“I usually experience stomach ache, headache, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and hotness on my breast every time I am just about to ‘receive’. I have explained all these to my mum and grandmother but they say that I am not the only one who experiences such difficulties. What is the cause of all these? (Name withheld)”.

Very often, Straight Talk and Aunty Jane Hotline receive many such questions on menstruation. Most of these letters and calls refer to it as:

P’s, menses, monthly periods, MP, mnyesho, kunyesha, kuroll, cramping, receiving and travelling.

When it comes to menstruation, young people have different experiences as Straight Talk and Aunty Jane Hotline found out. This is when we recently engaged students in a very exciting reproductive health dialogue camp a the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi

“When one of my friends is menstruating, she dislikes perfumed stuff like soap and body lotions. She says they smell awful during her periods” Hammaland Mwangemi, 18yrs of St Teresa Sec School, Nairobi shared.

For Mary Adhiambo, 15yrs, New Pumwani Primary School, she warns her peers that having sex when menstruating can still lead to pregnancy. And this is true. Sperms can stay alive in the vaginal canal for up to 72 hrs. “During menstruation ladies tend to have bad mood swings; don’t feel like talking at all and usually have stomach and back pains” Says Wonder Wangu, 15yrs of Outer Ring Sec School , Nairobi. “I get lazy, like I can sleep the whole day! And I also lose appetite.” she adds.

For others they asked,

“On the 14th day after menstruation I have pain from my anus such that I cannot walk or sit properly. Please help me.” Another asked, “In May 2017, my periods came with a lot of pain and heavy flow and it was like it had clotted. Was this normal or a sign of illness?”

“My menstrual periods are irregular. I even take 3-4 months without ‘travelling’ or having my periods. And when they come, they are so scanty and only last 2-3 days. Is this normal?” yet another student wondered.

Dear Aunty Jane, I don’t know how to get along with people around me during my menses. This really confuses me and I don’t know what the problem is?” A student inquired.

Can you relate with the above experiences? With these kinds of body changes, confusion and misleading information comes along. If not careful, you can easily be cheated and be misled. How then can we ensure we get right and adequate information about menstruation to enable us cope?

Straight Talk got the following responses.

Diana Whitney, Form 4, Kibera Girls Soccer Academy says, we should be bold enough to ask teachers questions touching on reproduction. For teachers they need be open and ready to go beyond what is in the textbooks.

While for Josephine Mbinya, 17yrs, MSF Kibera, peers should not be mislead by others, we need to understand that our bodies are not the same and will respond differently to any body changes.

According to Phylis Wairimu (Outering High School, Nairobi), she advises that “parents need to talk to us more than just telling us, you are a big girl now, don’t play with boys.”

They say such when they notice that you have started your menses. And a parting shot from Moraa, some of the advise we get from our peers can be misleading like being told that after giving birth pain will reduce during menstruation is wrong. It is always good to counter check any information you get before acting.