What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you on your period? Bet you don’t have to think about it for long because, let’s face it, everyone’s got a story. But to show you that it’s not just you we’ve asked some amazing women we know from all walks of life to openly share their period stories, so that we can smash those taboos once and for all - and encourage women to talk about menstruation more openly.
Emma Thompson - actor
"Here is what my mother wrote about twenty years ago: "I did not enjoy having the curse. It began when a strange dull stain appeared in what were known as my 'knicker linings', a stout pair of cotton garments worn under navy blue bloomers. I hid them in the wardrobe and resigned myself to Death.”
It seems that not much has changed. When I was a girl, we all used to say that if men had periods there would be bowls of tampons on the bar in pubs, next to the peanuts. But they don’t and many women continue to exist in a state of fear and ignorance surrounded by people telling them they are dirty or not acceptable in polite society.
When I was a girl, we all used to say that if men had periods there would be bowls of tampons on the bar in pubs, next to the peanuts.
Let’s face it, without periods none of us would even exist. So it’s time to accept and support this essential, healthy function. Time to recognise that ANY taboo surrounding periods is in fact pathetic. Please help ActionAid to help the world grow up."
Jessie J - singer
"I started my period at 12 years old. I was at my best friend’s house and we both ran around screaming not knowing what to do. Luckily I had my mum and my two older sisters who I could be really open with and were always there in educating me on tampons and sanitary towels and the different shapes and sizes. So I knew kind of what to do and what it was. It can all be very confusing. SO MANY!
I had very painful and heavy periods growing up. So I had to always be prepared and ready for them to start anything as mine would last longer than the norm. I used to get so much pain and cramps I would be sick, sometimes resulting in going into hospital.
One month I was in the middle of doing my GCSES. I felt my pain start in the morning and thought I just have to push through. I was in my Fine Art GCSE and mid-exam I vomited all over my exam piece and was in agony. I fell to the floor and I got sent home and was luckily given extra time for the art piece. It was my fave subject, I was gutted! That was pretty embarrassing at the time. Looking back now I wish I had said it was part of the art piece lol.
I used to get so much pain and cramps I would be sick
Now I'm older (29) I see it's NORMAL. And one thing we have to remember is EVERY woman gets a period. So don't ever be embarrassed if something happens to you. I have leaked in class on the chair at 15 years old. I have got my period on stage and had to wrap around a shirt around my waist mid-performance and carry on. Recently I was at a very posh event and was talking to some people and reached into my bag to get my phone and pulled a tampon out. Lol. I laughed! Who cares!
I have got my period on stage and had to wrap around a shirt around my waist mid-performance and carry on.
It is what it is and it's a big part of growing up and being a woman. Embrace it! And know every woman's body is different and deals with pain, cramps, bleeding differently. So work out what is best for you. And keep clean!"
Charlie Webster – sports TV presenter
"I competed in an IronMan (endurance swim, bike, run) a couple of years ago, they are hard enough without your period getting in the way. I was like: yes I haven't come on, great I can do the IronMan without having to worry about that! I came out of the swim fine, I came off the bike shattered, but swapped my bike for my trainers fine only to realise I was bleeding.
Nooooooo I'd come on in the middle of an Ironman, you have to be kidding! I was changing from my triathlon suit into my running shorts which are short shorts, running up and down trying to find a toilet, not that I had anything with me so it was kind of pointless. I wasted five minutes running around like a headless chicken, found a porta-loo, shoved a bit of tissue in my pants and then ran out of the transition tent only to see my friend who is male.
I swapped my bike for my trainers fine only to realise I was bleeding
I shouted in front of everyone: "Matty, can you believe it, I've come on!" He looked so embarrassed and then cracked up laughing. "Only you Webs!" The tissue didn't last long in my short shorts, I had 26.2 miles to run I didn't care anymore until after when I had some serious chaffing going on down there! At least I could blame my period for when I cried at the end!"
Abi Mills - captain of Chelsea Ladies Football Club under 21s
"The 3rd of August 2008. The day I was thrust into womanhood. Smack bang in the middle of a week-long tour with Arsenal Ladies under 12's, and with my mother on the other side of the English Channel, it was up to 11-year-old Abi to singlehandedly fight the flood.
I'd secretly anticipated this momentous occasion for a little while and was therefore fully equipped - every brand, style and size available on the supermarket shelves, neatly displayed in a discreet compartment of a suitcase that towered over me.
It was up to 11-year-old Abi to singlehandedly fight the flood
That afternoon, we geared to face the notorious Bayern Leverkusen in our staple red strip with white shorts (yikes)! Valiantly, I pressed on, with two 'Always' pads stuck either side of my lucky knickers (better to be safe than sorry)! We won the game convincingly and I had just taken my first step into womanhood - not bad for a day's work!"
Jo Pavey – long-distance runner
"When I was 14 I had won the 1500m for the English Schools Championships and was so thrilled. I hadn’t started my periods then and so everything was simple. The following year I had started my periods, but I didn’t realise that it would affect me.
There was lots of expectation and pressure on me to do well at the championships again that year but I was going through puberty and not running as well. I didn’t understand that the changes in my performance were as a result of what was going on in my body.
I started my period on the day of the race. My mum and dad had come to watch and when I saw them I was in tears and emotional and I didn’t normally act like that. I took part in the race, but I had leg and period cramps. My legs felt swollen with fluid retention but I wasn’t relating what was going on in my body to my period. I felt awful and finished well behind my time.
I didn’t understand that the changes in my performance were as a result of what was going on in my body.
Everything went wrong and I had no idea why. I just didn’t understand what effect a period could have on me emotionally and physically and on my performance.
From that moment on my training diary changed and even now my training and the races I enter are planned around my periods."
Thanks Emma, Jessie, Charlie, Abi and Jo for sharing your period stories! Find out more about our work on periods, and how you can help ensure that women and girls are able to access safe, clean sanitary products that mean they can manage their periods hygenically and with dignity.