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Sexual Health (young people)

Living with periods

Often the novelty of starting periods soon wears off, especially if women have heavy periods, pain, mood swings, night sweats, feeling bloated and/or sleeping problems

 

Explains that she finds periods a burden but that as a lesbian woman her partner knows what she...

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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I was so excited when I first like, the first day I got my period I was like 'wahoo, mum I've got my period' and the next day I was crying, I was bawling my eyes out I was, 'oh no', coz I was like really sporty and I didn't realise that it entailed so much pain and misery so when I did realise that, I was just like 'shit, it's kind of burden'.

But I suppose being gay or whatever, you both get periods and it's quite good in a sense that you understand what the other person is going through and a lot of the time you do kind of coincide which is handy shall we say '

' I'm still at the point if men had periods they would find a way to fix it yeah!

Sometimes symptoms are severe and last for several years. One young woman we talked to noticed that her symptoms became particularly strong when she felt stressed

 

Describes how bad she felt every time she had her period.

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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I was, when I first started my period I was about twelve or thirteen and I can't remember when, exactly how old I was and they started being really painful but they got, I mean they've always been kind of you know had period pains but for a few months they were so painful I actually threw up a few times.  

And like at college I had to, I mean at school I had to go and just lie in the Matron's office for the whole day and wasn't able to move or I was sick, it was just really horrible.  And I tried taking Mefenamic acid I think it's called but it didn't really help and then I went on the pill and that kind of helped.  

I mean I still always get painful periods but they're not, you know they're copeable with, I just take loads of pain killers now and they're okay. But recently again I've started having, over the last couple of years I've kind of almost passed out to when I've been on my period in the first couple of days which I think is something to do with my low blood pressure, I don't really know.  

No doctors seem to be quite sure but they think it's something to do with the fact that I've got a very low pressure and an irregular heart beat as well. So it's all a bit, it's just such a pain! 

'when I was doing my A levels I actually just took the pill continuously for, you know didn't have a period break because they're just so annoying when I have them and they just kind of disrupt my life so much. But I mean at the moment apart from last month  when I had my passing out phase again, usually they're okay now and I'm not on the pill and they're alright. So I think they're probably getting a bit better, hopefully.
 

Describes how depressed she felt around the time of her period.

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Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
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I never had too much trouble with period pains, it was the mood swings I had problems with. I got ' used to get very very depressed, and almost suicidal at one stage, with them, they were really bad, and again, that was another reason I went on the Pill, because I just couldn't cope with it.

When did you first start noticing the changes in moods?

I think if you talked to my mum, she'd probably say she'd always noticed them, but I didn't start noticing it myself till I was about 15, 16, when I was going through my GCSEs.  

I was under a lot of stress, anyway, with doing my GCSEs, because I've got very bright brothers that I was trying to live up to, and I was expected to do well, and I think I was just under a lot of pressure all round, and they just got really bad, and it got to the point where I just thought, you know, 'I shouldn't have to be like this'.             

Some women said that their periods made them feel reassured that their bodies were 'working properly' but were pleased if they started using a contraceptive method that made their periods lighter

 

Explains why she used to 'hate' periods. (Actor)

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Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
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(The accompanying video and audio clips are played by an actor)

I love it, I love it because I used to hate it. I used to be so active and it would always get in the way of sport. Like I'd be outside working all day and it was such a hassle to sort of having to go to the loo twice a day and change things and there wasn't a bin to put it in so you'd have to carry things around until you got home.  

And oh, I hated it. The last thing you want is someone, some childish 18 year old lad going ha, ha, she's on the blob or something equally crude and horrible, which they often do, of course. They don't change when they get 18!  

I hated it, I used to find it quite painful and I would find I'd get a lot of night sweats and really grumpy.

The combined pill is a method of contraception (something that prevents a woman from getting pregnant) makes periods more regular and usually lighter and less painful too. Painkillers, such as the anti-imflammatory drugs mefenamic acid or ibuprofen, are also useful if period pain is a problem.

One young woman we spoke to was put on the contraceptive pill to treat her period problems her GP said that she needed to go back for further information and instructions if she wanted to start relying on it to prevent pregnancy. Another did not know that girls can get pregnant even if they don't have a period every month.

 

Indicates that her doctor told her she needed more information if she were to use the pill as a...

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Age at interview: 23
Sex: Female
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I was on the pill originally to sort out these irregular periods so I was on that anyway. I wasn't on it for precautions. My GP always used to say to me, ' The minute you start being sexually active, you need to come back to me and I need to explain to you about the pill to work as, as a contraceptive not as a hormone, like balance thing because it's a totally different thing'.  

So of course at 15 you just think, 'Yeah, yeah, well I'm taking it how it tells me to take  it in the packet, what do you need to tell me that doesn't already tell me on the leaflet?'  So, I thought, ''Oh well, I'll be fine'.  But then on the actual, when it actually happened I thought, 'Oh maybe I haven't been taking it right and I might not be protected.  

I might be taking it differently to, you know, as a hormone tablet to a contraceptive'. So I did make him use a condom that night just, until I was sure that I, you know, it was fine and then I did, I had to go back to the GP anyway for a pill check and obviously she explained to me everything then. 
 

Indicates that initially she didn't know that she could get pregnant even without having a period...

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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Because I was told it should happen every month I started getting worried, gosh why, what's wrong with me, then I started my period and I've not had one for another couple of months and you know, you think there's something wrong inside.  

I went to the doctor and they said its fine you know, some people have regular periods but some people have irregular periods, maybe they have more periods in a month than the average person does.

Did they tell, tell you also that you could get pregnant even if you don't have periods every month?  

They, not when I first started my period, afterwards they did once I was sexually active but not before I started, I don't even think I actually went, I just wanted to ask if you have periods you know, is it normal for your periods to be delayed, they said 'yeah' and they didn't really expand on it much. But saying that my mum was sitting right next to me so you know I don't think they would have sat there and also because my doctor, my mum's doctor she speaks Bengali but she's English. 

She went to Dhaka to learn the language because most of her clients are Bengali and sometimes they need translators. So she thought it would be a good idea to learn the language herself.

So she was kind of doing, translating like the whole, I'm like oh my gosh don't say anything with my mum sitting right next to me. So I think that might have been why she didn't expand on it. You know.

And you were aware when you started your periods?

Yeah after I started I was aware that you could get pregnant, but before then I wasn't aware that you could get pregnant if you didn't have you know, because of the process, you know the egg coming out of the ovaries that any number of times you could get pregnant, that I wasn't very clear of, even though we had, in the biology class at school they show you the sperms and how they swim up to the egg, it still wasn't clear till someone actually sat down and said look at this, what can happen even if you're not on your period.I think that was a kind of age and maturity, 'cos even at 15 I don't think I was very mature.

Some women have regular periods, every four weeks or so, with no significant discomfort or mood swings. They usually consider themselves lucky, although some compare themselves with their friends and worry that light, regular periods may be unusual.

 

Explains why she is quite happy with having periods.

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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They were more regular when I was on the Pill 'cos obviously they're 28 day cycles and then you have the period. Now, they vary really, so either the middle or the end of the month, I come on. It's usually between them, either the second or third week of the month.  

But sometimes it varies really but I have quite good periods. I don't get pain, I don't get bellyaches, nothing like that. My friends suffer terribly. So I've been quite lucky and I don't really stand, and the longest I started is three and half, four days, so that's pretty good. I'm quite happy with that.
 

Explains that she thought there was something wrong with her because her periods were different...

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Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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How did you feel about starting your periods?

Well for me I was a bit scared right, but then from hearing from my friends' experiences their periods used to last up to seven days and my period only lasted for three. So I thought that was a bit weird at first so I didn't talk to my mum about it. 

I asked the doctors, you know 'getting periods for three days, is that really bad?' and she said 'No, its normal, at the end of the day better for you, you're not bleeding for seven days are you, so they're complaining and you're not.'  So I went 'all right then.'

I feel better without periods. But I was never moody, you know, you get like mood swings and some go a bit chocoholic, they have to have chocolate. I was never like that, I was normal do you get me, I never had mood swings, I never had cravings like chocolate or anything. 

I was just like normal so they used to be jealous you know 'oh you are such a bitch, you don't get cramps,' you don't get this, you don't get that. I did at times, I used to get just little cramps.

Last updated January 2016.

Last reviewed January 2016.

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