Your daughter just got her period. Perhaps you already gave her the introductory talk about menstruation and what to expect…or maybe you didn’t get to it yet. In either case, now is the time to have a frank discussion, clear up any myths or misinformation she may have about menstruation, talk about management options, and answer questions she may have. Be prepared: you may need to bring up topics about which she is too embarrassed to ask. Here are just a few of the questions that may arise during a discussion.
Does menstruation hurt? The short answer is yes, it can, but the severity can vary significantly. Yes, women can experience cramps, headache, breast tenderness, bloating, mood swings, lower back pain, and fatigue. Fortunately, there are numerous natural, effective ways to manage these symptoms. Stop smoking, focus on natural foods (eliminate added sugars and processed foods), limit alcohol and caffeine, practice stress reduction techniques, and make sure you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. A hot water bottle or heating pad can help with cramping.
Can you get pregnant when you have your period? Yes, you can. Although the average length of a woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days, the range can be from around 21 to 35. That means a woman can ovulate (release an egg) at any point during that time. Eggs released during ovulation can live for 12 to 24 hours, and sperm can be viable for about 72 hours. That gives the egg and sperm some time to get together and result in pregnancy if a female is not practicing some form of birth control.
Is it okay to exercise or engage in sports when you have your period? Absolutely! Physical activity can actually help relieve cramping, headache, and other symptoms. Your only concern will be to have extra pads or tampons on hand if you need to make a change.
Some people say that you will stop menstruating if you go swimming or if you are in the water. This is not true. Although water pressure makes it more difficult for blood to exit from your vagina, it will continue to flow as usual. Therefore, it is recommended you use a tampon if you are in the water while you have your period.
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Will other people be able to smell that I have my period? The blood that women shed during their period does not have a bad smell. In fact, menstrual blood does not have an odor. Although menstrual blood, when mixed with other bacteria from your body, may have a slight smell, it’s not probable other people will know you have your period by how you smell.
It is highly recommended, however, that you practice good hygiene during your period. Change tampons and pads often and wash your genital area with warm water and natural soap when you bathe daily.
Will I lose lots of blood during my period? Although it may seem like you are losing a lot of blood, on average women shed about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their period. If you need to use six to seven tampons daily, 4 or more pads daily, or bleed for more than 7 days, then you should talk to your doctor because you may become anemic and there may be an underlying cause. However, it is highly unusual to lose a lot of blood during menstruation.
What is the best way to manage menstrual blood flow? The answer to this question is up to the individual. Some young women prefer to use tampons, while others choose pads, of which there are several sizes and types. Another choice is the menstrual cup. Young women are encouraged to explore all of their options with a knowledgeable health care provider and see what works best for them.
Are tampons safe to use? Use of tampons can trigger some concern among young women. One worry is that inserting a tampon can hurt. If you get instruction from a knowledgeable nurse, other health practitioners, your mom, or a friend, you will find that insertion is relatively painless. Some young women worry that a tampon will become “lost” in their vagina if they use one. Tampons have a string you can use to remove it from your vagina. If the string should be pushed into your vagina, you can use your finger to locate it and pull it out.
You also are encouraged to use organic tampons, if tampons are your choice of menstrual control. Conventional tampons contain trace amounts of toxins, including chlorine, glyphosate, and rayon, among others. Although the use of tampons doesn’t involve much exposure to these toxins, prolonged use over years can. A tampon should only be worn for 4-6 hours at a time to prevent toxic shock syndrome. Sleeping with a tampon is not recommended since you may sleep beyond the 6-hour mark. Use of menstrual pads while sleeping is recommended. Choose organic over conventional varieties also is recommended to avoid toxins, fragrances, and plastics.
Is PMS real? Despite what a few doctors may still say, PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is a real disorder that is associated with fluctuations in your hormone levels (i.e., estrogen and progesterone). Symptoms can include irritability, food cravings, depression, mood swings, headache, tender breasts, cramping, fatigue, and others. More than 85 percent of menstruating women experience PMS at some point during their lives. The good news is that it is manageable using a variety of natural approaches.
[Editor's Note: We have trusted, Natracare (one of our sponsors), with our feminine hygiene needs and recommend their products.]