Experiences, Uncategorized

Camino de Santiago – managing your period

If you’re up to date with Spaghetti Brains, you’ll know that the last post was a guest post by my friend, and English Literature student Kate Mager (click HERE if you missed it). I was away for 6 weeks, during this time, in the Spanish countryside walking around 900km of the Camino de Santiago. I started in St Jean Pied du Port in France and finished in Finisterre, the most western point of Iberian Spain. 32 days of non-stop walking, over different terrains, with all kinds of weather – storms, hail, and blistering hot sun. All of this whilst carrying all my possessions in a rucksack and sleeping in basic hostels – and sometimes barns or monasteries – in rural Spain.

It was very much a back to basics month. In order to try to keep my life as simple as possible, I decided to skip my withdrawal bleed from the contraceptive pill by continuously taking it each day, instead of the 7 day break. It was something I’d done before…but it didn’t go as well as usual. So here’s my experience, and tips for periods/spotting/and general vagina care whilst walking the camino, or hiking anywhere else in the world.

I was due on my period at the start of the camino and so kept taking the pill to avoid it – no problemos. However, 21 days later, I began a second packet of pills to skip the next bleed and it didn’t work out so well. I’d taken a few panty liners and pads with me just in case (a girl can never be too sure) and when I had one day of spotting, I didn’t think much of it. I put a pad in and carried on walking. But the spotting turned into bleeding, which turned into brown sludge, which turned back into bleeding, and back and forth it bounced for pretty much the rest of my camino. As a menstrual cup user without their menstrual cup, I had to make do with what I could buy along the way and so here’s what I learnt:

  1. No plan is foolproof. Always bring your menstrual cup.

    Playing the system doesn’t always work and sometimes Mother Nature decides to bite you in the vagina. Sure menstrual cups can be fiddly and complicated, but oh I missed it so much whilst walking for 10 hours in blistering heat with blood soaking into an itchy pad from a shitty Spanish ‘supermarket’ (aka a villager’s front room with some shelves in it). Menstrual cups take up next to no space, so you may as well always pack it.

  2. Bring back ups.

    IMG_1785
    Pa
    ds, tampons, whatever suits you. If there’s no where to wash a menstrual cup, or you don’t use one, you can’t rely on towns and villages. The shop in the town coming up could be shut for siesta time (if you’re in Spain), or may be run by an old man who coughs hysterically, shakes his head, disappears off into the back room and doesn’t return when you ask for sanitary products. Again, It may feel like over packing, but it’s worth the hassle.

  3. Buy unbleached/untreated/organic where possible.

    Your vagina will thank you. If you’re hiking somewhere hot, it can sometimes feel too hot to walk, without having bleach soaking up all your vagina juice goodness that it needs. If you have the money, I think that they’re really worth trying.

  4. Lose clothing, always. Click HERE to read my summer vagina tips if you want to know why.
  5. Take a wash bag you can hang and tissue when you go for a shower.

    Cubicle showers in hostels and campsites are not glamorous and don’t offer much privacy. So put tissue and your menstrual cup, or tampon, or pad in your wash bag and take it into the shower cubicle with you. If you’re bleeding a lot ,then drying yourself after a shower could result in a bloody towel. Use the tissue first to wipe away any blood. Washing your towel at the end of each day because it’s bloody is the last thing you want to do when you can barely stand on your own two feet.

Despite all this, I had an amazing time, and will never let periods put me off, or get in the way of the things I want to do. Buen camino and safe travels/hiking. If you have any tips for managing periods/spotting then let me know so I can add them to the list with or without your name. It’s up to you!

Email: spaghettibrains@outlook.com 
OR
message on social media: @spaggybrains .
Enjoy hiking, and I hope Mother Nature treats you well.

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