Written by Emma Knights
Having to do an exam is stressful under any circumstances but combined with worrying about your period, it can become overwhelming. No matter how much we worry, our periods are at the mercy of mother nature - so what can we do?
Most of the worries about our period during exam season aren’t that different from any other time of the year. What if it comes when I’m not expecting it? What if I am expecting it but I leak? How am I supposed to get anything done with these cramps? But the exam period also brings up its own set of challenges. Having to sit exams without toilet breaks means that it's often not possible to nip out to change the pad while the extra stress during this time can affect even the most regular cycles.
While having your period during exams is never going to be the nicest experience it doesn’t have to be the worst either.
Tips for coping with your period during exams
Using a tracking app
Periods can be unpredictable but using a tracking app such as Flo, or Clue can help with telling you when you’re likely to be on your period. These types of apps are great for tracking when your period is due, and even your symptoms - so you can spot the telltale signs of when you are about to start. Knowing this can help you plan when it's best for you to focus your revision and when you might want to take it a bit easier. That being said…
Have a range of revision resources
Even if you’re not on your period during the exam, cramps, headaches or tiredness in the weeks before can make revision feel harder. Having a range of resources to revise from can help this. While you might not feel like writing a practice essay, try watching a video on essay technique, or listen to a Podcast about essay techniques, it might feel more achievable, letting you feel more prepared, which leads to the next point.
Whether it's pads, tampons, a menstrual cup or whatever you feel most comfortable using, be sure to make sure you have some extra in your Period Bag. Since exams can be a few hours long, make sure to change for a clean pad or tampon just before going in for the exam. Don’t forget to bring some FabLittleBags with you as well. These are sustainable disposal bags offering a hygienic, environmentally friendly way to dispose of the products which is especially useful if there isn’t a bin in the loos, or the bin is in a horrible state; no mess, no stress. It is always a good idea to carry a spare pair of clean underwear, especially if you deal with heavy periods on a regular basis. Also have a couple of Ibuprofen or Paracetamol in there if you get cramps and take x2 beforehand to see you through. If you suffer with Endometriosis, or severe period cramps, get a note from your Dr and have a chat beforehand with the appropriate teacher so the invigilator knows the score.
Its okay to play it safe
It's perfectly okay to be a bit more cautious than you normally would. The less you’re worrying about a sudden period appearance the more you can focus on your exam. For this reason some girls choose to wear period pants or a pad just in case they start their period during the exam. This is a good plan if you are due around this time or have irregular periods as it will put your mind at rest.
Don’t worry if there’s a change in your cycle
Late period stress is a real thing! Any sort of stress can lead to changes in your menstrual cycle, including your period being delayed by a couple of days. The cycle may also shorten or become longer and it is not uncommon for students to miss their period altogether during exams. This is usually nothing to worry about although if you’ve missed three periods in a row it’s recommended for you to make an appointment with your GP.
Talk to those around you
Whether it's friends, family or someone else you feel comfortable talking to, chances are there’s someone around you who understands what you’re going through. Find out what works for them – it might be useful for you too!
Be Kind – To yourself
Exams are a stressful time, try to eat well, sleep as much as you can, take a bath with a generous handful of magnesium salts or your favorite bath bomb in it before bedtime, repeat some positive mantras to yourself on the way into the exam.
You’ve got this!
P.S. – Parents – you have a role to play too!
Exams create stress, if you’re a parent, ask your child if they want some help revising and let them know you’re there if they need you, but don’t badger too much, they will know what they need to do. Reiterate that it is the effort that is important, not the end grade and remind them they just need to try their best. Perhaps relax some of the usual ‘house rules’ about keeping rooms tidy, doing jobs around the house etc over the exam period, be supportive, it is only for a short time.