Periods in Ireland: Three menstruators tell their stories

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 maybe soon we will all be talking more openly our periods in Ireland and everywhere else around the world.

Eimíle, Anna Marie and Niamh – three different menstruators from the same country: Ireland. How do they experience their menstruation? Are there similarities? Did they grow up with the same menstrual education? And how are periods in Ireland talked about? Let’s get to know them and find out!

Personal Information

Name: Eimíle
Age: 27
Gender / Sex: female
Country of birth: Ireland
Home: Dublin, Ireland
Degree: BSc. Psychology, Research
Age at first period: 12
Favorite period product: I use pads.
Cost per menstruation: 5 €
Contraception: Fertility awareness and Withdrawal

Personal Information

Name: Anna Marie
Age: 25
Gender / Sex: female
Country of birth: Ireland
Home: Dublin, Ireland
Job: Research and Policy Officer
Age at first period: 16
Favorite period product: Pads
Cost per menstruation: 20 €
Contraception: None

Personal Information

Name: Niamh
Age: 28
Gender / Sex: female
Country of birth: Ireland
Home: Kerry, Ireland
Job: Teacher
Age at first period: 12
Favorite period product: Menstrual cup and Tampons
Cost per menstruation: 4€
Contraception: Pill

How is having periods in Ireland seen?

Eimíle: It is not openly talked about, but it is talked about more than it used to be. There are four menstruators in my family. And I would be the most open about it in my family.

Anna Marie: Periods in Ireland are something to try to hide.

Niamh: Getting my period was something I was very uncomfortable talking about as a young teenager. It wasn’t really spoken about at home. As I got older I started talking about periods with my friends. Periods in Ireland are in my experience not very well educated to people. Not-menstruating people are not included in the conversation. And some menstruating people can still be very private about their menstruation.

How and by whom were you educated about menstruation?

Eimíle: I got my first period-talk from my mother when I was eleven. I felt very shocked. Never before had I heard of periods, I felt so confused.

Anna Marie: I was educated about periods by my mother.

Niamh: Early on there was very little education about period in Ireland. A lot of it was self-learned and intuitive. My first menstrual education was probably when I was 14 in  biology in school. It was very basic and stuck to the ‘scientific’ facts. I felt embarrassed and lacking in knowledge. Later on, when I was maybe 16 or 17, I shared my experiences with my friends.

Tell us a little about your first period!

Eimíle: It happened at my 12th birthday in a bathroom stall in a shopping centre and I didn’t tell anyone. I felt so embarrassed I got it on my birthday and in general. It felt like I was the only one who had it. I just used wads of toilet paper to create a makeshift pad. It wasn’t until my second period when I told my mother.

Anna Marie: My first period I got at a Halloween sleepover. Not at all prepared, but lucky that it was a light flow. I knew what it was because I was quite old getting it. But still I was too afraid to ask for help. And I was slightly terrified I was dying!

Niamh: I got my first period in primary school. At the beginning I was very excited, but I was not very prepared and didn’t tell anyone.

How do you feel about your own menstruation? Has the feeling changed?

Eimíle: I feel happy to get my period as I feel that I’m healthy and my body is working.

Anna Marie:I’m more Liberal talking about it in front of others. I get extreme pain and cramps in my first two days, so I’m done hiding it and pretending that I’m fine.

Niamh: Yes, I feel much more open and positive about it now and love talking about it! Although as I am on the pill I do not experience a true period.

Which menstrual products have you already tried?

Eimíle: I tried tampons and pads. Ideally I prefer tampons but I’m so afraid of TSS since I’ve heard horror stories so I’ve stopped using them (even though I know statistically the chances are very low). I ordered period underwear from Thinxx recently, so hopefully they’ll be my new favourite. I am really looking forward to trying them!

Anna Marie: Pads only. I tried tampons but it wouldn’t work for me. In the last year I started using reusable fabric pads which have greatly reduced waste!

Niamh: I dislike pads, they are messy, feel unclean and leak. As a teenager I used tampons as I was very sporty and they were more reliable and comfortable. Again, most of this I just figured out myself. But now I mostly use a menstrual cup. I found out about cups by talking with my friends. They are environmentally friendly, comfortable and don’t leak.

What do you like to do when you have periods in Ireland?

Eimíle: I go about my business as usual. Perhaps I drink more tea and have more bedtime.

Anna Marie: I dread my period because of the effect it has on me physically. I have meds now, but before them I would miss work or school seven to eight days a year because of my period.

Niamh: I don’t have anything specific that I do, because I don’t really have heavy periods or any real symptoms.

How are you feeling when menstruating? What kind of food, tips or home remedies help you with menstrual discomfort?

Eimíle: I usually feel quite a dull pain, sometimes more severe than others. I take paracetamol. It also helps when I curl in a ball in bed, use a hot water bottle and drink herbal tea.

Anna Marie: Hot water bottles, pain killers, sleep, and crying 😂

Niamh: I don’t really pay much attention to it now. No discomfort really. I try to exercise and get some physical activity in.

Who are you talking to about periods in Ireland?

Eimíle: Mostly I talk to my partner, I can be open with him. I also inform my family or friends if I am menstruating and am around them. If there’s anything out of the ordinary I would talk to my partner or gp.

Anna Marie: My doctor for medical reasons and my partner to give him insight.

Niamh: My friends, my sisters and my boyfriend. Menstruation is a naturally occurring conversation and it’s a part of life.

Do you have a particular funny, embarrassing or important story about your period in Ireland?

 When I was in my last year of primary school (around twelve years old), I didn’t tell my mom I had my period so I had no pads and used toilet roll. There was a box of pads in the toilet in school so I began using these. My friends would monitor these and talk about how scandalous it is that somebody was using them and they talked about who they thought it was. Meanwhile I played along, knowing full well it was me (and probably other girls). There was a lot of shame surrounding it!

Anna Marie: It’s good to talk about periods in Ireland and everywhere else in the world!

Niamh: I hate not being prepared for my period and not having products.

Do you have any advice you want to share?

Eimíle: Talk to your doctor about it and use a period app to track your cycle (they are responsible for data mining a lot; I find the pros outweigh the cons here).

Anna Marie: Having your period is totally normal!

Niamh: Your period is not just being ‘on your period’ and ‘not on your period’. It is a cycle and can also have positive impact on your life. A great indicator of health.

As we can see, even in Ireland, menstruation is still a taboo topic that should remain on the daily list of issues. For menstruation to be normalized and educated, we need more people to talk openly about it, like Eimíle, Anna Marie and Niamh. So let’s talk about it together in the comments!

In ‘Menstruation around the world‘ you will not only find stories about periods in Irleland, but also from NamibiaBrazilLebanon and many more great places.

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!

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August 20, 2021
Vivi studiert Journalistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft im schönen Hamburg und ist seit Juli Teil des Vulvani-Teams im Bereich Social Media und Content. Ihre Lieblingsaktivitäten sind: mit Freund:innen durch die Stadt spazieren, Serien bingen und leckeres veganes Essen kochen/schmausen (nicht unbedingt in dieser Reihenfolge). Sie interessiert sich sehr für Menstrual Health und findet, dass es noch soooo viel über den menschlichen Körper zu lernen gibt. Instagram | LinkedIn

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