When it comes to periods, not every menstrual experience is the same for everyone. Some have have lighter flows, while others have heavier flows; some have periods that last a full seven days, while others are fortunate enough to menstruate for only a couple days. Then, when it comes to cultures and societies, the differences in menstrual experiences get even more complicated.
The Flex Company, makers of disposable menstrual discs, recently conducted a survey of 2,000 people in six countries — U.K., U.S., Canada, China, India, and South Africa — to get their insight on not just their menstrual experiences, but the products they use and how they even first learned about their period.
Interestingly, the survey found that fewer American women learn about their periods from their moms (48 percent in the U.S. versus 70 percent in India) than in any of the five other countries. Which, considering how inept the sex education is in the United States, makes one wonder how they're finding out about their periods — Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, perhaps? I really hope so; Judy Blume is great for that type of stuff.
From who uses the most tampons to who shuns the idea of period sex most of all, here are 13 findings from The Flex Company's survey.
1Most Women Hide Their Periods
According to the survey, 73 percent of women, globally, "sometimes or always" hide their periods from others and 68 percent are afraid to talk about their periods with the men in their lives.
While I can understand not everyone wants to take to a rooftop to announce that they're menstruating, I'm not sure how hiding it is doing anything but adding to the stigma of menstruation. But considering how few so many of us were raised not to talk about our periods (even with out moms), it's totally understandable.
2Women In India Are More Scared Of Being Attacked By An Animal While Menstruating Than Americans
For 34 percent of the women living in India, the fear of being attacked by a bear, shark, or lion during menstruation is a real concern. In fact, they're three times more likely to be afraid of such an attack as Canadians or Americans. While there's no denying that animals can smell blood far better than we can, it's actually a myth that your period can put your life in danger in regards to any of these animals.
3Women In The U.S. Are Big Into Tampons
Despite the fact that tampons can be found in many countries, the United States remains the only country in which tampons are used more than pads. The survey also found that women in the U.S. are the least satisfied with their period product options, meaning, sure, they're using tampons, but they're not loving those tampons.
4Some Women Fear Tampon Use Will Affect Their Virginity
Although it's been proven to be one of the many period myths out there, 60 percent of Chinese women are scared that using a tampon will affect their virginity, as in it'll de-virginize them. This could explain why the survey found that 93 percent of Chinese women use pads when they're menstruating, although 64 percent found them uncomfortable and 90 percent wish they had more options from which to choose.
But the Chinese aren't the only women who feel this way. The survey also found, globally, that 23 percent of women fear that using a tampon will affect their virgin status.
5Women In The U.S. Are Really Accepting Of Period Sex
While there's no denying the fact that there are benefits to having period sex — shorter periods, alleviating cramps, among other things — not all countries were totally down with the concept. According to the survey, 34 percent of women in the U.S. said they would "of course" have period sex, while 64 percent said they'd "maybe or definitely" have it.
As far as the UK and Canada are concerned, 19 percent of women in both countries confirmed they would have sex while on their period.
6Chinese Women Would Rather Forgo Period Sex
Chinese women, on the other hand, at 67 percent, refuse the idea of period sex, with only three percent saying they "definitely would" have it. Indian women, although not as open as Americans on the period sex front, are still more open than the Chinese, with 54 percent of them reporting that they would "maybe or definitely" have period sex.
7The Majority Of Chinese Women Didn't Even Know Their Periods Were Coming
A really terrifying fact that the survey found was that 88 percent of Chinese women felt "scared or surprised" when their first period arrived and 91 percent felt "moderately or very surprised and scared" when they got their period. What this means is that no one gave them a heads up that they were going to start bleeding at some point. Scary.
8Women In All Countries Aren't Prepared For Getting Their Period
Chinese women aren't the only ones who are left in the dark in regards to their period. The survey found that 43 percent of women in India, 27 percent in the UK, 19 percent in the United States aren't adequately prepared about the fact that they would eventually be getting a period and how they should handle it. This lack of preparation results in 45 percent of Indian women, 34 percent of Chinese women, and 17 percent of American women feeling "very" scared when they first learned about their period.
Across all the countries surveyed, however, 70 percent reported feeling "moderately or very" scared when they got their first period.
9Women In India Seem To Be Less Ashamed Of Their Periods
While, globally, the majority of women prefer to stay mum about their periods, women in India are less likely to hide the fact that they have their period than any other nationality surveyed.
10Canadians Prefer Menstrual Cups
While the survey found, as a whole, most women are less than thrilled with their menstrual product options, they did find that Canadians use menstrual cups more than any other country surveyed. It also found that when it comes to ideal period products, Canada and the U.S. are looking for those that are environmentally friendly. I'd say menstrual cups definitely fit the bill on that one.
11Periods Keep Women From Work In All Countries
When it comes to having to take a sick day due to their period, women in India miss the most days, with 38 percent of them missing work five or more times a year. Women in China, the U.S., and Canada, also miss work at least five times a year because of their period.
12South African Women Need To Rely On Friends For Period-Related Information
At 12 percent, women in South Africa learn about their periods from their friends more than any other country. Not only that, but 46 percent of South Africans reported not hearing anything about periods in school, a percentage that's higher than all the other countries surveyed.
13Schools Aren't Teaching Women About Their Periods
Not that this is even remotely breaking news, but South Africa isn't the only country where menstruation isn't covered in school. In Canada, only 30 percent of women learn about their period in school, followed by 15 percent of Chinese women, and 12 percent of Indian women having access to such information in the classroom.
Regardless of where you live, I think we can agree that too many of us were embarrassed or left in the dark when we first got out period. Of course, it would be great if our cultures were more open about menstruation. But until that time comes, it's important to realize we're not alone, and, more than anything, not be ashamed that we bleed.