It’s that time of the month! No, not the holidays. Or summer vacation. It’s that thing. You know, the monthly visitor who comes to town wherever and whenever it pleases. It’s never a fun time when they’re around.
That thing we’re referring to is menstruation, or period, as we typically call it. Menstruation happens when the body discards blood and tissue out through the vagina. Whether you get your periods regularly or irregularly, every girl knows it’s a struggle.
Your First Day
“Your first day” or the onset of menstruation is typically seen as a rite of passage to womanhood. It’s a big deal. For every girl out there, it’s a point in our lives where we become a dalaga. Despite that, getting your period is both scary and shameful at the same time.
“I didn’t know a lot about periods when I first got mine. But when I did, I thought it was [poop emoji] since it was brown. I was embarrassed and confused the entire day. I went to our school clinic and told them about my situation and that’s where I learned it was actually me starting my period already.”
– Anonymous Contributor
We learn about menstruation in school, but no amount of class discussions prepares you for it. Sometimes, our parents don’t even tell us about it until we get our first period. It’s on our first day when we learn what menstruation looks and feels like.
Eventually, we learn “menstrual etiquette”. Girls are taught that menstruation is dirty and gross. Thus, we must be discreet at all times when managing our menstruation. Such as using euphemisms to refer to menstruation (“meron ako”) and to never bring it up in public. By treating menstruation as a taboo, many women and girls don’t completely understand their bodies, which has lasting consequences on their health, body image, and sex life.
Period Stain of Shame
Whenever girls get the period, they follow an unspoken rule. There’s a certain “dress code” we abide by. Basically, light colored pants or dresses are off-limits and others take the extra step and wear safety shorts even if it feels uncomfortable and hot. We’ve even devised ways of discreetly checking for stains by ourselves or among our girl friends. Such as, walking a few paces ahead of our friends to “check” if we bled through our pants. We become extra self-conscious during these days because nothing is as stressful as having your period arriving unannounced or finding out you just bled through your pants for all the world to see.
“Dyahe [Embarrassed] because you might have a stain and already know it…[feeling] super uncomfortable to sit in long periods of time during class.”
– Anonymous Contributor
It’s not just about ruining your clothes, rather it’s ingrained in women and girls to feel humiliated about it. Even just the smallest drop of blood on our clothes is enough to become a source of laughter or disgust for people. Regardless of the fact that these things happen by accident – and at times, out of our control – girls and women are made to cover up for others convenience.
Finding the Right Period Products
Another ordeal girls face is finding the right period products. Depending on one’s lifestyle and preferences, choices can vary between period pads, tampons, and menstrual cups.
Each type of period care product has its own advantages and disadvantages. In the Philippines, available options for period care are limited. For their first period, girls typically use pads. Although tampons and menstrual cups are available nowadays, most girls and women stick to using pads. Most products, especially pads, are composed of harmful chemicals and plastics – both harmful to the body and environment.
Nowadays, alongside movements and campaigns, there are brands that are just as committed in empowering and educating women, alongside prioritizing wellness, body positivity, and sustainability. Nala Woman stands out for this exact reason. Not only are they transparent in what goes into their products, but also advocate for safer and healthier periods.
Currently, the brand offers products such as pantyliners, pads, and tampons. Each one is biodegradable, chemical-free and fragrance-free, and ensures maximum absorbency and comfort.
Really, Really Painful Periods
Period pain is a common and normal part of our menstrual cycle. Most women experience it as painful muscle cramps in the stomach, back, and thighs, either before, during, or after their period. The intensity of the pain also differs for everyone. Some women experience little to no discomfort, while others feel more pain.
“People then do not consider dysmenorrhea as a valid reason to be absent or not doing some activities at school.”
– Anonymous Contributor
Sometimes, period pain gets to a point where girls and women have to take time off from school or work. However, many people still don’t recognize period pain as a valid excuse. Period pain is often downplayed and treated as if women are over-exaggerating. When period pain is dismissed, women’s reproductive health is put at risk. Rather than diagnosing other underlying factors for period pain, women are just told to take painkillers and call it a day.
There’s a long way to go in destigmatizing menstruation. When we keep our discussions surrounding it hushed, we are leaving it open for others to create misinformation and force shame. When women are aware of and comfortable with their body’s functions, they can feel empowered. Hence, why we need to continue having open, honest, and educated conversations about menstruation.