Regardless of our age, there are some questions about getting our period and menstruation that we women may have never asked. Whether you are new to getting your period, a mom who has to explain menstruation to her daughter, or a mature woman who has said adios to that portion of your life, there may be one or more questions left unasked or unanswered.
So, here we go! Here are a few questions women of all ages have been asking about their period and about the use of pads and tampons. We invite you to share or ask questions in the comments below.
What is considered to be a normal period?
No two periods are alike. On average, a woman's menstrual flow occurs every 28 days, with a "normal" range of between 24 and 34 days. Periods generally last about four to seven days.
Having said this, you can determine what is "normal" for you by keeping a monthly diary and tracking when your period starts and ends, flow rate, and any symptoms such as bloating and cramps. If you notice anything unusual like severe pain, abnormally heavy bleeding, or spotting between periods, be sure to contact your doctor.
Read about period problems
Do tampons hurt when you put them in?
Inserting a tampon can hurt, but only if you do it incorrectly. It's all in the technique, and once you have it down, you should be more comfortable with the procedure. To insert a tampon that has an applicator, begin by relaxing; being tense will make insertion more difficult. Stand with your knees slightly bent or put one foot up on the toilet, tub, or a chair.
Hold the applicator with your thumb and middle finger by the anti-slip section on the applicator. Make sure the string is hanging down. Gently insert the outer portion of the applicator into your vagina at a slight upward angle as if you were pointing it toward the small of your back. Slide the applicator all the way into your vagina until your fingers touch your body.
Use your index finger to push the inner tube completely into the outer tube until the ends of the two tubes are even. As you do this, the tampon leaves the applicator and is positioned in your vagina. You are done!
Why do periods tend to get heavier as I get older?
We can blame hormones for experiencing heavier bleeding as we get older. However, this is not always the case, as blood flow gets lighter for some women. According to Dr. Molly O'Shea, a pediatrician, the beginning years of a woman's period is a time when the hormones are getting adjusted. However, "once you have had your period for a few years, these hormones are at your 'normal' adult levels, and your periods will be heavy or light depending on who you are." As women approach menopause, hormone levels change again and blood flow may fluctuate as well.
Is it safe to not have a period?
It's safe to say that some women don't enjoy their periods, so what if we opt out of them? Some doctors believe it is okay for certain women to skip out on their periods by using oral contraception, but others do not agree. Women who don't get their periods run a much greater risk of osteoporosis and fractures. A condition known as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is characterized by irregular periods, and in this case, missing many periods can increase a woman's risk of endometrial cancer.
Women who don't want to give birth and who want to bypass their periods should talk to their gynecologist about their options and their consequences. There are many natural ways to prevent pregnancy without the use of synthetic hormones.
Why does my menstrual blood look brown during the first few days of my period?
That's because your body is eliminating old blood, possibly left over from the uterine lining from your last period. For some women, brown blood is an indication that their uterus gets rid of its blood at a slower rate. Typically the menstrual blood is red by day two or three of the cycle, and there's nothing to worry about.
Do women poop more during menstruation?
Generally, yes, and here's why. Menstruation doesn't just impact your reproductive parts; it steps up the activity of the intestinal tract as well. That's because substances called prostaglandins, which play a role in labor, help make your smooth muscles relax during menstruation, which in turn assists in the more rapid elimination of excess stool. So you may notice a slight uptick in elimination during menstruation.
Can I get pregnant while I am menstruating?
It is possible to get pregnant while you have your period. Some women ovulate early in their cycle, making pregnancy possible. If you have unprotected sex on the last day of your period and you ovulate two days later, sperm from 48 hours earlier could find a released egg. Sperm can live up to five days in the female reproductive tract, so beware!
What are these blood clots I see in the toilet during my period?
In most cases, the blood clots you see in the toilet during your period are not a concern. Typically they occur if you are bleeding heavily and quickly, which means the anticoagulants (anti-clotting) factors in your body can't keep up with the demand. If the blood clots are small, about the size of a quarter, you probably don't need to worry. However, if the clots are larger, check in with your doctor. Too much bleeding may result in your becoming anemic.
I sometimes get my period twice in one month. What gives?
Many factors can cause women to fall into an irregular cycle and have two periods within a 30-day period, including excess stress, thyroid disease, fibroids or cysts, diabetes, or obesity. If the double periods happens once, it likely isn't anything of concern. If you get your period twice a month for more than two months in a row, contact your gynecologist so she or he can investigate further.
Is toxic shock syndrome still a problem with tampon use?
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) was first identified in 1978 in children and soon thereafter in menstruating women. Although we may not hear as much about it today, TSS is still a health problem, although rare, affecting less than 1 percent of tampon users.
Basically, TSS is a life-threatening illness associated with an overgrowth of either Staphylococcus aureus or group A Streptococcus (Streptococcus pyogenes). Both of these bacteria are normally found in the vagina, but rapid growth can cause them to release poisons into the bloodstream. Symptoms include high fever, rash, hypotension, and multi-organ failure. Use of tampons can promote the excess growth of S. aureus or Strep, resulting in TSS. The best preventive measures include using organic cotton tampons, not using cotton/rayon blend tampons, using menstrual pads or menstrual cups, or changing your tampons as directed every 4-6 hours.
[Editor's Note: Our favorite brand of feminine hygiene products comes from Natracare because they are 100% organic, plastic free, compostable, chlorine free, and made from organic cotton.]