Barber: Yes, I Have a Period


By Shaelyn Barber

Human egg cells are stored in the ovaries. They travel down the fallopian tubes once a month. The uterine lining thickens in preparation for housing a developing child. If the egg is fertilized with sperm, it will attach to the uterine lining and begin to grow into a fetus. If the egg remains unfertilized, the uterus will shed its lining, which exits the body through the vagina in the form of blood. Bleeding will last for approximately a week.

As a woman, I have a period every month for about a week. My body gets ready to have a child, but if I don’t get pregnant, then my body discards its preparations so it can start fresh the next month. Blood comes out of my private area and sometimes I get cramps.

One more time.

Blood leaks non-stop from my vagina for one week out of every month. I have cramps, my breasts hurt and I can’t stop eating. I usually insert a tampon and wear a pad, but sometimes the blood still soaks through and stains my underwear. It’s damp, smells weird and it makes me uncomfortable.

Chances are, reading at least one of these paragraphs made you uncomfortable, and that’s the point. That’s a problem.

The first paragraph is a description of a period using medical terms. The second paragraph is a description of my period in the first person using as few explicit details as possible. The third paragraph is a more graphic description of what a period feels like without toning down the details. Think about which paragraph made you feel the most awkward and why that is.

Maybe you dislike hearing about blood. Maybe the word vagina feels dirty to say, like a curse word. Maybe you think the process of having a period is gross.

Periods are a biological function more than half of the world’s population experiences, but speaking about periods freely and openly is taboo. We are socialized to believe having a period is shameful and disgusting.

Periods have historically faced a number of wild superstitions. They are deemed unclean by a number of cultures. In France, it was believed having sex while a woman was on her period would conceive a monster. Some Medieval Europeans thought drinking period blood would cause leprosy. In several places around the world, women are isolated while on their periods.

We use euphemisms to avoid direct discussion about menstruation. We say things like, “Aunt Flo came to visit today,” or “It’s that time of month.” Being straightforward and actually saying you are on your period is seen as telling too much.

We shouldn’t have to tiptoe around the subject. There is nothing unclean or shameful about menstruation, a natural biological process. Open and honest discussion about menstruation should be encouraged.

Periods are not fun. They are messy, painful and inconvenient. People who have periods should be able to say “I’m on my period right now and it really sucks,” without facing backlash from others. By limiting the discussion of periods, we lose understanding of others and what they are going through. As a result, people who don’t have periods tend to have a lack of knowledge about this monthly cycle.

Yes, I have a period. There is no shame in acknowledging that.

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