lucky to have a job that grants me the ability to check out for chunks of time so I can deal with cramps.

Ritual: On the days leading up to bleeding, I try to make some healthy food ahead of time and I plan out the family meal schedule so the kids can cook for themselves for a couple of nights. On the first full day of bleeding, I like to sit on the center of my bed in a dark room and meditate on the strengths of the women in my family and the ways I can honor them in my life. It’s important to me to slow down for at least that one day so I can take stock of myself and listen to anything my body/energy is needing. This day is usually the most painful day, so it’s also when I eat a piece of a marijuana chocolate bar, put ice packs on my abdomen, and watch Netflix and sleep.

Personally: I had a negative mindset about my cycle for most of my life, thanks to advertising and a culture that urged me to see my period as a burden that was holding me back from what I really wanted to be doing (I guess horseback riding and sailing, according to the magazine ads?). I came across a used copy of Her Blood Is Gold a few years ago and it helped change the way I interact with the experience of bleeding. (Just a heads up, that book is a little woo and very ‘goddess woman power.’) Now I look at my period as a chance to slow down and focus on myself. I realized I’m more perceptive and creative during my period and that trying to push through those few days by ignoring it or seeing it as a burden was not only making my severe cramps even worse, it was robbing me of an opportunity to see the important things with a clearer mind. As much pain as my cycle brings me, I think I’ll be genuinely sad when it stops.

Hot Tip: If you’re thinking about trying sea sponges, I can’t recommend Holy Sponge enough. It’s a queer-run small business and they genuinely give a fuck about all the things you give a fuck about. For a look at the culture of menstruation throughout history, read Flow: The Culture of Menstruation, and for a slightly more updated take, New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation.

Reneice, 28, Staff Writer

First Time: I got my first period when I was 12 in the middle of a chemistry exam. I went to the nurse and ran into my friend who it turned out had just gotten hers too. We asked for pads, put them on, got grossed out, and both faked sick so we could go home. When I got home I wrote “I got it” on a post-it note and left it on the counter for my mom and Aunt to find. I was not a fan of the new development.

Method: I use a Diva Cup! I have for almost eight years and I highly recommend it. It’s easy, eco friendly, and using it will earn you another lesbian stereotype badge.

Pain Management: Take one ibuprofen a day for the three days leading up to my period. Day of I smoke a bowl, go for a walk, do some yoga, and try not to cry cause my cramps are VERY strong even with all the pain management.

Ritual: I don’t have any rituals, mostly cause the start of my period is so painful and exhausting that I like to forget about the whole thing and move on from it as soon as possible.

Personally: I have a pretty negative view of my cycle. I’ve lost a day every month for 15 years to pain and am not responsive to medications. I basically view my period as an inconvenience and don’t get why it has to be so messy, painful, long, and intrusive.

Hot Tip: Get a menstrual cup!

Rachel, 28, Managing Editor

First Time: I was 12, and found a weird gross brown stain in my underwear. My mom was like “you’re probably getting your period,” and for some reason I was really insistent that I obviously wasn’t; I think I just didn’t want to deal. She was correct and I was not.

Method: For most of my life I used pads; I didn’t swim or play a ton of sports or do anything that pads seriously inconvenienced. My mom used ob tampons and so sometimes I would use those because they were around the house; I don’t think I ever used a tampon with an applicator until college and when I did I thought it was WEIRD. I got my first menstrual cup in college too, and have been pretty loyal to them ever since. For a long time I had a Mirena IUD, and didn’t have a period, and honestly that was cool! Now I have a Paragard because I’m afraid of the Handmaid’s Tale and so I have a period and that’s like, fine.

Pain Management: Usually Advil, very occasionally a heating pad, mostly complaining.

Ritual: I think the only “tradition” I practice around my cycle is complaining to my closest friends about it, and/or panic texting them that I’m afraid I won’t be able to get my menstrual cup out — which I initially was going to say as a joke, but you know what I think it’s actually something I value a lot, and when my friends have done the same I feel very close to them and that’s meaningful to me.

Personally: I have never been someone you might say is “in touch” with “her body” in any way, and especially around menstruation I often feel abnormal about that, because for other people it feels like it’s an experience they really understand in their bodies in a way I don’t relate to. I can never feel or tell when I’m going to get my period; I’m never aware that I’m PMSing; I often don’t even realize I’m cramping until like hours in. Sometimes my period makes it feel like my body is something happening to me from the outside, which is weird and which I don’t like.

Hot Tip: I’ve been using the GladRags menstrual cup — the XoFlo — and I think I like it! The stem part is more comfortable than one on the original Diva Cup, although also the mouth is very wide so it takes a little practice to get it out quickly and consistently.

Riese, 35, Editor-in-Chief

First Time: I was 14, it wasn’t a school day, and it was November of my freshman year in High School. I was the last of every girl I knew to get hers, so I was like FINALLY I’M A GROWN-UP like the girls who wrote in to Seventeen magazine with EMBARRASSING HORROR TALES about bleeding in white pants. But I also was panicked, because that night was Kristyna’s birthday party, and it was a sleepover at a hotel with a pool and my Mom gave me pads which I obviously couldn’t wear in the pool!!! (I didn’t go swimming. Lady stuff, you know.)

Method: I used pads for maybe my first two periods before switching to tampons for life. During our ob campaign I started using ob — their size makes them easier to carry around and conceal — and now I generally stick to non-applicator tampons. I started taking the pill when I was 16, and for a few years there would regularly skip periods altogether. At 23, I went off the pill and it was really hard to adjust to having such intense periods, ‘cause they’re really light on the pill and I’d only had my period for like 15 minutes before I hopped on the pill.

Pain Management: I take handfuls of ibuprofen and Midol on the regular. The first day is pretty challenging, usually I just have to be miserable. I get shooting pains in my legs and feel sore and terrible and I have to wear sweatpants with holes in them so that my outside matches my insides.

Ritual: I don’t do any ‘rituals or traditions’ around my cycle because I hate it and historically have a sort of strained relationship with womanhood in that particular area.

Personally: I hate having my period, it feels messy and gross. I like my body to be contained.

Hot Tip: I genuinely think ob tampons are great! Also if you don’t like applicator-free tampons but DO like having smaller compact situations, the U by Kotex brand is great too.

Alaina, 26, Staff Writer

First Time: I was 11, in graphic arts class, making a poster on Photoshop for umbrellas for your shoes. I guess I went to pee? And then I went to the nurse and got a pad. I don’t remember feeling anything, so I guess I felt fine.

Method: I use cups (specifically the Diva Cup) if I use any collection method, but 99% of the time I free bleed, because I am blessed with a schedule that doesn’t really require me to leave the house more than 2 days a week unless I really want to. So I just hang out naked and sit on hard disinfect-able surfaces or lay in bed on my period sheets and eat cake.

Pain Management: I just feel it. I get really bad cramps. I probably throw up from them 4 times a year. But I think it’s just part of what my body is doing, and I’m trying to respect my body more, because I really honestly hate it most of the time, so letting myself feel pain is part of that. Sometimes I smoke though, but I usually smoke indicas which give me body highs that make me feel really in touch with my body, so instead of sedation, it’s like kinda amplified? But not in a bad way, just a cool way.

Ritual: I guess free bleeding is a ritual? I started it because I hated buying tampons when I still wore them. I continue to do it because it’s a way for me to hang out with my bod and breathe and slow down and try not to let myself be overcome with dysphoria. I saw something somewhere that talked about how period blood is some of the only blood that isn’t automatically associated with violence, and I think that’s kinda cool. So I think about that.

Personally: I think my period is cool, but I wish I didn’t have it. I have PCOS or whatever the hell it’s called now, so it’s not consistent, and I forget about it. And so it’s disruptive, it forces me to slow down, it reminds me that I have a body I didn’t really ask for. But I guess it’s kinda like therapy. I don’t really like therapy at all, but the things it forces me to do are really useful.

Hot Tip: If you come to A-Camp, I think Laneia always does a spectacular job at Bloody Hell, and I always learn a lot and enjoy my period a little bit more after hearing her talk about it. So maybe just listen to Laneia talk about her period.

Kayla, 25, Staff Writer

First Time: It was my 12th birthday. Happy birthday to me! I was not happy, and since my parents and I basically never talked about anything ever, I waited as long as possible to tell my mom and when I finally did, I went to great lengths to never utter the actual word “period.” The way I remember it, I rambled for approximately 75 hours before she figured out what I was trying to say.

Method: I’m ride or die for disposable pads. I tried tampons a few times a couple years ago, but they made my cramps worse. My girlfriend keeps trying to get me to try organic.

Pain Management: Prescription-strength ibuprofen all day, baby!

Ritual: On day one or two or sometimes both, I curl up in bed and watch Bravo shows and order in food.

Personally: I mean, I hate being on my period. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but I sometimes get flu-like symptoms in the days leading up to it. The one good thing about my cycle is that I only get my period every 6-8 weeks. But I’m also irregular af, so it’s always just like SURPRISE. And I hate surprises.

Hot Tip: Well dang this is making me realize I don’t read enough content on periods. I should change that. Please recommend all the zines to me.

Erin, 31, Staff Writer

First Time: I was 12 and in English class. I’d been sitting with one of my legs tucked up underneath me and so the blood was on my sock – a detail that would have gone unnoticed if the uniform-regulated, mid-calf sock I was wearing wasn’t stark white and I didn’t have on a skirt. I think I pretended that I’d cut my ankle, which was solid of me, and then went home to a very matter of fact conversation with my mom about tampon insertion.

Method: Free bleeding’s fun if you need to get rid of undergarments anyway, otherwise organic tampons are my move.

Pain Management: Look, I’ll say this: if you go to an off-brand dollar store – like, say, a Dollar Mart – they will have a menstrual relief medication that is akin to painkillers. I don’t know why this is and I don’t know how they’re able to get around the FDA, but this is pretty reliable. That plus a heat pack and I’m set!

Ritual: My cycle is hilariously consistent, so my ritual is allowing it to wake me up at 3am and taking a sleepy bath while crying a little bit. (This extra goes out to people who are grossed out by baths, and whom I consider to be monsters.)

Personally: At this point in my life I have a lack of feelings about my period as it thankfully only lasts for like 1.5 days a month and the cramps aren’t nearly as bad as when I was first experiencing them. If someone wanted to take my uterus though that would also not bother me.

Hot Tip: I’m going to co-sign coming to A-Camp for Laneia’s Bloody Hell. In the meantime if you want to look at this menstruation cry calendar I made for you, you can.

Tiara, 31, Staff Writer

First Time: I have very vague memories of this — I was around 10/11 and somehow was aware enough of what periods are to tell my mum mine had come on. Mostly I remember our old bathroom at our first house. I have a feeling it actually showed up earlier while on a trip to Hong Kong but I didn’t know what it was then. My sister sent me a book about puberty and periods and such soon after, which was very sweet of her.

Method: Pads! I couldn’t really get into tampons and menstrual cups just plain hurt.

Pain Management: Honestly? Nothing. Not because I’m some sort of masochist, it’s just that for some reason when I am hurting it never occurs to me to go take a painkiller for it. (Also, Advil/ibuprofen makes me dizzy.) I just wait it out.

Ritual: I don’t really have any particular rituals or traditions, asides from the immediate thought of “ah, at least I am not carrying Jesus 2.0”. Growing up Muslim, I mainly knew it as the time you were exempt from praying or fasting (especially relevant in my early years of high school where 2 of the 5 mandatory prayers were during class hours so we were expected to go to the prayer room or explain that we were “uzur” or “ill”) but it’s not like I do either nowadays.

Personally: My main feelings around my cycle have to do with having Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Depression (PMDD). It’s when your mood significantly crashes or swings before your period because of hormone fluctuations, not just in a “PMS” sense but to the point of suicidality or dysfunction. It’s something I have been dealing with for over a decade and have yet to find useful ways to manage — attempts at birth control either wrecked my mood further or gave me immense physical pain, and I’m already on psych meds so adding another one at random points in the month seems dangerous. It’s not a very well-understood condition; I had a lot of doctors dismiss me as “that’s just normal”, and the doctors who were sympathetic told me there wasn’t really a lot of strong research into the condition so there’s not a lot that can be done to help (especially since birth control is not an option for me). I don’t have any strong feelings either way around the passage of blood or the physicalities of my period, but the PMDD definitely make me wish I was born with no sex hormones at all — it’s very hard to consider life worth living sometimes when you’re near-suicidal once a month and even though you know it’s just your hormones the feeling can’t easily be chased away.

Hot Tip: I don’t have any specific recommendations, but I do recommend that people read up on PMDD, advocate for more research and support, and talk about how it is a very valid and significant mental health condition and shouldn’t be dismissed as “just moody”.

Up next: Endometriosis, bleeding during the 7th grade English final, IUDs, and more.

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  1. Periods! I think periods are cool, though my hat is off to those whose cramps or other negative experiences with them make them feel otherwise.

    One of my favorite cycle-related activities is tracking, for both physical and emotional symptoms. This is most useful for people with regular-ish cycles. I could feel in vague terms but can now point to clear evidence that I absolutely have two “times of the month”—one pre-/during menstruation, one around ovulation. I’ve found that to be true for many women around me, and it makes perfect sense when you think about how hormones are shifting during those times, but I was never taught that it was even a possibility. It’s really, really helpful to look back on prior months’ data as a means of understanding [why am I so exhausted/is this likely to turn into a migraine/etc.]. Getting my girlfriend into this has also been helpful relationship-wise, because it makes particular patterns we both have very clear and helps us be aware of when we want to proceed with caution around emotional stuff, for example.

    I’ve been using Clue for this these days: user-friendly, not pink, and has a very useful sharing feature (for the general phases; does not show specific tracked symptoms). The pre-programmed symptoms are pretty good, and you can program your own tags for things that happen to your specific body. Go forth and track, people! You will be amazed.

    • Clue is life! I was totally out of touch with my (often irregular) cycle and how it can affect the ebb and flow of my moods and physical state until I started using Clue. I love it so much. Like you said, it’s not pink or girly and you can see when your next 3 periods and ovulation days will likely be. Intuitive interface with practical information. Things just make sense now.

  2. this is such a great roundtable! periods are weird and also diva cup changed my life; I have a light enough flow that I can kind of just stick it in there and then not worry about my period.
    my girlfriend calls it her “cycle” but my favorite phrase is what my woo woo travel buddy used– “I’m with the moon.”
    what even.
    anyway glad to not be pregnant!!

        • I’m gonna just go with the flow here and say y’all are bloody awful. But don’t let me discourage you, I’d hate to cramp anyone’s style. Hmm, what else can I come up with to pad this comment? Maybe it’s time for me to be stopping – you know, tampon it down a little…I should really cup it out…

          Hope no one thinx these are too much.

  3. This week, for only like the second time ever, I’m having the kind of period that allows me to understand how some people can go without tampons. Usually the entire contents of my uterus eject themselves within a span of 24 hours, and I’m not leaving my house without a whole lot of disaster management stuffed up there.

    • “Disaster management” is possibly the best thing I’ve ever heard for this!!

      But I’m with you, I basically have an AHS-style crime scene for 24-48 hours

  4. First off, reading this article in the student lounge of my law school was a GREAT way to scare off any shitty cis dudes around me so thank you very much for that.
    Also I keep meaning to use reusable pads but the idea of like…changing it during the day and then carrying a gross bloody pad with me till I get home is really really grossing me out. And I would definitely need to change it cause I bleed extra heavily (thanks a bunch, endometriosis).
    Also, do any other nb/transmasc people feel extra-dysphoric around their period? Like normally it’s relatively manageable (except for some low days) but in the 3 days or so leading up to my period I just want to destroy my entire body and be a sentient patch of haze and never have to think about gender again.
    And (last thing) does anyone have any experience with CBD oil/capsules for cramps? I live in MA so I have access to it and I want to try it but I don’t know how much it will help.

    • “First off, reading this article in the student lounge of my law school was a GREAT way to scare off any shitty cis dudes around me so thank you very much for that.”

      It’s uterus, not uterthem. =)

    • 100% feel you on the dysphoria leading up to/on the first days of my period. I’m usually fine-ish with my body and can live pretty happily without binding/packing but then there are those 3 days a month where I can’t function without binding, leaving the house is extremely hard, etc. I think it must be something with the hormones because I also usually don’t realize I’m about to get my period but then it happens and I’m like oh yeah that explains why I’ve felt so awful lately.

    • I can’t comment since I am a trans woman aligned and not on hrt yet, but from the reviews I have read and from what an acquaintance told me CBD creams, and genital safe oils/liquids work more effectively than the pill. It goes directly to the point, period.

    • My issues with my period have always been “wow intense debilitating pain sucks” issues far more than gender/dysphoria issues, but I know that’s not the case for everyone (and like even without pain, I’d prefer to not be a walking BSI hazard for 4-7 days of ever 21-42 days, so like there might be some gender stuff there too, or maybe it’s just that I spend enough time accidentally bleeding all over stuff bc I am a klutz with medical issues that make me prone to passing out due to a number of things including low blood volume bc I have less blood than I ideally should that I just want to keep my blood inside me at all other times, IDK).

      I no longer get a period thanks to my BC (all hail the BC) BUT I do have pelvic floor dysfunction of a real bad degree and the pain I get from that is usually similar in nature to menstrual cramps, though the area changes focus a little bit and I get AWESOME ABDOMINAL PAIN that is the exact same feeling as appendicitis but on my left side instead of shooting pains down my legs that I’d get with cramps, but I’ve found medical weed to be REAL GREAT for that pain (literally the first time I used it I was like “oh man I’ve forgotten how it feels to not be in pain all the time. this is great.”). I use a 1:1 THC:CBD sublingual tincture (since I have both pain from muscle spasms and nerve pain from irritated nerves in my spasming psoas muscle) and it is a lifesaver. The downside is that with THC you can’t drive while using it which like I GET but also law-making people letting me take pain stuff makes me a safer driver than when I’m in mind-numbing mandatory dissociation levels of pain thanks (also NSAIDs make me drowsier than narcotics so I can’t take them to drive but noooooo it’s “too unsafe” to drive with narcotics in your system like it’s unsafer for me to drive with NSAIDs in my system /endrant about legalities of pain medication). I don’t think a solely CBD pill or ointment would have the same regulation though? But even if it does, I think it’s worth trying, if only to take at night to help sleep (which is what I do and it is GREAT but also great because it’s really helped with my quality of sleep which is normally awful thanks to narcolepsy so I have fewer symptoms of N during the day).

  5. I don’t remember the exact moment I got my period. I remember my mom calling me and my sister to the bathroom because there was blood in one of our pairs of underwear. It felt like she was interrogating us. I was really embarrassed. I’m standing there with my twin sister denying that it’s me. Obviously, she knew I was lying. Finally, I said I had to go to the bathroom and went into my parents’ bathroom and put a pad on. I didn’t really know how to do it or what to do. My mom was, shall we say, a repressed Southern Baptist. So our education consisted of a book with information about sex and sin. I never was really told what to do about it. I think I was 12. I got it before my twin sister got hers, but I’m not sure how much sooner. We didn’t talk about these things.

    So because I didn’t have anybody to teach me about tampons or anything I used pads. I was painfully shy and filled with shame so I wasn’t going to ask anybody anything. It took years for me to start using tampons. I just looked at the pictures in the tampon box and figured it out myself. Tampons are my preferred method now. But I have a heavy flow so sometimes I have to wear a pad too, just in case. I go through a lot of tampons on my heavy days. I think cardboard applicators are the devil’s work. If I believed in the devil, anyway. I’m fortunate I don’t have too much trouble with cramps. But I bleed like a slaughtered animal and have to do a lot of cleaning after showers and sometimes have to wash my sheets multiple times.

    My period is somewhat consistent as far as the cycle and number of days. Although, now that I’m 49, it’s getting a little more inconsistent. As I approach menopause it has gotten longer. More days but still consistently on a 28-day cycle. I’m ready for menopause. My period is mostly just inconvenient to me but at least I can save a little bit of money. Between tampons and pads, it gets expensive since I have a heavy flow.

    I don’t have any rituals unless you consider complaining about it a ritual. I

  6. i got my period at an end-of-the-school-year pool party in 7th grade because my life is a movie

    i also refused to tell my mom because i didn’t want to talk about it and she had to confront me a about it like “i found your used pads in the garbage you’re not sneaky”

  7. Props to the people who can just breathe around the pain and whatever. I swallow as many pills as I think my liver can handle.

  8. Second the recommendation for Clue! My period always seemed unpredictable because I’d note the date and then be all, “Well, it was on the 12th this month, so next month it will be around the 12th.” And then SUPRISE! On the 5th or 7th or something I’d get super hungry and cranky.

    And then I started using clue and realized I have a 26-day cycle on average. So I would finally understand when I felt it coming on. BUT I am also FURIOUS that my “time of the month” is a 14 times a year event. I feel cheated?

    Clue is also pretty good about avoiding cis- and hetero-normativity. Their facebook group that I was in for all of 5 seconds was a shit show though.

  9. Reading this makes me feel super lucky that I rarely have any pain around my period at all and have had a pretty uncomplicated relationship with my period in general.

    Despite being a very masculine person I have been really into periods since I got a menstrual cup 10 years ago because it’s like my body is doing science and also I feel like talking openly about them and being knowledgeable about my flow is like a small fuck you to the patriarchy.

    • I also have very easy and pain-free periods! Nice to hear about someone too.
      After getting a menstrual cup it has been even more uncomplicated.

  10. Aww, I miss having a period. I got an IUD in April and haven’t had one since. I miss it most because it was a good way to keep track of my mood. Now I feel out of touch with my emotions and my body and the time of months passing, etc etc feelings. It made me feel feminine and like I could do something concrete to take care of my body. I’m also a person who likes looking at their own blood.

  11. I think I was 12. I vaguely remember telling my mom and she was like “this is exciting” and I was not at all excited.

    My cramps are pretty manageable if I take Advil around the clock. My mother never had cramps so while she was never mean to me about them, she didn’t quite get how miserable I was. I learned about this new miracle drug called Advil from a friend’s mom in HS and I’ve been taking it ever since.

    My feelings about my period have changed since peri-menopause started a few years ago. I had no idea how regular I was before – I was always kind of oblivious to my body, but since I always got cramps one day before the actual bleeding, even I could figure it out.

    And now I have NO idea when my period will start or for how long or if I’ll just hear cramps with no bleeding or bleeding with no cramps or a week’s worth of spotting and nothing else. So now I usually feel vaguely confused and annoyed about my body and my period.

  12. I was fourteen and it was Halloween! In typical Howie style, I went to my mom and said “I need pads” like I totally knew exactly what I was doing, and was internally freaking out the whole time.

    I was raised a bit oddly, so I honestly thought that tampons were evil until I was out of the house. Now they are primarily what I use. Rebellion, convenience, take your pick:P

    I just wanted to say thank you sooooo much for bringing up PMDD. This is by far my worst period symptom. It actually makes me happy when my period starts, cramping and all, because that particular aspect of it is over.

    As for ritual… popcorn. I eat lots of popcorn the whole time. Ears of corn everywhere shudder when it’s that time of month.

    • “I just wanted to say thank you sooooo much for bringing up PMDD. This is by far my worst period symptom. It actually makes me happy when my period starts, cramping and all, because that particular aspect of it is over.”

      OH MY GODS YES. Periods aren’t particularly pleasant, but they’re such a RELIEF after the week and a half of Doom and Gloom.

  13. I don’t remember the exact moment, but I know it was the summer of my last year in primary school, and it was before everyone else so I felt Very Grown Up.

    I mostly just hate it now – mine is just irregular enough that a scatter brained person like me is useless at tracking it (even with Clue!) and I always seem to ruin at least 1 pair of pants a month… I am kinda lucky though, as I tend to alternate very light periods with very heavy, very painful ones. Though I am very into taking/doing anything that would help me get rid of my periods – I definitely don’t want to get pregnant, so it just seems a waste to have my period…

  14. This kind of thing is my jam. Was my one of my “morbid hobbies” for a long time and Museum of Menstruation was my #1 hit during that time.

    If I was rich bitch anthropologist I would spend yearssss collection menarche stories and publish it. My next volume of work would first or most valued sexual experiences of woman identified people.

    Vibrating with excitement.
    I will be back.

  15. I use to be on the pill and my periods were very light/nonexistant and life was GREAT! But last November/December, when I started dating a girl and heard that the pill is linked to depression, I decided to stop. My period now without the pill isn’t as bad as it was in high school-I would get bad cramps and bleed a LOT. Mostly now I just feel gross, occasionally bleed on underwear and sheets, and treat myself with ice cream. I used the apple health app to track my period, but this Clue app seems cool so I’ll try that out-thanks for the hot tip, AS!

  16. My period is a pretty standard cramps-the-first-day kinda deal, but I do combat the general gloom of the week by writing a period-related joke each month.

  17. I was 9 and already prone to worst-case-scenario catastrophizing so needless to say “unexplained bleeding no one warned you about” was somewhat traumatizing. I briefly tried to remedy the problem by performing headstands against my bedroom wall to staunch the flow (again, I was 9 y’all) but when that proved ineffective I think I flung myself onto my mother’s bed proclaiming my inevitable demise. It was not the best introduction to my impending womanhood.

  18. I don’t remember my first period, and sometimes I sort of envy people who remember theirs? But then I start thinking about all my other forgotten firsts and it’s like…I bet the first time I ate a Reese’s cup was awesome, and I’m way more sad not to have that memory.

    Re: periods, though, I always hated mine (I had the gnarliest cramps during algebra in eighth grade, I do remember that. They sure didn’t let up as I got older.) and the ACA hooked me up with an IUD this summer, and I THINK it’s easing my suffering. (This IUD is also how I found out about a giant ovarian cyst I had to have removed, so hot tip: talk to your doctor about your sucky period!)

    Btw, reusable pads make a great starter sewing project if you’re poor (or if you’re not), because if they turn out hideous, who’s gonna know? (Once they start turning out great you can advance to outerwear? Or just show your Project Runway-worthy pads off?
    I’m not here to tell you your business.) And you can go to Jo-Ann or wherever and get rad fabrics. Star Wars pads, y’all.

    • Yes about the reusable pads! I kicked a chronic yeast infection and taught myself how to sew by making my own. Thank you to the British teenager who runs Precious Stars Pads on YouTube. So easy, and the silly fabric scraps I chose make my period feel kind of…fun? Also great for travel and ovulation discharge. I will never go back to the diaper-like feel of synthetic pantyliners!

  19. I don’t remember how old I was when I got it or what the exact circumstances are. Honestly, I probably blocked them out.

    Going through my period is a monthly trauma. I hate being dirty, or sweaty, or smelly, or in pain, and my period just loads on everything at once, with an added dose of “hello it’s me your chronic depression knocking, are you ready to want to DIE again.” I feel subhuman, especially during the first few days when the bleeding is the heaviest. I’m plus size but I never really hate my body until I’m on my period, and then I just start wanting to disconnect from myself so badly.

    So it’s weird to see people talking about it like it’s funny or interesting or even just mildly annoying? If I had the money I’d get my tubes tied and an IUD inserted so I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this garbage.

  20. All I wanna do is yell about PMDD all the time

    Also yes re: Molly random good day SO MUCH ENERGY the day before It Hits (which for me means mood plummet)

    Anyway I had super shit mood for TWO WEEKS last time and didn’t put two and two together and almost quit my job every day bc I wanted to set myself on fire and die

    First line treatment is SSRIs, which either make me mixed manic or don’t work at all, second line treatment is combination birth control, which will probably make my hormone migraines worse

    A few months ago, I made the migraines AND the mood swings go away by taking vitex! And it was so lovely! Except it fucked everything else up and my cramps got so bad that I kept ending up in the ER too dehydrated to function

    Headaches and Sads it is then

  21. Also I literally never know when it’s happening and never plan for it and always have to rely on the benevolence of coworkers to hook me up with Sanitary Products

    I tried using a tracking app but the THING IS, those only work if you Remember To Use Them

  22. Mwah! Thanks so much team. You rock, as always.

    BUT you triggered my period, early. So, (grr) thanks a lot. If only I could had some THC gummy bears….

    Thanks for the ideas on easing pain, being prepared and general thoughts on bleeding. Being 40-ish is not a fun time for period shite and I need new coping skills. (Good times…)

  23. This is so perfectly timed for me!

    I think I was either 13 or 14 and it was 1am Thanksgiving day. I remember this because my mom was way more excited for me to get my period than I was, she spent probably the year leading up to the moment preparing me and saying “IS IT YOUR PERIOD??” any time I said I had a stomachache or any other mild abdominal pain.

    I have a very love/hate relationship with my menstrual cup which other than disposable pads is my main collection method. I still use pads because my cup only works about 60% of the time for me and I have no real idea why. Sometimes it just doesn’t want to work? Also I only feel comfortable changing it at home because of my toilet/sink set up and because one time I changed it at a place I was working and accidentally dripped blood on a roll of toilet paper that was LOCKED ONTO THE HOLDER. It was…not a good time.

    I mainly view my period as a mild annoyance as I usually only suffer from moderate to low-severe cramps for a couple days, but also it’s annoying because I usually start PMSing and getting random cramps a full week before it starts and it lasts another full week on it’s own.

    Anyway I always want to talk about my period so thank you for giving me the space to do so.

  24. I felt so betrayed by my own body at my menarche. I was about to turn 12 years old, desperately wanted to be a boy, and I knew puberty was going to ruin everything.

    Only, I hadn’t realised puberty was truly going to ruin everything. But that’s another story.

    Either way, I managed to hide the fact that I’d started my period from my mother for about a year, by getting rid of ruined underwear and learning to expertly fold toilet paper into a makeshift pad. The day she found out, by find some underwear I hadn’t been able to smuggle out into the bin yet, I hid, and I cried, and I hated her for not minding her own business and forcing me to deal with this thing I wanted no part in.

    My experience of my period got better after that. Until I got into my late twenties when my period got regular and brought its friend cramps and their mutual friend compulsive suicidal thoughts. Pain and not being able to think about anything but creative ways to die without being a burden to people you care about makes the days leading up to your period so much fun. (I’ve since found ways to manage the suicidal side of things, but it’s hard work)

  25. My periods are so irregular! I think? I’ve never really tracked it, so I’m going to give Clue a try. Thanks for the tip.

    I had my first period on a campout with cousins when I was 11. It wasn’t particularly heavy, despite my worrying about the “flood stage” that a lady at work was talking about one day. :o I didn’t tell anyone, and used folded up toilet paper successfully.

    I didn’t have my next one until like a year later I guess? It was school morning. I told my mom that time, but it stressed me out so much that I flushed the toilet even though my brother was in the shower downstairs at the time. Whoops! I just was never emotionally attached to (meaning I actively avoided) weird things that had to do with “growing up”. Maybe because my brothers were so mean about my body changes? (They’ve both apologized as adults, but I had an uncomfortable relationship with my body at the time). I mostly remember being late for class in Junior High because there is not enough time between classes to change books at my locker and change pads in the bathroom, but I just took the hit rather than explain it to my male teacher? Come on, you all! He was a leader in my church! Mortifying.

    Irregular. Super light sometimes. Bleeding all my insides out at others. [Got the latter type at A-camp, along with a raging head cold. I do not remember spending a more physically uncomfortable few days in recent history. So miserable (and yet, still attended some great workshops).] So many ruined clothes.

    I’d never heard of PMDD. Thanks for the tip. I just began my current period, but I’ve been dealing with such an existential crisis the past week (not suicidal, per se, but rather “why do I even exist?”), lack of empathy, hating everyone, not liking to do anything. My therapist two therapists ago finally helped me link up my need to sleep all the time for a week with PMS, but I’ve recently tried to be more aware of my mood, since I’m trying a new array of brain drugs. Something to think seriously about.

    • Clue is really helpful for seeing if there’s a trend! I recommend it.

      But if you are REALLY irregular, all you’ll learn is “wow, there is LITERALLY NO WAY to predict this shit” which is what I learned from Clue when I tracked my period there for a couple years before the miracle of BC took my period away. I think Clue told me my “average” was a laughable 32 days, but I had periods that varied from 21 to 42 days (neither were one-off events either that could be thrown out as outliers) so…that wasn’t very helpful Clue, all you got me doing was seeing 21 and going “okay it could happen ANY DAY NOW” for almost the whole next month which was not a fun way to be living (but I guess it would’ve been worse to not know and not be prepared with the requisite painkillers and menstrual cups).

  26. Anyone have advice for using a cup method if you have a “long vagina” (yikes that’s what my gyn said) and are unable to reach your cervix with your fingers? I’ve literally never felt mine even with fingers alllll the way in there. I’m tired of disposable pads and want something that’s better for my body.

    • The Diva cups have a long “stem.” When you put the cup in you fold it and it pops in. Then you turn it to make a good suction. When it is time to clean it, you pull on the stem. So it seems like that should still work.

  27. I only recently learned about PMDD and it made me do a major “hmmmmmmm”. I am on Junel fe right now and it seems to shorten the existential angst but does anyone have advice on birth control for completely getting rid of the emotional symptoms? I know periods can stop with IUDs but I was under the impression that you still go through the cycle, just without physically menstruating, so the emotional ups and downs are still there.

    • This is very YMMV, but apparently different kinds of birth control deal with the emotional part very differently. I was just recommended Implanon because it manages the hormones differently than the Pill, though I don’t quite remember how. Also you might need to take something like Prozac during certain parts of your cycle. I’m not sure there’s a way to totally eliminate them though!

  28. Oh man I am glad that this is here and that not everyone is super cool with periods (because in my experience a lot of period things either are PERIODS ARE THE DEVIL or PERIODS ARE AWESOME WOMAN POWER and…no neither are totally true even if PERIODS ARE THE DEVIL is basically my lived experience of them).

    I am SUPER STOKED to not bleed every month or two (even when I had a period it went out of its way to be as INCONVENIENT AS POSSIBLE by not even being predictable) thanks to my current BC. But because my body is like “hmmm you aren’t suffering enough” so I still get some epic cramps most days thanks to my pelvic floor dysfunction (and suspected endometriosis) and…the “good” days of that my cramps are managed by muscle relaxers, heat (or sometimes ice depending on what is going on sometimes the spasming muscles need the ice), LOTS OF STRETCHING, hot baths, my lovely medical weed, and like probably some crying and dissociating. Bad days are so bad I get to go to the ER and stay there a couple days because I can’t walk (because my quads, adductors, and psoas get in on the FUN CRAMP ACT and between that and pain, I LITERALLY can’t walk; there may also be a component of cataplexy to the not being able to walk because it’s not definitive whether or not I experience cataplexy as part of my narcolepsy but that much pain is STRESSFUL AS FUCK so like if anything were gonna trigger cataplexy that would) to get fluids (because I can’t keep anything down) and IV dilaudid or morphine and feel basically the same as appendicitis feels but on my left size and also the worst menstrual cramps you can imagine at the same time that will get me from unable to walk and not very lucid to…still being in a lot of pain but caring about that a lot less, but able to walk, but also still not very lucid from the painkillers because I need enough to get to that point where they staff get concerned about my respiration and BP.

    And like honestly…my bad days are only like one and a half notches up from where my pain typically was for cramps, except that since it’s not “just cramps” medical professionals will actually sometimes take my pain seriously and help me deal with it.

  29. “Now I have a Paragard because I’m afraid of the Handmaid’s Tale and so I have a period and that’s like, fine.”

    Same, Rachel. Same.

    Anyone got any tips on how to use a cup when you have an IUD? I’m terrified of accidentally ripping mine out and destroying my cervix, so I’ve been sticking to tampons.

  30. My period also started on my birthday when I turned 12. I wrote my mom a note, because subtlety? For several years there wasn’t much pain and I used pads. The in college I started getting cramps. It took a while for me to discover the wonder of Ibuprofen as my mom never takes pain meds including giving birth twice. My senior year of college I was excited to purchase a keeper and some reusable pads as a back up. After 10 years I purchased a Diva cup which also seems to work fine, though with some spotting.

    My period is generally pretty regular. When I was going through fertility stuff it seemed like hey, my parts should work, and then they didn’t, so I felt mad at my period. Why have pain and bleed when it wasn’t useful for making a baby. Now I take naproxen and try to ignore the whole thing.

  31. I rarely have any pain related to my periods. I often times feel like it is a bit criminal to say it out loud because I have the perception that most periods are painful? I’d like to think that loving my womanhood deeply explains my easy periods but I don’t think so. I would like to find a formula for pain-free periods. I’m sure that the culture where periods are labeled as burden and something disgusting makes PMS and menstrual pain more severe. A culture where there is misogyny contributes to painful periods. A culture where only one type of female bodies are presented as worthy of loving also makes periods more painful. I would love to hear more honest and open conversation around periods. Thank you thousand times for this Roundtable.

    I also have noticed that my dreams become more intuitive and guiding during my menstruation. It is nice to have read at least one similar kind of experience here.

    • Oh, and I got my period when I was 11 and my mun wrote a note to my teacher that I couldn’t go swimming because “she has period-like bleeding”. I was so embarrassed to give this note to her and it didn’t help that she just looked at me suspiciously like she didn’t believe me. Maybe it had something to do with me skipping swimming the last two weeks already…

  32. Okay so I got busy then self conscious about writing this out and it’s like 5 days later but here it goes:

    Menstrual narratives, especially menarche stories, are interesting and important to me because I no narratives for the experience before it happened. All I had was a rudimentary scientific explanation. No sisters, friends or even female cousins close to my age at that point in my life.

    First time, methods, rituals, pain management, emotions, and tip are so important because experiences vary greatly, and not every one gets heard living people in the dark, feeling alone or not realising when something is very wrong and might be serious condition “because it’s supposed to hurt” or the menstruators in their tell them “it can’t be that bad, stop whining”

    I never heard of PMDD until I’d been menstruating for a couple years. I never heard of endometriosis or that there was family history of it until I passed out from pain at 18.
    My mother never told me, she had difficulty conceiving because of endo and 2 of her cousins daughters had it so bad conception was impossible for them.
    And she never told me until that day.

    Some literature for girls on what to expect given to me in way I found humiliating(x-mas gift I opened in front of everyone along with shampoo to tame my hair) and some I read because I bored had such Polly Anna Sunshine bullshit on what to expect I, a book respecting child of a librarian almost threw a book.
    I couldn’t shred that pamphlet b/c I was in public, but in private I would have shredded and burned it.

    But back to the main idea this knowledge, narratives, first hand experiences is important for people about to menstruate, just started menstruating, or having menstruating for years.
    Because there are gaps, and some big freaking cracks, in the dissemination of menstrual information on everything.
    We are the only ones who can fill those gaps for each other.

  33. First Time: I was 13.
    It was the third anniversary of 9/11 and my Saturday cartoon Teen Titans was on commercial break. I didn’t want to go to the bathroom because I was convinced by dad was going to change the channel to crappy exploitative memorial footage my mom found upsetting rather then wait for the nice CBS special at 5 or so. But I knew I had to go, there was no turning back from this moment I had long feared and worked out like a demon to try to prevent. My underpants had never felt such a thin film of moisture like that before. I knew what I was going to find when I pulled my purple panties down, but still said,”Ah shit.” made my very first wad pad and made my way upstairs without drawing suspicion and stole what I thought were pads, but were actually sanitary liners, from my mom’s side of the master bath cabinet.
    After a week of spotting I burned my panties in offering to The Morrigan and probably Hecate too, and snuck the super uper wrapped and bagged used liners in the Friday trash after everyone went to bed.

    My 2nd period in October was fucking blood bath in comparison and a humiliating experience because my mother demanded I leave the house and spend time with people at some Halloween themed thing the YMCA.
    It began with the ruining of my uniform khakis while in my last period class, no one noticed because my sweater loving ass was covered by said sweater. Still holy shit I am I glad it was plastic chair because that poor little napkin liner was as good as bandaid on a damn.

    When I got home all I wanted to do was hide in the bathroom or something, but nooo. So rather than explain why I didn’t want to go to the YMCA thing or ask for help I grabbed all the liners, possibly half my underwear drawer, maybe some duct-tape and improvised something that looked like a diaper then put on red cotton shorts that just so happened to cling to my every curve.

    It still wasn’t enough to stem the flow and I walked around in public like that for 2 hours internally cringing every second while I bled into my shorts, I knew the blood had to be visible by the 1 hour mark. Someone must have told my mother because suddenly she and my aunt were like flanking me to the car in silence, giving each other weighted looks. Once we were home my dad distracted my brother with something I think. My mom took me into the bathroom started trying to give me a talk she should have started when I was 8 or 9 while handing me a pad. I screamed at her that I knew how to use it, why could you just listen to me and sobbed till I thought I’d puke.
    I was angry at her, angry at my body and humiliated just so fucking humiliated. After this my mother listened to me without question when I said I don’t feel like going somewhere and never demanded I go somewhere.

    To this day I’ve never had such a humiliating experience and that includes the time my brother discovered I was on my period by snooping through the trash. Decided to throw my used pad at me and told me to get out of the house because I was “perioding” therefore disgusting and belonged outside like garbage.

    Method: Flex foam pads with white, holey or really ugly patterned briefs. A solo pad for the day and dual pads (one on the crotch and one in the back) at night or when I’d be reclining alot.

    Pain Management: Right now what I do is try to up my potassium and magnesium intake, take some naproxen and avoid food that gives my guts trouble. And heating pads. If it gets really bad and I have something important to do I’ll take a meloxicam tablet. It’s my medication and it was prescribed to me by a doctor, I know enough about science to not take pills not prescribed to me. Don’t need more problems

    Ritual: I have a bath ritual that’s remained a constant since I started it. It’s part mediation, part indulgent relaxation. The most important part is a snack I can eat slowly and enjoy every bite like I have all the time in the word. Then I take naproxen. :)
    I’ve had everything from a 89 cent yogurt cup on ice to beef jerky and chocolate.

    Personally: I get a rush from the premenstrual hormones, orgasms come really easy. Meat tastes 1000x better. Feed me a fine cut of steak I’ll struggle not to moan like pornstar. Fruit tastes like candy. Sometimes I listen to my werewolf playlist and just spend enjoy the aforementioned things, I’m so hungry and just want to feed.
    It’s like Mardi Gras, and my period itself is like Lent.
    Really I feel like premenstrually my body is preparing to hibernate because the first 2 days I hardly eat and can’t stand alot of foods beyond simple things like beef sausage, jerky and sea salt ‘n’ vinegar chips, or grits with ginger ale.

    It doesn’t make me feel womanly and special. And I’m not embarrassed by it any more, just embarrassed by the social stigma I think is harmful. It’s just part of my existence that at times can be very aggravating to agonizing.

    Hot Tip:
    EAT THE FUCKING CHOCOLATE, it has magnesium in the muscles of your uterus are running a damn marathon. Magnesium helps maintain muscle function and dark chocolate has anywhere from about 40-60 mg of it.
    Annnd eat the baked goods with banana in them, they’ve got potassium which muscles require to function.
    Eat them fried plantains they have more potassium than cavendish bananas.
    Sweet potatoes? Yass and more than a banana
    Avocado? Most potassium rich food of all, like 1000 mg in one whole avocado. Everything else is still in the 100’s place.
    Also guess what my potato chip craving compatriots there’s like 360 mg of potassium in 1 oz of potato chips. I can’t remember all the magnesium highlights.

    But point is menstruation is draining. Fuel your body the best you can when you can with stuff it needs and do nice things for yourself or obtain a minion to do it for you if you’re indisposed.
    Send them out for avocado toast, dark chocolate, those chips or sweet potato pie etc.
    Take hot bath, soak and pretend the world waits upon you for a bit, treat yourself.

  34. First time: When I got my period, my mom was angry. She cursed, stormed off, and brought back this pad that was longer than my torso. She was VERY anti tampons and I was not allowed to use those because I was a virgin. Getting my period was not a fun time in my life.

    Method: I love tampons for ease and cleanliness (my perception) and Menstrual Cups. I have since become acquainted with semi- free bleeding aka period undies and I am IN. I love it. If I could find some that would hold up to The Shining-like waves of blood, I would wear them all the time.

    Pain Management: I try not to take anything but sometimes the pain is debilitating, so I will use the heating pad and some Motrin.

    Ritual:No real rituals except I make sure all of my period undies are clean, ready, and easily accessible.

    Hot Tips: I found incontinence undies at CVS (methinks) and they ROCK for periods. I love them. They have a bit of a diaper sound if you are without pants at home but otherwise, they rock.

  35. Throwback to that time last ACamp when I started talking to Riese and within 5 minutes she’d pulled an ob tampon out of her purse and was enthusiastically trying to convince half my cabin to start using them ? ?

  36. I love my period. I find her so fascinating and magical. Blood is such a powerful personal affect (the Hoodoo in me is consistently conjuring up ways to ritualized my period).

    She first showed up at like age 14 I think, I dont remember it being super noteworthy.
    I’ve gotten to the place where I look forward to menstrual cup time. For the last 6 months or so I’ve been collecting my menstrual blood with some rose petals, lavender, and liquor and pouring it out on my lawn as a way of giving it back to the Earth Muva. Life changing. I spend the first day of my period doing as much comfy, rest type stuff as possible.

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