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I’m 20, and I’m Still Not Sure What Happens when I Menstruate

Day 2 of shark week and I can’t tell if I want to kill or be killed.

I’m 20, and I’m still not sure what happens when I menstruate.

If you’re here, I’m assuming you’re just as confused as me, right? I’ve had a period since I was 13! I’ve always considered it an annoying roommate for a couple days out of the month. Eating all my food, making me irritated, ruining all my nice clothes, gutting me from the inside out—you know how roommates are.

I don’t remember my mom ever sitting me down and telling me WHAT happens during menstruation. I was just told the whole, “You’re a woman now, congratulations!” Congratulations on debilitating cramps, excessive blood loss, and adult acne for the next 40 years! Yay!

Might I add, I’m currently writing this while sitting COMPLETELY still and practicing a useless (not so useless) breathing technique for cramps while at work… Day 2 of shark week and I can’t tell if I want to kill or be killed. Will update again soon.

MY PLAN IS to do some actual research on Menstruation or the Menses or Satan’s Waterfall or (as I had just Googled and found out) Arts and Crafts Week at Panty Camp (I’m a craft freak, I love this). OKAY back to actually researching. Open Google, type in "menstruation what happens" because what else am I gonna type, click search:

The first day of your period is when your uterine lining, and your will to live, begins to break down and shed. The chemical prostaglandins is produced in the lining of your uterus to make your uterine muscles contract. This helps push the blood out and inevitably this is what we call cramps, AKA that one ruthless bitch. You may also experience low energy at this time. Your pituitary gland and ovaries are already building the lining back up again. GOD won’t it ever end? During your period, your estrogen (secreted by the ovaries, necessary for breast development, fat distribution in hips/legs/breasts, and reproductive organ development) and progesterone (maintains secondary characteristics of females) levels are low. Estrogen is necessary for building up your uterine lining. Progesterone is necessary, so you won’t bleed before you should.

After the last day of your period, your body prepares for ovulation. Then begins the Follicular Phase, which primes the uterine lining to make a nice landing for the potential fertilized egg to lay on. Excuse me, Follicular Phase, I do NOT NEED a fertilized egg for another 15+ years, thank you. Now, your body is releasing a hormone called FSH (Follicle stimulating hormone) which tells your ovaries to produce a matured egg. This process produces estrogen, making your uterine lining thicken with nutrients and blood, in case you get pregnant. As your estrogen levels rise, you MIGHT experience a better mood and increased energy. You might also notice clear, sticky, or slippery discharge, which is totally normal. NOW IT'S FINALLY OVULATION TIME which typically occurs about 14 days after your menstrual cycle ended (stress can affect this). Once the matured egg is released, it travels through the fallopian tubes and into the uterus. During these first few days, you are most likely to get pregnant. CONTRACEPTIVES ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND RIGHT NOW. During ovulation you may experience some dull cramping and/or light spotting. Do not misinterpret this as your period. That can sometimes lead to accidental pregnancies! CONDOMS! CONDOMS! CONDOMS!

UPDATE: breathing technique kind of works if I continue to stay very still. If you’re interested: "LiveStrong: Breathing Exercises for Cramps"—which says, “Centering breath can help calm your body when you're experiencing cramps. Start with a few cycles of normal breathing, then on your next inhale, take a slow, gentle and deep breath through your nose. Follow with a slow, gentle and deep exhale through your nose. Go back to normal breathing for a few cycles. Repeat the deep inhale and exhale again and go back to normal breathing. Complete a total of 10 cycles.”

AND NOW we circle back to the week BEFORE your next Ladies Days, assuming you did not get pregnant. If you did… congratulations I guess? I swear I love children—I’M A COLLEGE STUDENT. I’M NOT INTERESTED IN A BABY RIGHT NOW! Your estrogen and progesterone levels drop since your body doesn’t need to support a pregnancy. Congrats! This decrease in hormones may have you PMS-ing. (Like me! Join the club... we meet on Tuesdays to cry. Bring a snack!) PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome includes, but is not limited to, irritability, anxiousness, depression, bloating, headaches, mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, social withdrawal, acne flare-ups, and/or constipation/diarrhea. Hahahahaha wonderful, isn’t it?

Post Research Thoughts

I feel very informed. Finally, after seven years of having this nightmare—I mean blessing—that we call menstruation I can say, "OH HEY THIS IS WHAT MY BODY IS DOING EVERY MONTH" instead of absent-mindedly buying tampons and letting my body do whatever the hell it's got to do.

I would also recommend any parents to talk to their pre-teen kids about puberty. They should know what their body is doing, and why, and how to live with it. Or maybe that’s all just a part of growing up? We just have to FIGURE IT OUT AS WE GO!? Oh damn, that’s deep.

I hope this helped any other 20-something out there that was also in the dark about their periods… or am I the only one who was dumb enough to wait this long? No? Just me? Cool.


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I’m 20, and I’m Still Not Sure What Happens when I Menstruate
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