I’m nearly 40 years old so you’d think that I’d be fully up to speed when it comes to my period symptoms, right? Wrong. I’m learning there are so many things I never knew about my period. We tend to get the biology lesson chat on periods when we are young. What we don’t get is a deep dive convo discussing all those weird and wonderful period symptoms that we never talk about. It’s annoying because it seems to add to the veil of shame that hangs over our menstrual cycle. Sure it’s messy and dirty and annoying at times. But it’s also pretty miraculous and it’s time to focus on the magic without the shame.
So, with that in mind, I wanted to shine a light on some of the more surprising period symptoms that no one ever tells us about. I also want to suggest that we start talking more openly to our girls about periods and the weird side effects of them. The more we talk about these ‘dirty little secrets’ the less dirty they’ll seem and the more we can empower our girls to own, adore and appreciate their miraculous bodies. After all, knowledge is power, so here are nine weird period symptoms you never realised were symptoms.
#1 Periods Give You The Shits
I know, right? You know it happens but no one ever sat you down and said, “You’ll probably get runny bum when you’re on your period.” It’s just something you start to notice and then, one day, when you feel like your butt is about to fall out of your vagina, you google it and what do you know? It’s a thing. It’s top of the list when it comes to period symptoms you never knew about because, frankly, I was today-years-old when I discovered it.
#2 Rubbish Period Symptoms Already? Here Have Some B.O. too
Yup. As if you don’t feel greasy, flabby, anxious and grubby enough while you’re on your period, they throw in some serious body odour for you too. On reflection, this could just be me but lately my body odour during my period is off-the-scale nasty. Sure, we knew our body temperatures changes. We probably knew that we sweated more too. But no one says, “BTW, you’ll smell like the back end of a farmyard and no amount of deodorant is going to fix it.”
#3 Get Ahead Of Your Period Pains
While cramps are not a period symptom we didn’t know about, how to manage them effectively remains a bit of a mystery. Everyone tells you that a hot water bottle, some pain killers and a dose of reality TV helps period pains. It doesn’t. Or not always. But no one ever says, “You’ve got to get ahead of the cramp demons. Start taking an over-the-counter pain killer before your pains kick in and you’ll be right as rain.” But apparently that’s the case. Treating cramps is hit and miss at the best of times, but juts like we give the kids a dose of Calpol before their injections, we should be taking a pain killer before the cramps kick in. You are welcome.
#4 Smelly Symptoms
One of the more anxiety-inducing period symptoms is the smell. But fear not. Apparently, while we can smell our period when we change a pad or a tampon, it’s not a noticeable smell to other people. That doesn’t stop us freaking out about it because – and you’ll notice there’s a theme here – no one has the ‘smell chat’. We all know there’s a bit of an odour when we change our period products, but no one says, “Don’t worry. No one else can smell your period. Except maybe dogs and whales.”
#5 Period Symptoms Are An Ever Changing Thing
Reckon you know what your period symptoms are? Nope. You know what your period symptoms are this month. As I’ve got older, my period has become unrecognisable and my period symptoms have changed significantly. I used to be the easy-breezy, no cramps, light period girl. I barely noticed it. In my 30s, it went haywire. I’d have 60 day cycles followed by 21 day cycles. My body didn’t know whether it was coming and going, but the symptoms were still fairly minimal.
Now, my period is regular AF but my period symptoms are intense. A week before it’s due a mood blacker than Voldemort’s soul descends accompanied with boobs that send shooting pains up and down my body if they are grazed even gently. My cramps are awful, my skin breaks out and, as I mentioned, I stink like last week’s bin. I never know what I’m going to get these days and neither does my husband. It’s a period symptom roller-coaster.
#6 Increased Sensitivity To Pain
One of the weirder period symptoms is an increase pain sensitivity. It’s something to do with hormones (I’m not sure exactly what because I’m not an endocrinologist) but booking an intimate wax, or any kind of wax, just before or during your period is a really bad idea. Those things hurt like hell at the best of times but can feel like another level of pain just before your period.
#7 Blood Loss…But Not As Much As You Think
I know it can feel like your period is, quite literally, draining the life blood from you but it’s not. On average, most women lose a few tablespoons to one cup of blood during a period. I know it doesn’t look like that when you fumble your menstrual cup and your bathroom ends up looking like a scene from Carrie. But trust me, it’s not actually that much blood.
#8 Changes To Your Voice
I legit never knew this was a period symptom. It blew my mind. According to OB/GYN Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, “The first seven days of the menstrual cycle, your voice is deeper and harsher due to water retention in the membranous linings of your throat. As your estrogen levels elevate, you begin to lose the excess bodily fluid, and your voice becomes ‘lighter’ and clearer.” So now you know.
#9 Shame Is Not A Period Symptom
Since the moment we hear about periods as young people, we understand it’s something to be embarrassed about. I remember a friend of mine who went to a mixed high school telling me the school separated the class into girls and boys so that the girls could have a ‘period chat’ and the boys could learn how to put on condoms (that’s a whole other blog). Mums take girls into quiet rooms away from their brothers or fathers to have ‘the period chat’. We hide our pads or a our tampons up our sleeve when we walk to the bathroom and we blush when we buy period products at the store. But here’s the news: shame is not a period symptom. We’ve been made to feel like it is but it isn’t.
Other Random Period Information That You May Find Useful…
Tampons and Disposable Pads Are NOT Your Only Option
If you fancy giving reusable period pads a go, maybe start with just one pad?
Here at Wear ‘Em Out we’ve developed a whole range of reusable pads that are changing the way we period. Not only are they excellent for the environment, they are also free from nasty chemicals. Plus they’re super comfy and just need chucking in a 40 degree wash when you’re done. Plus, there are also some amazing menstrual cups or knickers out there, if that’s more your bag.