Mens­trua­tion around the world is a new series from Vul­vani that seeks to show the diver­sity of mens­trual expe­ri­en­ces around the world. How do dif­fe­rent people expe­ri­ence their peri­ods? How do dif­fe­rent cul­tures deal with the topic? What pro­ducts are used during mens­trua­tion? These are all ques­ti­ons that we are asking our­sel­ves and that we aim to ask many other people as well. We por­tray people from dif­fe­rent coun­tries with their per­so­nal sto­ries. Because it is about time that we talk about mens­trua­tion and pro­vide a plat­form for various voices. Let us explore tog­e­ther the won­der­ful and oh so diverse world of mens­trual expe­ri­en­ces. I will kick off the start of the new series and ans­wer ten ques­ti­ons about my period. Have fun rea­ding the interview!

Personal Information

Name: Britta
Age: 29
Ham­burg (cur­r­ently tra­ve­ling through South Ame­rica for a cou­ple of mon­ths)
Stu­dies: Bache­lor in Mul­ti­lin­gual Com­mu­ni­ca­tion & Mas­ter in Latin Ame­ri­can Stu­dies
Job: self-pro­c­lai­med mens­trual repre­sen­ta­tive
Age of the first period:
Favou­rite period pro­duct: Free Blee­ding
Cost per mens­trua­tion : 0,00 €
Con­tracep­tion method: Con­dom + lear­ning natu­ral family planning 

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

I have the fee­ling that a lot has chan­ged in Ger­many in recent years. Mens­trua­tion is tal­ked about again and again in the big media or on tele­vi­sion. Espe­cially people on social media are get­ting lou­der and lou­der about mens­trua­tion. Nevertheless I would say that mens­trua­tion in gene­ral is still loa­ded with many pre­ju­di­ces, igno­rance and a gene­ral taboo. We still have a long way to go before ever­yone accepts mens­trua­tion for what it really is: a com­ple­tely natu­ral bodily func­tion that takes place at regu­lar inter­vals in healthy people with an uterus.

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

We had many dif­fe­rent edu­ca­tio­nal books at home about mens­trua­tion and puberty in gene­ral. I enjoyed rea­ding them. There was also always a dra­wer in the bathroom with various mens­trual pro­ducts (tam­pons, pads and panty liners). But we didn’t talk much about the topic. But mens­trua­tion was not a taboo and there was always the pos­si­bi­lity to ask ques­ti­ons. When my first period was long over, I gathe­red all my cou­rage and told my older sis­ter in tears that I now also had my period. She pro­vi­ded me instantly with tam­pons and told me that pads are dis­gus­ting and that I shouldn’t use them. Little by little my friends and I also asked each other quietly and very shyly whe­ther we had already got­ten our period for the first time. At school we also had sex edu­ca­tion. But I can­not remem­ber that it was par­ti­cu­larly extensive.

3. Talk a little about your first period.

I was sur­pri­sed at the age of 13 by my first mens­trua­tion in a cinema in Ber­lin, far away from home! It was just before New Year’s Eve and I was visi­t­ing my cou­sin for a few days. I was not really pre­pa­red for my first mens­trua­tion. I felt I had to go to the toi­let every few minu­tes because I was afraid I could bleed all over the place. The idea of having some pads or tam­pons in my tra­vel bag as a pre­cau­tion hadn’t occur­red to me before, of course. I only had a few panty liners with me because I some­ti­mes have had a little discharge, but I hadn’t expec­ted my first mens­trua­tion at all! So panty liners plus toi­let paper had to catch the mens­trual blood, which some­ti­mes worked bet­ter and other times worse. You can read the whole story of my first period here.

4. How do you feel about your own menstruation?

Today mens­trua­tion has become one of my favou­rite topics and I find it fasci­na­ting to get to know and under­stand my own body bet­ter and bet­ter. There is not­hing I would rather spend all of my time with than my period. Hence this blog and Vul­vani. But of course that was not always the case. In the past I found it all quite strange and above all unnecessary.

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

When I am on my period, I like to take a lot of time for mys­elf. Warmth is also important. Espe­cially on the first two days I like to be at home, lying in bed with a hot water bot­tle, lis­tening to pod­casts and drin­king warm tea. And just taking it easy and relax. That is my dream siuta­tion! When I have enough rest, I have little to no period pain or other dis­com­forts.  

6. Which menstrual products have you already tried?

By now a lot! Star­ted with fol­ding toi­let paper when I was sur­pri­sed by my first period. Then actually tam­pons and some­ti­mes panty liners as a backup. Over time I tried pads at night or when I was at home. To be honest, I didn’t think that much about the dif­fe­rent opti­ons out there and the enor­mous waste crea­ted by dis­po­sable pro­ducts before. Those were sim­ply the pro­ducts that were avail­able at home or that my friends used. I think around 2016 a good friend told me about free blee­ding and I was totally fasci­na­ted and tried it. Then I com­bi­ned free blee­ding with tam­pons, depen­ding on what I wan­ted to do during my period. And in 2018 I con­sciously noti­ced mens­trual cups for the first time and bought one instantly. A few mon­ths later, was­ha­ble panty liners and pads made of fab­ric were added to the mix. And my period was sud­denly com­ple­tely sus­tainable and eco-friendly. By now, I pre­fer to prac­tice free blee­ding, pre­fer­a­bly with a was­ha­ble panty liner as a backup. On lon­ger bus trips without toi­lets I use my mens­trual cup. 

7. What kind of food or home remedies helps you with menstrual discomfort?

Above all, a lot of rest and time at home help me. It is best for me if I do not have much to do on the first two days of my mens­trua­tion. I also like to drink warm tea or use my hot water bot­tle. When I am rela­xed, my mens­trua­tion is also rela­xed. I also have the fee­ling that if I 100% prac­tice free blee­ding, my period is shor­ter and more comfortable.

8. Who are you talking to about menstruation?

Actually, ever­yone who hasn’t left after three seconds han­ging out with me! No no, it’s not that extreme. But in the last few years I’ve star­ted to talk more and more about mens­trua­tion and espe­cially Vul­vani has inten­si­fied that. I am always very happy when friends or people I know con­sciously start tal­king about it with me, because they know that I like to talk about mens­trua­tion and they can ask me all their ques­ti­ons. I still like to talk about free blee­ding most, because then people don’t stop being ama­zed and many can’t ima­gine how it actually works just fine.

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

Actually, not really. But there have been a few rat­ehr unusual mens­trual moments, espe­cially when tra­vel­ling. Maybe the moment when I had to change my full mens­trual cup on an out­door toi­let during a day trip in Chile or a few weeks later I had to free bleed onto the sand on a Peruvian beach because there were no toi­lets for miles. Even though I had found a quiet place, it had to be fast. Because on the pro­me­nade people were already approa­ching us again.

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

Go out into the world and talk about mens­trua­tion! Be proud to bleed and don’t hide your period any­more. Let’s all push for­ward the nor­ma­liz­a­tion of mens­trua­tion tog­e­ther. Get infor­med, get to know your own body and try out new, sus­tainable mens­trual pro­ducts. And keep rea­ding my arti­cles here on Vulvani!

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
Co-Foun­der Vulvani | | 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.