Girls, are you scared of getting your first period?
Don't be. It's a normal and natural process among women.
It’s best for girls to be fully prepared and informed for when that day finally arrives.
“I got scared because there was so much blood,” Jolina said in Filipino, recalling her first period. “I didn’t know what to do. Good thing I had some extra money to buy a sanitary napkin.”
Jolina quickly conquered her fears as she learned what menstruation actually is.
In just a few years, she became an advocate. She teaches girls, teens, and women in her community about the importance of menstrual health.
Busting myths on periods
Growing up, Jolina was told all sorts of myths surrounding periods.
Such myths gave periods a bad name – it seems awful, scary, dirty, and shameful.
When Jolina finally had hers, she promised to lift this veil of misinformation and stigma off periods. Among the myths she’s busting are:
MYTH: You shouldn't bathe during your period; otherwise, you'll go crazy.
FACT: You should take a bath and stay hygienic during your period. This is to avoid health complications such as urinary tract infections.
MYTH: To avoid pimples, you should wash your face with blood from your first period.
FACT: Don’t do this, it may be unhygienic. Just avoid food that may trigger a pimple outbreak, and keep your face clean.
MYTH: You should jump over the stairs to shorten your period.
FACT: There is no method to naturally shorten your period. Period lengths vary for each girl.
MYTH: Menstruation is scary, gross, and shameful.
FACT: There's nothing wrong about menstruation. Girls should still be able to go to school and go about their daily lives when they have their period.
Let's talk about periods
It may be hard to break myths about periods if parents themselves believe them. Hence, the need to also educate parents.
Parents must openly discuss and entertain their children's questions about periods. They should also ensure their daughters' access to necessities like sanitary pads.
Don't be afraid to teach your children about the links between menstruation and reproductive health. It's good to have a direct-to-the point discussion on the prevention of unwanted pregnancy.
In schools, girls should have access to clean, private and safe washrooms, where they can properly change and dispose used sanitary napkins.
In some cases, classmates tease girls for having their period. It's best to also educate boys and teachers about menstrual health to protect girls from discrimination.
What is menstruation?
"Over 1 in 10 [Filipino] women had her menarche or her first menstruation before age 12," the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) found.
"While more than half had theirs between ages 12 or 13," the NDHS reported. "And 18% had theirs at age 15 or older."
"Menstruation is a natural part of the reproductive cycle, in which blood is lost through the vagina," as defined in the Menstrual Hygiene Matters (MHM) Handbook.
Menstruation is among the signs that a girl is entering puberty.
Around this time, girls experience emotional and physical changes such as growing breasts, wider hips, and body hair.
"These changes are due to hormones," the MHM Handbook explained. "Menstruation continues until they reach menopause, when menstruation ends, usually between their late-40s and mid-50s."
"Each cycle involves the release of an egg (ovulation) which moves into the uterus through the fallopian tubes. Tissue and blood start to line the walls of the uterus for fertilization. If the egg is not fertilized, the lining of the uterus is shed through the vagina along with blood. The bleeding generally lasts between 2-7 days, with some lighter flow and some heavier flow days." – MHM Handbook
The menstrual cycle is usually around 28 days, but may vary among girls.
"Don't be afraid of periods," said Jolina. "Girls, don't forget to take care of yourselves."
Jolina is among the teens Save the Children trains on adolescent health. Together, Jolina and her friends are empowering and protecting their fellow youth through education. (WATCH: Should teens be aware of HIV?)
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