There’s so much I wish I’d known about periods before getting mine. I debated penning a few novels on the topic (Pride and Periods or A Tale of Two Cramps were just a few titles I was tossing around). But instead I boiled it down to the top five takeaways — read on for the Cliff Notes version I never had.
1. “Blood” Can Be Misleading
When I pictured what getting my period would look like, I envisioned a bright red fountain gushing forth from between my legs (yeah, horrifying). Truth is, my mental picture was a bit too dramatic. It’s not blood leaving your body— it’s uterine lining. That means that while it may “flow” sometimes, you’ll just as often be left with clumps, and they may be more brownish than red. Or a mix. Or almost stringy. Not to worry — all these variations are normal.
2. Hormones Are No Joke
The week before I got my period for the first time, I happened to be at sleep-away camp. I loved camp usually, but I never felt so homesick as I did this time. I would cry at night and feel totally alone and detached during the day. Hormones, come on down!
The burst of hormones around the time of your period (and, specifically, how they affect your mental state) can be really shocking at first. This affects each woman differently, but it’s good to keep an eye on. Be aware of your own emotions and explore them — remember you are in control of you — even if you have to fight through some hormones sometimes.
3. Irregular Is Regular
When I heard that periods would come about every 28 days and last about five, my little type-A brain latched on to these numbers with a super-human tenacity. But really, I should have been paying more attention to those qualifying “abouts.” Those are only approximate timeframes in general (it varies from woman to woman), and especially when your period first starts, it can be a little all over the place. Sometimes it’s much shorter than 28 days in between — sometimes your period lasts longer than five days. Sometimes you’ll have “spotting” between periods (yeah, fun mini-treats those). Sometimes it will be heavy. Other times it will be light. All normal.
4. But Pain Isn’t Normal
As I’ve mentioned before, I used to have super painful periods. The pain affected me both mentally and physically, and I endured it for far, far too long. Cramps and bloating and periods in general can suck—but they shouldn’t make your life miserable. If you’re experiencing severe pain (of any kind) talk to a doctor. Don’t wait it out.
5. There Are So Many Resources Out There
The image I had in my head about what getting my period would be like was so… off. I hadn’t asked anyone all the questions swirling around in my head (and as it turns out, I didn’t actually know the right questions to ask). But you are so lucky — there are tons of resources out there today (heyo FloDown!) for you to learn about your body and all the weird/unformed questions you may have. Check them out. Oh, and talk to other women in your life. The conversations may be awkward, but make the conversations happen. You’ll be glad you did.
What do you wish you’d known about periods before you got your first one? Sound off in the comments below!
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.