Uncover the mysteries of menstruation with our comprehensive men’s period guide. It all starts with learning the basics.
Hello guys, welcome to the wonderful world of menstruation! The fact that you’re reading this already tells us a lot about you (spoiler alert: we like you already). Informing yourself about periods is a great step towards destigmatising ‘that time of the month’. Just because it’s not physically happening to you, doesn’t mean you can’t be supportive and understanding. And that’s where our period guide for guys comes in handy.
We’ve rounded up some of the most common questions guys have about periods and compiled tips for normalising the experience.
If you've ever wondered what's up with periods, we've got your back! Our informative men’s guide to periods will help you become a period pro. You’ll have the tools to support the awesome menstruators in your life. Let's dive in!
We’re glad you asked. Pop culture doesn’t do a good job of explaining periods, does it? All that talk of the ‘red tide’ or ‘shark week’ can create quite a confusing mental image.
Here’s the deal:
From puberty until menopause, the lining of the uterus regularly sheds a mixture of blood, tissue, and mucus. This mixture of fluids flows out of the vagina and is known as a period. A normal period can last between 2 to 10 days, depending on the person’s body and hormones.
When a period starts, it marks the first day of the menstrual cycle. The cycle is governed by different hormones (progesterone and oestrogen) in the body. These hormones control the release of an egg in a process called ovulation. At this time, the uterus prepares for fertilisation and pregnancy. And if pregnancy does not occur, the menstrual cycle starts again.
It’s important to note though, having a period isn’t an indication of one’s fertility. And many people have periods without their ovaries releasing an egg (it’s complicated, we know). But while we’re talking about fertility, let’s take a quick moment to clarify – women absolutely can get pregnant while they’re on their period. Always use contraception and practice safe sex.
Periods typically start between the ages of 8 and 14 (with some people starting earlier or later). A common misconception is that the onset of one’s first period means they are sexually active. That’s simply not true. Someone getting their period for the first time depends entirely on the development of their body and hormones, sex has nothing to do with it.
Lol. No, you can’t. Menstrual fluid flows out of the body through the vaginal canal and not the bladder. The bladder can be controlled with sphincter muscles and that’s why you can hold in urine. On the other hand, the process of the uterine lining breaking down is involuntary and there are no sphincter muscles to hold it in.
Another misconception is that the size of the tampon or pad especially relates to the size of the vagina. That’s not true. It’s all about the menstrual flow and how much fluid needs to be absorbed. Lil-Lets tampons and pads are available in different absorbencies which cater to varied flow.
Some people have heavier flows than others, while most people experience light, medium and heavy flow days during the same period. Pro tip: days one to three are usually the heaviest – this is when we use higher-absorbency products. But some menstruators may also experience a heavy flow throughout their entire period.
It’s also important to remember that some women choose to use reusable period products like menstrual cups or period underwear. A menstrual cup is a small rubber or silicone cup that can be inserted into the vagina. Period underwear is like any other underwear, but it’s designed to absorb period blood.
This is how we hear that question: ArE cRaMpS rEaLlY tHaT BaD? And the answer is: Yes, they can be that bad.
Menstrual cramps are hard to describe to people who’ve never experienced them – just like you might struggle to describe what being hit in the ‘crown jewels’ feels like to people who have different anatomy.
But let’s give it a try: It’s almost like someone is holding and squeezing your organs from the inside. The pain can vary greatly, but it’s common to experience a sensation of the uterus contracting, accompanied by shooting pains or a dull ache.
Ever had a stomach bug? It’s a bit like that, but felt lower down in your abdomen. Severe period pains and bloating can also be a sign of an underlying condition. When it’s debilitating (or suddenly worse than before) a check-up with a healthcare provider is important.
And if the cramps and bleeding weren’t bad enough on their own, periods can also be accompanied by lower back pain, nausea, diarrhoea and changes in mood.
As a general rule, no. Rather don’t. All too often this question is only asked in response to a woman appearing to be angry, upset or having a bad day. The problem with this is the underlying assumption that their feelings or decisions are irrational and not valid – which is incredibly frustrating. However, if you’re asking because you genuinely want to help and provide support, then ask away.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a combination of symptoms often experienced in the week leading up to menstruation. The premenstrual symptoms vary and it depends on how the individual reacts to the hormonal changes in their body.
Some people don’t experience any PMS symptoms at all, while others can experience them quite severely. For those who do experience PMS, common symptoms include feeling tearful, irritable or struggling to concentrate. Physical symptoms like lethargy, headaches, cramping, swollen breasts, and food cravings (chocolate, anyone?) can also be experienced.
If someone in your life tells you they’re struggling with PMS, try to be understanding and supportive. While we may often downplay it and even joke about it, PMS is very real and we could all do with more empathy.
Don’t be awkward about it. There’s nothing ‘dirty’ or unhealthy about periods. For too long, the shame and stigma around menstruation (mostly due to a lack of understanding) has led to people feeling uncomfortable with their bodies and not getting the help they need.
Here are some practical things you can do to help:
If you see a box of tampons in the bathroom, or a pad falls out of someone’s handbag, don’t make a big deal of it. Think of it in the same way you would an earbud or toilet roll. Better yet, offer to buy pads or tampons for your household when doing grocery shopping. Trust us, no one’s thinking you have suddenly started menstruating when they see you at the till with some period products. If anything, they’re probably wishing there were more guys like you in the world!
There’s nothing worse than running out of pads or tampons or being caught unaware by our periods – and it happens to even the most experienced among us! Be the guy who’s comfortable with having period products in his bathroom cabinet (or car, or backpack). Instant brownie points for you.
If you’re ever around people who humiliate or shame others for having a period, call them out on it. Educate them. It will help them to debunk common period myths and support menstruators from a place of understanding.
If you feel like you don’t understand enough about menstruation, keep reading up, keep asking questions, and keep talking about it. The better your understanding, the better your ability to support the people with periods in your life – as a partner, father, brother, colleague, or friend.
Here’s to more open conversations about periods! P.S. YouTuber Bokang Lehlokoe’s dad and brother tackled the #LilLetsTalkGuys challenge. They spoke about periods from a guy's perspective. Check it out!
Guys should treat a girl on her period with empathy, understanding, and kindness. Offer emotional support, be considerate of her feelings, and avoid belittling her experience. It also helps to have period products available in your home for guests — a lot of women appreciate this.
Boys should react to periods with openness and respect. Understand that menstruation is a natural process that teens and adult women experience. Educate yourself and support menstruating individuals when possible. Be an advocate for women’s health.
Husbands can be supportive during periods by offering comfort, helping with household chores, and being patient with mood changes. Listening to your partner's needs and being considerate can go a long way in creating a nurturing environment.