- Women's Health
Taking Exams During Your Menstruation
Dealing with the menstrual cycle every month isn’t pleasant. Let's be honest here. It sucks. Almost every female knows what I'm talking about, so I won't describe the symptoms in detail. Now if you’re bleeding from your ‘you know what’ while taking an important exam that can that determine the fate of your collegiate or post-collegiate life, then that really sucks. Especially if we’re talking about final exams for school, or standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, MCAT, LSAT, or GRE. First off, don’t panic. Many female high school and college students have taken exams during their heaviest flows and done well. While having your period may make you uncomfortable, it does not affect your intelligence.
Have you ever taken a major exam during your period?
Having your period can be totally uncomfortable, and the symptoms vary among individuals. Some (very, very lucky) people don't even experience any discomfort. Since menstrual cycles are rather consistent, some females choose to track their cycles on a calendar to anticipate the days of discomfort. Other females, like myself, might forgo the calendar and guesstimate when we need to start wearing dark bottoms (Note: Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) provides pretty accurate guesses).
For those of you counting or guesstimating the days on the calendar for Aunt Flow’s visit, you’re probably hoping that Aunt Flow doesn’t drop by during the week of your exam(s). Many female students know how disruptive periods are to their study schedules. Now if you're unfortunate to have Aunt Flow visit around your exam, you first have to accept the fact that you'll have your period during that crucial and stressful time. Instead of despairing, start preparing. As a female student about to have her period close to her exam, it is important to study early, rest, exercise, stay hydrated, and pamper yourself. Yes, you do need to pamper yourself. No, it won't be a waste of time if you've studied enough.
Consider prepping for your exam at least a week early. Study and learn the class material ahead of time so you’ll only be relaxing and reviewing the material during the week of your period and exam. Consider studying the material the professor hasn’t taught yet. If you need help with the new material, talk to your professor during office hours. If your professor says the material will be discussed at an upcoming lecture around your menstrual period, let the professor know what you want to study the material early or that you expect to be “very sick” at that time. If you're in high school, don't be afraid to ask your teachers for help. If they're unable to help, there are a lot of sources on the internet helpful for high school students. For those of you taking standardized tests for college or graduate school, you should already be studying for the exam months ahead so this shouldn't be an issue.
Even if you’re not on your period, it’s important to rest during your exam. It’s not healthy to pull all-nighters and have caffeine binges. Your body is under a lot of stress from menstruating and anxiety for your upcoming exam. Make sure you get plenty of sleep at night. Sleeping helps process and retain the information you've studied during the day.
It’s important to move around. Go to the gym, take a walk, or run around in your room. You don't have to do an intense workout. Light exercise is fine. When you exercise, your body releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which can relieve some unwanted period symptoms.
Drink lots of water throughout the day. Avoid drinks that will dehydrate you like coffee, soda, and alcohol.
Treat yourself well during your menstruation. You’re dealing with enough stress already. If you’ve studied and learned the material to the point where you’re only reviewing the information, go pamper yourself. Get your hair and nails done. Go shopping. See a movie or two. Hang out with friends. Do things to make yourself happy and take your mind off of your period and exams. At the end of the day, you can review for your exam an hour before bed.
What to Pack If You’re Menstruating On the Day of Your Exam
Pads and tampons. Remember to bring your goodies on the day of the exam. It’s not fun to wear a soiled pad before an exam. If your flow is particularly heavy and you’re concerned about leakage, consider getting an adult diaper. You shouldn’t be worried about how to sit and angle your butt to prevent bloodly stains. No one, except you, will know that you’re wearing one.
Water. Stay hydrated before, during, and after the exam.
Healthy snacks. Fruit and veggies good. If not, choose snacks low in sugar and sodium.
Pain medication. Bring some even if you typically don't take pain medication during your period. It doesn’t hurt to pack a small bottle in case you suddenly experience painful cramps. Your mind is under a lot of stress, and stress may cause you to experience symptoms you normally don’t experience.
Materials to review. Study guides, outlines, lecture notes, flashcards, and etc. Don't worry about bringing these if you're taking an exam like the SAT or ACT.
- Motivational cards. (Optional, but recommended) You’re under a lot of stress during the day of your exam. You want to be positive and stay positive. Write positive notes to remind yourself that you’re ready for the exam. You can write messages like ‘You can do it!’ or ‘Aunt Flow will not defeat me!’ on index cards or a sheet of paper. If you don’t want to waste paper, you can type the messages on your phone.
The most important thing is to accept that your period is going to happen, and to not let it get the best of you. You’ve already studied and prepared for your exam (hopefully). You should be fine (if you studied). It won't be the end of the world if you fail.