Recently, WWAC writer Ray Sonne took one for the team and tried out Thinx, period-proof underwear. This got a conversation going about the type of menstruation products out there, and what this usually means for WWAC is “start a roundtable!” In fact, this topic got so many of us going that lifestyle editor, Ginnis, had to turn it into two parts. Here is Part 1, and Part 2 will follow soon…ish.
Okay, period havers, I think names are important, so what do you call your menstruation time? Got any clever monikers to share with the group?
Ray Sonne: That red-colored bitch and a half.
Romona Williams: I go with the plain yet accurate “my period,” occasionally calling it “ragtime” to be abrasive.
Wendy Browne: I amuse myself with “moon time,” the nice name all the fantasy books give it that makes it sound so pleasant and magical.
Catie Coleman: Like Romona, I usually just go with calling it a period, though I do indulge in the occasional ridiculous by calling it the “Red Tide.” And “Aunt Flo” is a classic.
Alenka Figa: Like Romona and Catie, I also called it a period, or perhaps more accurately, “sorry-for-the-TMI-but-my-period…”
Melissa Brinks: I usually also just go with a period, but if I’m being particularly dramatic I’ll hiss or otherwise make a big deal with, “I’m bleeding.”
Lela Gwenn: Usually just my period, but sometimes The Red Death or Crimson Tide.
What is your menstruation time usually like?
Romona: It’s fairly regular, give or take a couple days. The night before it begins, I always get uncontrollable cravings for carbs. I could eat two baguettes and still be looking for more. Then I experience extremely heavy bleeding for the first two days, followed by 3-4 days of light, intermittent bleeding. The beginning is usually accompanied by extreme abdominal pain plus a headache, which I will typically take a few Motrin twice a day to counteract, plus take a hot bath to relax the muscles, and I’ve noticed that drinking caffeinated beverages seems to help with the head-aching.
Wendy: I have it easy compared to most. Mine is usually only heavy for about three of the five days, and cramps are minimal. I remember once watching a friend’s already pale skin turn white and her lips turn blue with menstruation pain, lying on the ground in our high school office. I vowed never to complain about my period after that. But I’m human. I do whine a little bit about the bloating, general feelings of blaaah, headaches. I can also be very irritable, but I’ll blame my family for not leaving me alone (or sometimes for simply existing) during my moon time.
Ray: Much more tolerable ever since my OBGYN put me on a birth control with a higher estrogen content. I still get it pretty heavy for two days, but it’s manageable by the fourth day. My least favorite part is that I get tender in that area, which feels like a thing that doesn’t need to happen but whatever, bodies.
Catie: My period has always been irregular and stopped all together for a few years due to PCOS. While not having to deal with it was great, I’ve since gone on birth control to make sure everything stays on a monthly cycle. It’s a good move health-wise, but it was so great not having to deal with it. It’s usually fairly light and short now, but I still can’t rely on my uterus to keep a schedule enough to actually plan for it.
Alenka: Depends on the month; I have a good period, bad period pattern. One month I’ll have a relatively light period that isn’t fun but isn’t debilitating, and the next the first couple days of my period will be utterly horrid. I’m in pain, I’m light-headed, and my sense of smell heightens, so various smells make me feel nauseous. Fortunately, my periods have always been pretty short, so the awful stuff is front-loaded and then goes away, but it still SUCKS.
Melissa: Unpleasant. I have a copper IUD because my body doesn’t like hormones, but, as it turns out, it doesn’t like having a hunk of plastic and copper in it either. My periods are long, painful, and heavy and generally leave me feeling pretty wiped out. I cuddle with a heating pad and try to focus on things that make me happy, because I have a tendency to get very angry, very sad, or both.
Lela: I had (have?) Stage 4 Endometriosis, so up until my excision surgery last November my periods were me wishing for sweet, sweet death. Now my organs aren’t clogged up and misplaced, so things are much better.
Wendy: Like I said, my period isn’t as bad as some, so I just soldier through it the same way I do a cold, with the occasional moments of rolling up in a fetal position behind closed doors. I don’t actually get cravings. Or rather, I crave french fries and fried rice on a regular basis, so my period or pregnancy makes for a nice fast food justification.
I did miss not having a period when I was on an IUD, or even when I was pregnant, but since my husband had a vasectomy, I find it exhilarating to finally be free from needing or having hormones or parasites (a.k.a. my beautiful babies) controlling my body for the first time in almost two decades.
Ray: I eat way too much sugar, try to avoid exercise, pout when I eventually get myself to exercise, and slump in front of the TV and pout at that, too.
Catie: Thankfully, mine is usually easy enough that the occasional aspirin and a heating pad can get me through most days. I can definitely tell when I start wanting to cry over cat videos that my period is about to arrive.
Romona: Aside from the Motrin, caffeine, and bath, if I’m feeling totally sapped of energy or a migraine is coming on, I’ll let my family know I need to be left alone for a while and will go lay down in bed with the lights off and the shade pulled. The darkness and quiet work to interrupt the migraine from gaining strength and a little time to disconnect goes a long way.
Alenka: Ibuprofen. For the most part I soldier through, but taking ibuprofen to ease any pain and relax my muscles makes a huge difference. If Alenka + period = nonfunctional person, Alenka + period + ibuprofen = functional person.
Melissa: Is whining a good answer? Other than that, my heating pad, chamomile tea, ibuprofen, and sleep.
Lela: Now? Aleve. Maybe a heating pad. Before? Heating pads, lots of broth and coconut water on hand. CHOCOLATE. Someone around to help me out when things got unbearable.
Do you have any preferred products that you would like to share with our readers?
Wendy: I prefer Kotex products. The colours please me—especially the sleek black box that my husband thought contained another gaming mouse—and the products strive to be compact and comfortable. They aren’t perfect, but they try, and their advertising campaigns and public service efforts help too. Also, I use the Period Tracker, My Calendar app to track my period and symptoms.
Ray: My new pairs of Thinx period underwear! Thanks, baes.
Wendy: Jealous! Must order some!!
Catie: I also like the Kotex in fun colors! Products that have wings and are thin while still being heavy-duty are my sweet spot. Even though I don’t normally actually need the heavy-duty factor, I’m paranoid about menstrual disasters. But now I am very interested in the Thinx period underwear!
Alenka: I’ve been dancing around trying a Diva cup or a Moon cup for forever, but toward the end of my period when the flow is lighter, just having a tampon in actually can increase my cramps! I’ve been really attracted to the idea of using reusable pads ever since I watched Erika Moen’s gladrags promo videos but keep being off-put by the price. Now I’m dancing around trying Thinx. I will sing the praises of OB tampons forever! They don’t have applicators and use minimal packaging, so they’re much cheaper than regular tampons, and because they’re so tiny I can stick one in my pocket for when I need it.
Wendy: I prefer the smooth plastic applicators, but I definitely like how OB tampons fit snuggly in the palm of your hand. I don’t need carry my whole purse to the washroom or awkwardly hide them in sleeves when I don’t have pockets.
Melissa: I’m all about Tampax Pearl. I’ve never been able to find another brand that works quite so well for me. I also have a pair of Thinx, which are amazing! My flow is too heavy to do without a tampon backup, but they are so comfy and make me feel much more protected overall. I also use the Clue app for my phone to track my PMS symptoms because I get weird ones at different times in my cycle and it’s nice to have a reminder that it’s all part of the process.
Lela: I like Softcups. It’s low barrier to entry and they are much easier to get in place. (IMHO)
Wendy: On my brother’s wedding eve night, he dropped off his bride-to-be and her bridesmaids, myself included. Before he drove off, she said “Can you pick me up some tampons please?” With no hesitation or squeamishness, he responded, “Regular or super?”
There are a lot of myths surrounding periods that need to be busted. A general education for everyone would help set girls and women at ease by clearing out the long list of stigmas and myths and the basic ignorance of how the body works. I would really love to see more guys like my brother who get that this is just a natural part of life.
Catie: Sex + periods is a major source of confusion and misinformation. I’ve heard both: “you can’t get pregnant from sex on your period,” as well as “your period means you’re ovulating therefore you will definitely get pregnant” which, uh, both of these things aren’t true! I think a lack of thorough sex ed where you can ask questions like that allow this false information to be taken as fact. For everyone, not just people who need to understand their own bodies! This perception that anything period-related will taint a dude’s masculinity is so toxic for everyone.
Romona: There seems to be a common misconception that women are somehow irrational during their periods. Does mine make me more emotional and/or irritable? Yes. But, I don’t lash out at people or behave in unpredictable ways. I have a memory of arguing with one of my older brothers when I was a kid about whether or not there should be a woman president. Of course there should be one, but his entire counterpoint was “If a woman president was on her period she would go into the Oval Office and press the button to blow up the world.” I remember being frustrated and disgusted that he thought that scenario was even a possibility. There are too many caricatures of women acting unreasonably during their periods, especially considering how far from reality those depictions really are.
Alenka: Romona, have you ever seen that Daily Show montage of cis male politicians publicly getting emotional and crying? It’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
I have a difficult time with conversations surrounding periods as being gross. I know a stereotypical reaction from non period-having dudebros is “ew!” when the subject comes up, and I understand the need to change perspectives regarding periods as something that shouldn’t be discussed because they are gross. But you know what? I have a period, I don’t like it, I don’t want it, and I think it’s gross. That doesn’t come from a place of shame, it’s how I genuinely feel about this bloodbeast that upsets my life once a month. I’d rather come from a perspective of, “bodies do gross things, but we still need to talk about them because they are natural,” rather than, “your period isn’t gross, it’s beautiful and you should love it!” Sorry, not happening.
Wendy: Shit and piss and snot are gross and they happen every day and jokes are made. We need to normalize menstruation so that we can add it to the list of gross things our bodies do and that we can talk about and even joke about without anyone feeling shame and discomfort.
Melissa: Everything everybody said above! Bodies do gross stuff and periods are part of that. I’m definitely not a fan of mine and I wish I didn’t have it, but it’s natural. If I can blow my nose in public, I should be able to walk to the bathroom without having to do some sort of weird sleight-of-hand trick to hide my tampon lest somebody see and judge me. Which is not to say I don’t totally do that, only that I wish there wasn’t such a connection between periods and being unclean or shameful.
Lela: That it is normal for your period to be life alteringly terrible and that if it is…..it’s actually not and you’re being dramatic and probably you’re just emotional and histrionic because…period. I actually set up PeriodNormal.com so period havers could describe what their period is like. We don’t talk about it enough.
Want more? Stay tuned for Part 2!