On Tiktok, the question everyone is asking is “What’s your Roman empire?”. It refers to a thought, often about the past, that you obsess over even to this day. I wonder if the same idea applies to menstrual health: what burning questions have you always had about your period?  

Look no further! I’ve gathered the Top 5 Period Questions We Wished We Had Asked Sooner from my research through Survey Monkey into the experiences and attitudes of young people towards periods. I shared this survey on social media and from 25 anonymous responses, each participant had different questions to ask about periods. 

I’m hoping that sharing these questions will inspire more confidence in people when they come across them, and encourage an open discussion amongst all genders.

So, what are today’s most pressing questions on periods? Rome wasn’t built in a day, so let’s get to answering! 

Period Panic: How Can I Handle A Leak, Especially In Public? 

Leaking is a common fear given how visible it is. However, it should not be a shameful event! 

So, how can we confidently handle a leak? As a rule of thumb, make sure you always carry your sanitary products and regularly change them, particularly if you know your periods are heavy. Wearing pads with wings helps them stay in place better, especially when you use them overnight; the same benefit applies with period pants. Tampons are also a good choice, but remember to change them every 4 to 8 hours to avoid infections. 

In public, stay composed – having a leak is totally normal! On heavy days, take a cardigan or coat that can be tied around your waist, in case you have to wait until you can go to the bathroom. 

If you’re in an emergency, you can make a make-shift pad with toilet paper. Make it as thick as you can, and ensure that it covers the length of your underwear. 

Once you are home, change into a proper sanitary product, wash the stain, and wear comfy clothes. Try not to feel ashamed of the incident, which obviously can be difficult given the ridicule that often revolves around periods. Know that you handled the situation sensibly.

Never let a leak incident worry or define you! 

Period Pain: Are Periods Really That Painful, Or Are People Exaggerating It? 

This question shows the frustrating misconceptions that surround menstruation. Period pain varies for each person. However, this does not mean people “exaggerate” their pain. Everyone’s experience is relative to our own bodies, which each have different needs and tolerances.  

The majority of the respondents to my survey have had an overall difficult experience with periods. 48% of respondents said they had a 2 out of 5 experience with their periods (1 being overall difficult and 5 being overall positive). This surprised me due to my own personal experience with periods, demonstrating the diversity of experiences. Thankfully, I only get cramps for the first two days, and have fewer symptoms for the remaining 3 days. Period experiences can also change as women go through different life stages. Nothing is static when it comes to periods.  

Many expressed feeling symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, dizziness, and headaches. Others experience stomach and leg cramping. Some revealed that they have had more pain as a result of getting the copper coil, a contraceptive. By contrast, other respondents had similar experiences to me; they recognised how their experiences differ from others, while acknowledging their own pain.

We should also recognise the mental impact of periods, which combines with and exacerbates period pain. 73.91% of respondents to my survey wished they had asked questions about the mental challenges they face during a cycle. This mental toll stems from the anxiety to change sanitary products in public, or the disempowerment from having little discussion on topics such as sustainable options and their level of affordability. 38.1% of respondents believed this was a hindrance to their confidence, significantly impacting their mental health. 

Overall, the period experience is painful. The scale of which simply depends on the person and how much they can tolerate. 

Everyone’s Education: How Can I Learn About Different Experiences With Periods, Not Just My Own? 

One of the main issues tackled in my survey was how to educate everyone on the period experience faced by all genders. Many stressed that the media is an important vehicle to creating more awareness on diverse experiences, including that of trans and non-binary people. There are many podcasts and resources to tap into. For example, check out Kenny Ethan Jones’ podcast, Trans Sexual Health Care & Menstruation

Useful blogs on the experience of trans and non-binary people include What It’s Like To Have A Period When You’re Trans Or Non-Binary on the website Daye, as well as the blog What is the Non-Binary Experience of Menopause? from the Queer/LGBTQIA+ Menopause project! The more periods can be discussed openly, the better it will be for everyone. 

Tricky Talks: How Can I Approach A Discussion With My Male Friends, Colleagues, Relatives, And Boyfriends On Periods? 

One of the main difficulties in breaking the stigma of periods is opening up the conversation. For too long, they have been a taboo subject. This is more difficult when we try to discuss periods beyond the comfort zone of our trusted circle, especially when we talk to others who don’t have periods themselves. But, even though it is tricky, we should be confident and comfortable talking about a natural process in our bodies. 

To start, we could talk to our families. This is often the most challenging given how close we are to our relatives, which can make these intimate conversations “awkward”. You could ask your male family member to buy your sanitary products. This public act could be a significant first step in normalising periods, just like buying toilet paper. 

If you have a difficult relationship with your family, it is best to create a comfortable space where you can talk. Establish any boundaries you may need, so you can be yourself and talk openly. Because your boundaries are clear, they shouldn’t mistakenly cross them. Take your time with the talk, and remind them that they can access all sorts of helpful information online, like NHS articles and YouTube videos. 

Make sure that your male friends, relatives, peers, feel that it’s a two way conversation, as they may have great questions that could help both of you.  Have patience, and bear in mind the amount of information your male friend, relative, or peer is taking in with an “uncomfortable” topic. 

Don’t feel like you have to cover everything – a big topic deserves to be talked over properly. Side by side, we can light up the dark tunnel of unfamiliarity.

A Sticky Situation: How Should I Dispose Of Sanitary Products In Public If There Are No Bins? 

It is vital that we have a comfortable and sustainable relationship with our periods! 52.17% of respondents agreed that they wished they had asked about the environmental impact of periods sooner. This is emphasised by how 57.14% found it challenging to find places in which to safely dispose of their sanitary products. Many expressed the need for sustainable options to be more affordable and widely available. This economic factor creates the stigma or hesitation to buy these eco-friendly options, such as reusable pads. 

So, how can you safely dispose of your sanitary products? You can often use the packaging of the products themselves as a disposal bag while you wait for a proper bin. A smart investment would be to purchase sanitary bags, which are cleaner. Flushing them down the toilet needs to be left behind!

How can you engage in the conversation further? Always keep an open mind and endeavour to spread more awareness on menstruation, be it through personal or work settings. Together, we can rise from the rubble and create our own empire of confidence and transparency.