Follow these steps for weathering menstrual cycle during school

Periods are a normal, natural part of life and a sign of a healthy reproductive system for people with uteruses. Unfortunately, they also suck. Not only are you bleeding for about five days, but the common symptoms include cramps, bowel issues, fatigue, pain in the lower back and breasts, mood swings, headaches and struggles with sleeping. 

And you still have to go to school. 

So the Tiger Hi-Line is here to give you the guides to coping periods in schools.


  1. Stay prepared incase of a period

Periods can start anytime, including in the middle of school. If you feel continuous wetness in between legs and you know you haven’t had your period this month, ask to go to the bathroom and check for blood. In cases like these, it’s useful to have an emergency period pack in your backpack or your locker that contains your preferred menstrual product, fresh underwear and possibly a change of pants. Preferably pants that are dark so it’s harder to stain and loose pants so you feel more comfortable and people don’t see the outline of the pad. 

If you don’t have an emergency pack or forgot to refill your emergency pack then the nurses office does have menstrual products you can ask for with no cost, but they do only offer tampons, so if that isn’t your preferred product, be extra mindful to have the emergency supplies and to refill them. 

If you don’t know which menstrual products to use, you can use this Harvard Health guide to see the health, financial, comfort and environmental benefits of each type of product. Feel free to experiment with the different types to see what works best for you.

You can prepare in advance for your period by tracking when your periods happen and how long they last. You can use a calendar to write down when your period started and ended in one month and then write down when your next period starts and ends, or use an app to track the start and ending dates of your period. This helps you estimate when your next period will happen and how long they will last, and this will help you notice if you miss a period. 


  1. The outfit

Warmth can alleviate cramps and stomach issues associated with periods, so wearing warm pants like sweatpants and wearing a T-shirt under a hoodie/sweater can help with your pain, and the T-shirt is for extra warmth or if you get too warm and need to change out of the hoodie/sweater. For breast comfort, wear a more comfort focused supportive bra. For trans masculine people, it may depend on the level of breast pain you are experiencing. If you are having a lot of pain, take a break from binding and use a sports bra instead, but if not, then you are safe to bind while using the regular binding safety rules. For trans masculine people and gender affirming underwear and products, tampons and menstrual cups allow you to wear boxers and packers more easily, but if you want to use a pad, then you can put the pad in a pair of panties and then wear the boxers over the panties and put the packer between the two, but with the pad method, you can’t use a stand-to-pee packer, so keep that in mind. 


  1. When to change your product

Pads and tampons are the most commonly used menstrual products and need to be changed regularly to prevent bacterial build up, toxic shock syndrome, skin irritation leakage or odor.


For tampons it’s suggested to change every three to five hours and for pads it is suggested to change them every four to five hours. If you have a heavy flow you may need to change more frequently, but the average time frame actually fits in well with CF’s schedule. You could put on a new menstrual product at 7 a.m. before school, use a new one at power hour then change again at home. Remember to dispose of the product in one of the bins in the stalls instead of flushing it to prevent plumbing issues.


  1. Take medication

Cedar Falls doesn’t allow for students to carry their own medication in their backpacks or lockers. Students have to sign a paper with parental permission asking to use any medication including over the counter medication. It’s best to have this signed in advance so you can have the medication before the cramping and headaches start. You can also take medication before you go to school. It should last about four hours, which will last you about half of the school day.


  1. PE and menstrual pain

People may see period pain as a reason to skip PE, but exercise can actually relieve period pain because of how it releases endorphins, but you may want to ask the teacher if you can do a lighter exercise so you don’t fatigue yourself or cause extra soreness. 


  1. Lunch and periods

People on their period often experience cravings for sugary or high fat foods, but that can actually make your period worse according to the Cleveland Clinic because it causes more bloating and intestinal issues, makes your blood sugar higher, which can cause fatigue and headache and increase certain hormones that can increase pain or emotional distress.

The main types of foods you want to eat are foods with a lot of iron, antioxidants and fiber. You don’t have a lot of choice with school lunch, but foods with chicken, fish and beef like burgers, chicken patties, tenders and fish sticks can give you iron as well as foods with green, leafy vegetables like salad. Berries like strawberries and blueberries are high in antioxidants, and carrots, various berries, pears and apples are great sources of fiber. 

You may want to avoid the ala carte for a while, so you don’t buy foods that are high in sugar, salt, fat or spice and avoid buying high caffeine drinks and stick with water.


  1. Emotional and mental health

Periods can cause mood swings and worsen symptoms of mental disorders if they are already present. They can also worsen body confidence issues especially in trans people with periods. If you are feeling depressed, you can talk to a school counselor about your feelings. You can integrate positive affirming things into your day about your personality and body, and hang out with friends during power hour so you can remember that you are loved. Remember that what you are feeling isn’t permanent and to not make rash decisions because these feelings are temporary. You can manage your stress within school with good time management so you can finish homework quickly and have more free time in school and at home and have time for breaks within school like not doing any homework during lunch. You can also take a break from any club activities that may cause you stress.


  1. When do you take a sick day?

For some people, the pain of periods is too much to be in school, but how do you know what level of pain and mental distress mean you should stay home? For cramp pain, extreme levels of pain would be pain that disrupts your day like not being able to move due to pain or having an extreme emotional reaction to pain like crying, and it can include long and frequent cramps. For emotional issues, extreme emotional disstress would be frequent suicidal thoughts. These are signs of serious menstrual disorders and possibly other mental or physical disorders. You should see a doctor if you’re experiencing these extreme symptoms.

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