Periods Around the World

 

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a bubble. I didn’t learn about periods until some woke kids at 4th grade summer camp broke the news and tore my innocent world apart. Later, I found out that my mom forced my older sister to hide her period products from me so I wouldn’t ask questions. When my mom picked me up from summer camp, I let her know that I knew all about periods, and she passed me the American Girl Body Book baton and I OBSESSED over it. I read that thing more than my Nanna reads the Bible. Knowledge = power.

It wasn’t until my 20s when my best friend started oversharing her weird vagina woes, that I started opening up my own dialogue with other friends. That’s when I first learned that many of my international lady friends had never once used a tampon. What??

I had to learn more.

So I did.

I recently surveyed over 2,000 women from all around the world about their period experiences. And now I’d like to impart some of this knowledge onto you, so you can have a mind-blowing or bubble-breaking experience, too.

 

 

Fact #1: Fewer American women learn about their periods from their mothers than in every other country. This may be because we as Americans are conservative and rely on our education system to inaccurately educate our children on topics we’re too embarrassed to talk to them about ourselves (hi, mom!)  

Oh also, we’re the only country that uses tampons more than pads. So there’s that...

As someone who had to:

1) personally bury her used tampons on a camping trip to avoid getting attacked by a bear and

2) wasn’t allowed to attend lakeside swimming lessons during her period for fear of attracting leeches, I relate to this next fact in a big way.

In India, 34% of women are afraid of being attacked by a lion or bear during their period. This certainly puts my fear of leaking through my white jeans in perspective.  

While we are on the subject of women in India, Indian women are also most likely to miss work when they’re on their period.

Through this study I also found that 73% of women globally hide their period from others which makes me wonder if that has something to do with it.

Not going to lie, when I was a young, innocent newly-menstruating girl of 12,  I remember asking my mom “If a tampon goes in the same place as a penis, does it feel good to put it in?”  This opened up a very uncomfortable conversation (for both parties) about the birds, the bees and the wonders of the female anatomy. In retrospect, I was super lucky to get schooled on this subject at a young age, but not everyone is.

Case in point, 60% of Chinese women are concerned that using tampons affect their virginity.

While all of these statistics were surprising to me perhaps the most surprising of all is that 68% of women globally are afraid to talk about their periods with men.

Even now in 2017, there is still so much stigma surrounding menstruation that we’re literally terrified to talk about it with each other which only further prevents accurate education in school, new products from being invented, and real change from happening.

So I challenge you. Start talking. Talk to men about how periods work. Talk to your mom about what you wish she told you. Tell your dad that it doesn’t have to be embarrassing. High five your coworker on syncing. In doing so my hypothesis is that all women will have greater confidence, and men will in turn have compassion and rally behind us to help drive change .

Share your period story with the hashtag #myperiodstory or shout it loud in the comments below.  

 

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  • The US Here but grew up in a Salvadorian family. My mom grew up in a poor town in El Salvador, she said that she didn’t know anything about women’s menstruation. She recalls that when she first got it she thought she was dying or that she had done some wrong. She didn’t tell anyone about it except for her older brother who also didn’t know what was happening to her. She was the oldest girl of 8 children and my grandmother till this day is very taboo about all these things. My mom said her brother would just get ger her towels to help her and when my grandpa found the bloody towels he asked my mom about it. She told him what was happening and my grandpa went to the store and brought her back a pack of pads a booklet explaining all about the changes in her body. She learns that this was normal and that it was a monthly thing. My grandpa told her she now needed to keep a calendar to keep track of the day on her period. My mom swore that if she ever had a daughter she would educate her so she wouldn’t feel ashamed of it. She also had to educate her little sister as they grew up.

    I’m now very grateful that my mother did educate me about it before it came and before we saw a video about it in school. I remember the day I got my period I was 12 years old and I had just come home from school. My mom was busy talking on the phone, I went to use her bathroom when I saw the stain on my underwear after wiping. I kind of got all excited about it. I thought “wow it finally came!” I didn’t know where my mom kept her pads so I asked her about them and she was too busy on the phone. I then got upset that on this glorious day she was too busy and I felt ignored haha! So I just went straight to my room and wait for her to come join me. She came in and said, “So, what’s this I hear about my little girl becoming a little woman?” I told her “Oh I thought you didn’t hear me, Yes I got my period mom!” I was excited about some reason. She went and showed me where she kept her pads for whenever I needed them. But yes my mom has always been super against tampons. She too believes that that take away a girls virginity by breaking the hymen. So until this day, I’ve never used tampons and I’ve been afraid to do so. I used to hear stories about girls ending up in the hospital for it getting stuck. But I wanted to let that fear go so I actually tried to put one in about 2 years back and watched videos on how to do it but I could never get the darn thing to go inside and it just hurt. I figured tampons are just not for me. Then I found out about Flex. I got my first Box free to try it and ever since I just Flex Fits. They are truly the best solution for me!

  • I was born outside of the United States. There is absolutely no sex Ed in my country and menstruation is usually a taboo. However in my household, it has never been something to be ashamed of. My mother had her pad bag next to the toilet in a little case during her period and sat me down when I was 10 and told me that there will come a time when I will become a grown lady. That women bleed out of their private parts but it means they are healthy and will have a higher chance of becoming mother’s one day.

    She bought me black comfortable panties and pads and put them in two special bags. One went in my nightstand and one went in my school bag. They were there for two years before I needed them. I wasn’t shocked or anything when I got my first period since I had been informed it’s normal and will happen around that age. I also have had no issues about asking my father of my brother to buy me pads if they were at the store. They have never had an issue with getting them.

    Menstruation happens. It is healthy and good. I am forever thankful to my parents for making me feel comfortable about it. As I will with not just my daughter but also son.

  • I had my first period. With nobody telling me what a period was or that girls had it regularly. I was 11. I thought I was dying. I thought I needed to go to the hospital, but was too terrified of that (because hospitals) but I told my mom after she got home from work several hours after it started happening. Turned out I wasn’t dying.

  • I remember being young (not quite sure which age) and seeing three days crossed out on my mother’s calendar, repeatedly, across many months. I remember in my confusion asking about it a handful of times before somewhat understanding. I must have learned about it a bit more somewhere because I had a general idea about it when I got it for the first time albeit I was very embarrassed and didn’t tell my mom it had happened until she found my dirty underwear in the hamper. I can’t remember if I had any teachings on it in Elementary school, but I definitely did in Middle and High school. Also probably learned a thing or two after graduating from exploring on the internet.

  • Dutch here. Honestly, I don’t remember (and I’m saying that as someone who has a very good childhood memory), it feels like I’ve always known about it, that’s how natural it is to me. Unlike sex, which was a really big thing to find out!