Mens­trua­tion Around the World is a series from Vul­vani that attempts to show the diver­sity of mens­trual expe­ri­en­ces around the world. We por­tray people from dif­fe­rent coun­tries with their per­so­nal sto­ries. Let us explore the won­der­ful and so diverse world of mens­trual expe­ri­en­ces tog­e­ther. And who knows, maybe soon we will all be say­ing: ‘I am in love with my period’.

As a teen­ager, Katha­rina eagerly awai­ted her mens­trua­tion and was full of anti­ci­pa­tion for her first period. Since then, she has expe­ri­en­ced a rol­ler­coas­ter of emo­ti­ons towards her own period: from anger to indif­fe­rence to gra­ti­tude, she has felt them all. Today she has tur­ned to cycle awar­ness and is proudly say­ing: ‘I am in love with my period’. And she thinks we should all talk much more about our peri­ods.
Katha­rina has spent mon­ths rese­ar­ching for her master’s the­sis on how the media talks about mens­trua­tion and the period taboo. The impres­sive final result is her docu­men­tary ‘Mens­trual Taboo?’. Dear Katha­rina, thank you so much for your important period docu­men­tary and for actively figh­t­ing the period taboo.

Personal Information

Name: Katha­rina
Age: 25
Gen­der / Sex: female
Coun­try of birth: Ger­many
Home: Mag­de­burg, Ger­many
Job: Jour­na­list
Age at first period: 13
Favo­rite period pro­duct: Mens­trual cup
Cost per mens­trua­tion: 20€ last year for a mens­trual cup that finally has the right size and fits my body
Con­tracep­tion: IUB (cop­per bead ball)

1. How is menstruation seen in your family, culture or even country?

My mom, being the eso­te­ric yogi she is, was super exci­ted for my sis­ter and I to get our peri­ods and tal­ked quite openly about it to us.
My social envi­ron­ment on the other hand had strict boun­ders when tal­king about peri­ods. You were one of the cool kids, when you had it and com­p­lai­ned about it. Because that meant tech­ni­cally you were old enough to have sex (at least that’s what we thought). It was a sign of gro­wing up. Apart from that, no one would talk about it. You were sup­po­sed to buy tam­pons (because pads are gross and for old people) and use them in silence. Don’t get blood any­where. That’s it.

Period blood is still a taboo

Even though things are star­ting to look up now in 2020, peri­ods are still a “things bet­ween women” and people as well as com­mer­cials show very clearly, that mens­trual blood is some­thing that strictly needs to be hidden.

2. How and by whom were you educated about menstruation?

When I was a girl I lear­ned about peri­ods and sex edu­ca­tion in fourth grade. We used color­ful silk cloths to build a giant ute­rus on the floor and lear­ned about our cycle and what hap­pens if you get pregnant and if you don’t. The ent­ire class showed a clear empha­sis on how to not get pregnant and how sex is about the pene­tra­tion of a vagina. Things like oral, anal or gay sex, were not a topic. There was also no edu­ca­tion on the vulva and female plea­sure.
Back then I thought, I know ever­ything and now that I do, there’s no need to talk about it any longer.

I was keen to get my first period. Now loo­king back on that moment, I’m pretty proud of my mens­trual excitement.

3. Tell us a little about your first period.

I think I was 13 or 14… honestly I don’t remem­ber. I was keen to get my first period. Now loo­king back on that moment, I’m pretty proud of my mens­trual exci­te­ment. Most of my friends already had their period. And while the rest of my body was in full on ado­lescence mode, my ute­rus was a bit behind. Whenever I had the sligh­test fee­ling of mucus com­ing out of my vagina, I ran to the bathroom to see if it was finally time for my men­ar­che. Trust me – it never was. When it finally came, I had no idea until I went to the bathroom. My mom was even more exci­ted than I was, when I told her about it. We went shop­ping that wee­kend to cele­brate. That’s all I remem­ber from my menarche.

4. How do you feel about your own menstruation? 

My fee­ling about my period has chan­ged from exci­te­ment to annoyance to indif­fe­rence and finally to total cycle awa­reness and a new found love for my period and thank­ful­ness for what my body is able to do and how I can tell my per­so­nal stress level from my period blood.

Today I am in love with my period

I used to be so careless with my body. Try­ing really hard to be ‘nor­mal’ and act as if my mens­trual cycle had no impact on my body. After a time period of 7 years of taking the pill, going off it, taking the morning after pill once, which mes­sed up my cycle for 6 mon­ths, and then taking the pill again – I finally deci­ded to stop taking arti­fi­cial hor­mo­nes and learn to read the signs my body gave me. It’s been a long way com­ing, but I am now in awe of my repro­duc­tive sys­tem and truly in love with my period.

My fee­ling about my period has chan­ged from exci­te­ment to annoyance to indif­fe­rence and finally to total cycle awa­reness and a new found love of my period and thank­ful­ness for what my body is able to do.

5. Which menstrual products have you already tried? 

I star­ted by using pads, because I was ter­ri­fied of tam­pons. I was really asha­med of that, because it see­med like using tam­pons was the only cool thing to do… At age 16 I finally star­ted using tam­pons. They left my vagina ins­a­nely dry and in com­bi­na­tion with the pill, it only got worse. But I sim­ply igno­red that fact for years.

The long way to finding the right menstrual cup

When I was 22 I used a mens­trual cup for the first time… it was hor­ri­ble, because I did ever­ything wrong. And I didn’t try it again until almost a year after that. I took me a while (1.5 years to be exact) to find the right cup to fit my body. But I’ve been happy using the mens­trual cup ever since.
I also own two reus­able orga­nic cot­ton pads. They were a gift. And I use them when I don’t feel like using the cup yet or at the end of my period. I am cur­r­ently con­si­de­ring inves­ting in enough pads for an ent­ire period and maybe stop using the cup at all. To just let things flow freely.

Periode verliebt, Menstruation around the world, Zyklusbewusstsein, Vorfreude auf erste Periode, Menstruationserfahrung, Periodendoku, Dokumentarfilm über die Periode, Periodentabu, Menstruationstabu, Katharina Vorndran, Vulvani

Photo Credits: Katha­rina by Paul Lüder

6. What do you like to do when on your period?

This depends on how my life has been going for the past 2 mon­ths. My cycle is very good at suspec­ting stress and showing me, whe­ther I need to take a few days for mys­elf or not.
There are times when I’ll feel the need to stay home, take a bath and just lay in bed for the ent­ire dura­tion of my period. And then there are times when by day three I can hustle all day, go for a run and only have to empty my cup every 8 hours.

7. How are you feeling when menstruating? 

When my body deci­des to power down during my period, I feel very exhaus­ted on the first few days, espe­cially on the heavy flow days. I’m swea­ting and feel very bloated. Period diar­r­hea is my con­stant com­pa­n­ion.
I’m a big fan of using a hea­ting pad for cramps and wea­ring soft clothes to not put extra pres­sure on my ute­rus. Thank­fully, even though I have an IUB, which can incre­ase blee­ding and cramps, I don’t have ins­a­nely bad cramps or anything. It’s a pain I can tole­rate and try not to numb down with pain kil­lers. To me the mens­trual pain I expe­ri­ence is a good kind of pain. Because I know where it comes from and that my body is just extrac­ting ute­rine lining and blood to get ready for a new egg.

8. Who are you talking to about menstruation?

Since I star­ted rese­ar­ching on how mens­trua­tion is being dis­cus­sed in the media for my mas­ters the­sis, I’m tal­king about mens­trua­tion to ever­yone. Sexist or dis­re­spect­ful comments about peri­ods or mens­trua­ting people are being met with basic facts by me. I’m so annoyed with people cal­ling peri­ods useless and mens­trual blood dis­gus­ting, that I have 0 tole­rance for period shaming.
My boy­friend is very aware of all my ups and downs during my mens­trual cycle, which makes it easier for him to show more empa­thy and under­stand my fee­lings. I love how inte­res­ted he is in this sub­ject. And I think we should all talk about peri­ods a lot more.

9. Do you have a particular funny, embarrassing or important story about menstruation?

When I was filming my docu­men­tary about period stigma, which was the final part of my mas­ters the­sis about peri­ods and media, I inter­viewed a social worker who tea­ches sex ed to child­ren. She told me, that a lot of girls thought you were sup­po­sed to put the sti­cky side of the pad on your body, to stop the blood from lea­king. I don’t know why, but this sho­cked me so much… These girls see­med so afraid of someone see­ing their period blood that they thought they had to liter­ally glue their yoni shut. This made me so sad and mad at the same time…

Period blood is still being hidden

We live in a highly advan­ced society with so many great achie­ve­ments. But at the same time we crea­ted a world where child­ren are so afraid of lea­king period blood, that they think they are sup­po­sed to glue their vulva lips tog­e­ther with a pad to not show that they’re mens­trua­ting. That’s insane!

10. Want to share anything else about menstruation (or yourself)?

Every mens­trua­ting per­son has a very uni­que rela­ti­ons­hip with his or her yoni. No one should feel the need to share their period sto­ries with ever­yone, but they should feel the pos­si­bi­lity to do so without being jud­ged. We live in a society, crea­ted by cis-men, that has a very clear image of how mens­trua­ting people are sup­po­sed to act: Like they’re not mens­trua­ting. Like they’re not in pain. Like their bodies are not going through a four part cycle every 28 to 32 days.

Normal vs. not normal

We have for­got­ten what our bodies are made for and decli­ned our cycle to “blee­ding” or “not blee­ding”, which trans­la­tes for a lot of people to “not nor­mal” and “nor­mal”. But peri­ods are not­hing out of the ordi­nary and some­thing ever­yone (with or without a ute­rus) should be infor­med about, so the social stigma, which is clearly still a big part of our society, can be defeated.

No one should feel the need to share their period sto­ries with ever­yone, but they should feel the pos­si­bi­lity to do so without being judged.

Periode verliebt, Menstruation around the world, Zyklusbewusstsein, Vorfreude auf erste Periode, Menstruationserfahrung, Periodendoku, Dokumentarfilm über die Periode, Periodentabu, Menstruationstabu, Katharina Vorndran, Vulvani

Photo Credits: Katha­rina by Paul Lüder

Do you want to become part of ‘Menstruation around the world’?

We hope to be able to pre­sent the por­traits of mens­trua­ting people as varied and diverse as pos­si­ble. And for this we need you – no mat­ter how you feel about your own mens­trua­tion or where you come from! If you would like to be part of this series and share your per­so­nal expe­ri­en­ces and thoughts about mens­trua­tion with us, please write us a mes­sage or sim­ply fill out this ques­ti­onn­aire (anony­mously is also pos­si­ble). We are already loo­king for­ward to sharing your story with the Vul­vani community!

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Britta 
Co-Foun­der Vulvani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-foun­der of Vul­vani. She loves rese­ar­ching, wri­ting and designing new arti­cles or inno­va­tive edu­ca­tio­nal con­cepts about mens­trua­tion all day long. When she is not tra­vel­ling the world, she enjoys spen­ding time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.