I always look forward to writing for Kiss and Tell Magazine because of the wonderful array of topics to choose from, and this month is no exception. Without a doubt, a discussion about the joys and benefits of having a period is in order, as we celebrate on June 9th National No Apologies Period Day.

In my experience, unfortunately, most conversations about menstruation, and especially menstrual periods, include a litany of negative statements. It’s embarrassing, it’s uncomfortable, it hurts, I can’t have sex during my period, products are hard to use and find (especially at school!), it’s dirty, it’s messy, it’s gross…yes, I assure you, I have heard each and every one of them verbatim! It’s easy to get sucked into the negatives associated with having a period however that is not the intent behind National No Apologies Period Day. Menstruation, having a period, is not shameful instead it’s a reminder that your body is powerful and beautiful. 

Purpose of having a period

To begin, let’s review what the purpose of a menstrual period is. The cycle begins the first day of bleeding and ends the day before bleeding begins again. The menstrual cycle does not simply include the days of bleeding, or “the period”, but all the days that follow, until the next period starts. From the onset of the cycle, under the influence of hormones, the female reproductive system begins to prepare the body for the release of an egg and then subsequently, for the fertilization of that egg.

The term itself comes from the Greek words “peri”, which means (a)round, and “hodos”, which means the way or the path. In other words, an event that is cyclical, and moves forward. Like the cycles of the moon, menstrual cycles are as ever-present as life itself.

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Changes in the body

As the days of the month go by, there are subtle but detectable changes that take place, indicating that ovulation is approaching and then has passed. I have discussed these changes at length in another article, Ovulation is a Miraculous Process, they prepare the body for possible fertilization.

One of these changes is a gradual thickening of the uterine lining, called the Endometrium. This lining primarily consists of nutrient-rich blood, tissue, and mucous membrane. If it stays in place to nourish a growing embryo and is not shed as a “period”, one can usually assume that one is pregnant. If the lining is shed, pregnancy has likely not occurred, and the endometrium leaves the body at the beginning of a new cycle. Under normal circumstances, one will not have a period while one is pregnant, as maintaining the lining of the uterus is vital to the health and maturation of the growing egg.

Not going through this process, that is, the shedding of blood and tissue after the end of the cycle can indicate a condition called Endometriosis. This can be serious and should be evaluated by a medical professional.

If we don’t build the healthy tissue needed to support an embryo, we can’t nourish fertilized eggs if they implant. If we don’t nourish fertilized eggs, they cannot grow into embryos, fetuses, and eventually the human beings to which we give birth. If we don’t give birth to human beings, well, you can imagine the way that story ends. Catastrophe!

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Pain felt during your period

As far as the pain sometimes associated with menstruating goes, yes, there is a reason why that happens to some people and the last thing we want to do is talk anyone out of the symptoms they are experiencing. When the endometrium is shed, it needs a little “push” in order to leave the uterus successfully and completely. The uterus, which is a powerful, muscular organ, contracts a bit to make this happen. Sometimes it causes pain and can be uncomfortable. There are many over-the-counter pain relievers that can be taken over the course of hours, that will mitigate this pain. It should not last longer than the days of bleeding.

Negative messages about your period

Back to those unfavorable connotations about periods. As I mentioned above, menstruating is natural and life-giving. If we could begin to see it as such, maybe we could begin to address some of the uncomfortableness with it, especially at menarche, when menstrual periods first begin. Young girls are sometimes unprepared for their first period, both because talking about it is not encouraged and because what they do hear is often negative commentary.

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Period Supplies

The same goes for the “period products” that are readily available at just about any drug store these days. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to learn about them, buy them, share them, experiment with them, and use what suits your needs best. It’s hard to know whether tampons break the hymen, which is a thin membrane at the opening of the vagina, since bike riding, horseback riding, and other physical activities can break the hymen, as well.

But if this is a concern for you, pads are also very effective. If supplies are not available at your school, or your child’s school, speak to a teacher or the school nurse and ask for them to be carried in the health office. This is the responsibility of your school, and it should go without saying that supplies need to be kept on hand. Get a group of students, parents, and friends together and advocate for this.

In conclusion, I hope this discussion has assisted you in embracing your period and enlightened you as far as understanding how healthy, normal, and life-affirming menstruation is. Periods should not be dreaded or feared. There is so much we can do to dispel myths about menstruation by simply normalizing it. Experience how good and cleansing that feels and then try to think of your period in the same healthy, natural way. This process is as natural as breathing. The first episode of menstruation is called Menarche, and unless we interfere with it, the menstrual cycle will continue month after month until a later-in-life phase takes over, called Menopause (that’s a completely different discussion).