Managing your first period: an autistic child’s experience

Managing your first period: an autistic child’s experience

Apr 01, 2022sophie nelson

Jodie Fisher is Mum to three daughters, including Freya, who has an autism diagnosis. Here she shares her journey with first periods and Modibodi

In my lifetime, I’ve had around 150 periods (taking into account pregnancies and an IUD). I still remember the first one, which happened right at the beginning of high school. Even though we’d had ‘the talk’ at school in Year 6, I was completely unprepared.

I vividly remember folding tissues into my undies and heading to the school office for help – or not as it turned out – since they didn’t have any menstrual hygiene products on hand. They called my Grandad to come get me (Mum was at work), so I could go buy products, go home to get changed, then come back to school. Not surprisingly for his generation, Grandad took me home for my Nan to ‘deal with’, then I headed back to school.

From that experience alone, I knew I wanted my own daughters to be better prepared for their first period, so I started educating them from an early age…just in case.

From open conversations about blood, cramps and period products to changing my own protection in public toilets with them close by, my daughters are learning that periods are normal and nothing to be ashamed – or afraid – of.

I remember being with my daughter Freya in a museum toilet some years back, when she started loudly asking me what I was doing. I answered her honestly, as usual, with a queue of women listening in the bathroom – all of whom now knew I had my period. When we came out of the cubicle, one lady praised me for having such an honest conversation. It’s pretty sad that’s seen as something out of the ordinary.

Once Freya started developing breasts, I knew her first period was getting closer, so we started having more detailed conversations and I gave her a sanitary pad to take to school so she’d be ready and not have to experience ‘period panic’.

Freya’s autism diagnosis means she sometimes experiences sensory issues challenges with clothing, so I was unsure how she’d cope with period products.

As it turns out, Freya started her period right at the beginning of high school…just like me. But for her, it happened on a weekend. She asked for help and was a little panicked, but I gave her some sanitary pads and clean undies and we were underway.

We had frank chats about things like not walking on the carpet with no undies on (yes really), dealing with cramps, using a period tracker app on her phone to stay on top of things, using a darker towel after washing and making sure she changed period products regularly. You forget how much there is to know about your menstrual cycle…it just becomes a habit so quickly.

It didn’t take long to see that Freya was struggling with some aspects of her period. The first issue was the sound of ‘rustling’ pads in her underwear. The second was feeling embarrassed to change products at school as she felt it took too long, which meant some days she was going 8 hours without changing. She also found the sight of blood on her pads unsettling.

I had heard about period underwear, which a friend had recommended, when Modibodi RED offered us a RED Period Kit.

The RED Period Kit includes:

  • 1 pair of RED underwear in the style of your choice in Black (this is either Hipster Boyshort or Hipster Bikini).
  • A RED Waterproof Bag
  • One A5 linen-covered notebook
  • A bamboo Spa Headband 
  • One Period 101 booklet to answer all your questions

Having had experience with reusable nappies, I expected period underwear to be thick and bulky, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the real deal. My next concern was ‘will they be absorbent enough?’

As it turns out, period underwear has been a game changer in our house, especially for Freya. It’s resolved her issues around rustling sanitary pads and her embarrassment about using public toilets (even though periods are nothing to be ashamed of). The black gusset also means she doesn’t actually ‘see’ her period flow, which does mean that she can’t monitor it by looking, so she goes by the ‘heavy’ or ‘full’ feeling of her period underwear instead.

I have to admit, I was initially put off by the cost of period underwear. Obviously, it’s an initial investment which is significantly higher than a month’s supply of disposable products, but if you do the maths over a couple of years, you soon see that if you look after your underwear and care for it according to the instructions, you’ll definitely save money – and the environment.

It’s great not to be throwing so much plastic into the rubbish, and Modibodi RED underwear is also better for your body since it doesn’t contain the chemicals you find in disposable products. I was also surprised by the fact period underwear doesn’t smell thanks to its antimicrobial properties and moisture wicking Merino wool top layer.

On heavier days, Freya changes her period underwear when she gets home from school, while on lighter days she puts on a fresh pair before bedtime.

Having tried both the Hipster Bikini and Hipster Boyshort styles, Freya prefer the boyshort, which she feels more confident in, especially overnight. Here’s her review:

Modibodi RED Hipster Boyshort

“They were very good at absorbing everything and lasted me all day. They were very comfortable as well and I used them for night time too. I have had no leaks day or night. I’m really happy I have them and find them really easy to use.” – Freya

We’re also fans of Modibodi’s waterproof bag, which is an essential part of being a period underwear convert in case you need to change when you’re out or at school – you just pop the dirty pair inside the waterproof bag and wash them when you get home. The bag comes in two sizes and while the small bag is perfect for taking to school, I think the large bag is best for keeping dirty pairs zipped away until wash day so you can wash them together.

How to wash your period underwear

While I was initially a bit put off by the idea of washing period underwear – just like I was with cloth nappies – it’s actually been easier than I expected.

Basically, as soon as Freya takes a dirty pair off she runs the gusset under cold water to get rid of the absorbed blood, then she pops them into the waterproof bag. Once there are a couple of pairs ready to go, I wash them in the machine in a delicates cycle with a small amount of detergent and NO fabric softener.

You can wash them separately or in with your other clothes in a laundry bag so they don’t get snagged on zips etc. And remember to wash on a cold cycle and not put your Modibodi into the tumble dryer. I think the ideal number of pairs to have enough for each cycle (and to not have to wash them as often) would be six.

Wow, who knew I’d become so passionate about period underwear. I highly recommend Modibodi RED for girls starting their period – and beyond. They’re comfy, simple and even my 7-year-old has asked for some when her time comes!

Disclosure: These period items were gifted to us.

Follow Jodie's journey here or on Instagram here

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