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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

“Hey do you have a pad?”

Remember how embarrassing asking this question was for a lot of us when we first began our periods? To this day I still find myself whispering to my friends that I’m on my period. But this shouldn’t be the case, it’s 2022 and discussing our vaginal/menstrual health is not something to feel embarrassed about. 

I come from a very traditional home so I had no idea what a period even was or that there were so many kinds of pads and tampons. In fact, I didn’t begin using a tampon until I entered college because I was scared and confused about its insertion. Having these discussions really needs to start happening at a young age. I know many schools offer sex ed., but families also should make the time to have a discussion with their child so that they’re not left clueless or worse seek misinformation from peers who know as little as they do. 

It is unfortunate that society has made women feel embarrassed about seeking basic needs for their health. From having to excuse themselves from class because they started their cycle or reaching into their purse and unwrapping that loud pad wrapper in the restroom to refusing to ask anyone for a pad. Fortunately we are beginning to see a few schools provide free menstruation products.

women\'s health products in bathroom
Original photo by Alejandra Lara

It is with open discussions that we are able to erase any stigmas and misconceptions surrounding women’s health and provide more services. These discussions have led us to tackle issues such as making sure that everyone has access to menstruation products. As we all know things like pads, tampons and liners can be pretty pricey and when you’re a college student already on a tight budget this can become an issue. I know I have been in situations where I got my period unexpectedly on campus and needed a pad quickly or was running low on pads. I also know many students who are on a tight budget and need to save where they can. Fortunately here at UCSB the food bank offers pads and tampons and now we have received news that the UCSB Library and UCSB Associated Students Commission on Student Well-Being (COSWB) have launched a 6-month pilot program to provide free menstrual supplies (pads and tampons) in the library. These supplies can be found in nine restrooms, which are in the gender-neutral restrooms on the first (1509, 1511, 1514, 1516) and second floor (2505, 2507, 2522, 2526) and the 4th floor women’s restroom (4549). A.S COSWB also provides free menstrual products off-camps in the bathrooms of Woodstock’s, Pizza My Heart, and Rockfire Grill in Isla Vista! 

Picture of pantiliner box.
Original photo by Alejandra Lara

It is a special thanks to Michelle Tu who founded the Menstrual Health and Equity Coalition at UCSB in December of 2021, in order to provide greater access to menstrual products for UCSB students and help combat period poverty. The coalition aims to promote menstrual equity and advocate to end the Tampon tax. If you are interested in being a volunteer to help restock these bins and to get in your volunteer hours, please contact Michelle Tu (coswb-womens@as.ucsb.edu)!

Discussions about our menstruation health is not the only thing that needs to be normalized. We especially need to start normalizing having open discussions about our vaginal health. There are so many stigmas surrounding things like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis which are actually more common than we think. In fact,

“Seventy-five percent of women are likely to have at least one yeast infection during their lifetime; nearly half have two or more.”

“Vaginal yeast infections are the second most common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge in the United States (the first is bacterial vaginosis).”

Speaking from personal experience I didn’t see a gynecologist until recently and I’m twenty-one. I was intimidated by seeing a gynecologist because I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of a complete stranger looking down there and I was scared of the results. But, had I not gone, I may have made my yeast infection worse and I would still be uncomfortable. The nurses and gynecologists at student health were all also very kind and made sure I was comfortable and answered all my questions. They made me realize that anyone can get a yeast infection, as in my case, because our vaginas are very sensitive and its pH levels can be thrown off by things like scented body washes. So, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment for any of your health needs.

If you are someone who is sexually active it is also important that you make an appointment to get STD/STI checked ESPECIALLY if you are not using a condom. Remember the most common symptom is no symptom.

There is so much that needs to be discussed more openly, but society has made it seem as if menstruation, Urinary tract infections, yeast infections etc. are something to be shy and grossed out about. But it is through discussions with trusted friends and our doctors that we can feel relief and realize that someone else may be going through the same thing. So don’t be embarrassed, PERIOD!

Alejandra is a fourth year global studies major with a minor in professional writing. She was born in LA and has moved around a lot eventually ending up studying in sunny Santa Barbara. Her hobbies include writing, drawing, and fashion. She also dreams of owning her own clothing line/business.