“On the rag”, “aunt flow”, “shark week” and many more slangs we use to describe our “that time of the month” i.e Menstruation. It is something that occurs routinely throughout most part of our life still we talk about it in code and hide it in cloud of secrecy. It’s unfortunate that half of the world population menstruate still it is less discussed and tons of misinformation runs around.
Though in past few years things have changed and revolutionary steps have been taken to de stigmatize menstruation; people are more open about it and it’s not considered taboo or stigma anymore. Still there are many parts in our country where people don’t freely discuss this topic and male counterparts are still not much educated about this. Males do have knowledge but still there are questions unanswered.
So no more shhhh…. We can’t discuss this topic! The more you discuss, the lesser the embarrassment!!! The more you know, less scary it is.
It’s that time of the month again and your friend is ready to stay with you for almost a week. Though it visits you every month and you spend quite a lot of time but it’s still a bit mysterious.
Let’s take a plunge and find out some of the facts that everyone should know. (Some of them are already known, some might be unknown and some are just weird facts)
Let me start this by telling you that no two women’s periods are similar. It is as unique as we are and that makes it even more complicated. But the basic piece of information will be helpful. Positive attitude towards menstruation will bring positive behavior and desires.
- What actually happens during menstrual cycle?
To begin with, let’s recall our high school biology class. Whole menstrual cycle is designed to get you pregnant. Approximately on 14th day of the cycle i.e. middle of the cycle, ovulation takes place. During this an egg is released from ovaries and it moves towards the fallopian tubes. This is where it could possibly meet with sperm and get fertilized. Meanwhile, body accelerates the production of progesterone which prepares the endometrium for fertilized egg to implant. If no pregnancy occurs this month, level of progesterone drops and sloughs off thickened uterine lining along with some blood vessels. And that is your PERIOD!
- Menstrual Flow….
On an average women menstruate for three to five days every month. But again it varies from women to women. On broad term we can put it as one week a month. Even menstrual flow is not uniform and greatly varies. The beginning of cycle, the first two days has the” heaviest flow”; then it tends to get lesser “medium flow”. By the end of the cycle, bleeding tapers off to “light flow”. Again, the flow is not same every month. Some months are heavier than the other.
Again, we don’t bleed whole day for entirety of our periods. Sometimes it just trickles when we are reading, driving, jumping or just sleeping….
- Spotting between your periods???
At times, this can be due to hormonal imbalance. Some women bleed during ovulation due to hormonal changes.
Other causes are extreme stress, diabetes, thyroid disorder, significant weight gain or loss.
If this happens once in a while it’s nothing much to worry about but if it happens frequently or all the time, it’s time to tell your doctor.
- Occasional irregularities…
Wonky periods occasionally aren’t usually a cause of concern. Blame it on your hormones.
Even a subtler hormonal imbalance can vary timing of your ovulation month to month.
Chronic stress and anxiety can wreak havoc with your hormones which causes irregular or missed periods.
Consistent irregular periods might be sign of medical issues or it can be just stress,
Talk about it with your doctor.
- Monthly period can still be irregular!
Average menstrual cycle is 28 days. It can vary from woman to woman and anything +/-7 days from average is normal. So, if you get your period around every 25th day or every 32nd day is normal and regular but if the length of your cycle varies every month i.e. sometimes you get on 23rd day and other month you get on 30th day and so on… means your cycle is irregular even though you are getting your periods every month.
- Dark/ brown blood or clots
Color and consistency of menstrual blood vary during period and it’s completely normal.
Body often releases anticoagulant to prevent menstrual blood from clotting. But during heavy flow blood is expelled rapidly and there’s not enough time for anticoagulants to work. This enables clots to form.
“Bright red generally means more active bleeding. If it’s brown it means it’s been sitting around for a while [in the vagina].”
- Weight affect your menstruation 
Weight loss or weight gain can trigger changes in menstrual cycle.
Fat cells in women’s body contributes one third of estrogen level. Estrogen is the hormone that makes uterus comfy for implementation of fertilized egg by building cushiony uterine lining.
In overweight women fats cells are more which makes a little factory of estrogen. This added estrogen causes heavy bleeding or menstrual disorder.
In underweight women, fat cells are very low. This causes reduced level of estrogen secretion which is one of the causes of irregular periods.
- Toxic shock syndrome 
This is one of the rare but life threatening complication of certain bacterial infection.
It is associated primarily with super absorbent tampon.
It’s very important to change your tampon every 5–6 hours at max. Not changing it frequently can give bacteria the environment to grow.
Though it takes long time for these bacteria to grow but still it’s better safe than sorry.
It’s advisable to change your tampon or sanitary napkins frequently.
- Days before your period mimic pregnancy.
Whether you have conceived or not, body will still release progesterone. Which is the same hormone that causes symptoms of pregnancy? Production of progesterone is high for 5 to 7 days after ovulation. This causes similar symptoms as pregnancy like fluid retention, tender breast, bloating and acne.
- Cramps aren’t normal!
Mild cramps due to uterine contractions are normal but severe cramps aren’t normal. It indicates high level of prostaglandins which causes spasm of uterus and increases strength of uterine contractions. This leads to severe cramps in lower abdominal area and lower back pain.
Even consuming too much of a sugar causes inflammatory reaction, which releases inflammatory chemicals like prostaglandins.
- Exercise during periods?? To do or not to do???
As long as you are comfortable you can! It is one of the most common misconceptions that working out during periods isn’t a good idea.
In fact, exercising during this time is beneficial as it affects hormone levels.
Avoid intense training and abs exercises during this time to avoid the discomfort.
- Messy periods!
It’s not just blood you’re losing. There is a layer of the uterus that is shed every 28 days or so, along with some blood vessels, which is why some people’s periods can be messy.
- Low Iron during period.
Most of us do not get enough iron in our diet to keep up with the blood we lose each month. Sometimes taking an iron supplement as part of a good personalized vitamin regimen can be helpful.
- You bleed less than you think!
You may feel like your bleeding in tons. In reality, average amount of blood lost during one cycle is 60 ml that is just one and half shot glass.
- Tender genitals.
Researches shows that pain receptors do change during your period and pain perception increases around those days. So, it’s very normal for your genitals to feel tender and sensitive during those days.
- Voice change during menstruation
A German study suggests that women’s voice tend to get higher during menstruation.
- PMS is real, it ain’t a joke!
Yes, you heard it right! It’s not myth but a reality. Not everyone experiences this (Lucky ones) and some experience a terrible PMS. So, if you get monthly moodiness, anxiety, acnes, migraines, clumsiness, exhaustion, anxiety, diarrhea, back pain blame it on your hormones.
- When to see your doctor??
When you bleed a lot, or it stays longer than usual or missing since more than 3 months, it’s probably the time to see your doctor. It might not be anything serious but get it checked.
In general, the only reason you should see your doctor about your period is if it changes drastically.
By knowing these basic facts and addressing menstruation as natural process, we can remove the awkwardness and embarrassment associated with it.
As women we know the pain and cramp that we go through every month. As a guy, other than getting those tampons/pads or medicines from pharmacy you can bring on chocolates and be a human pillow whenever needed. All in all behave as naturally as possible and offer her help.
Until Next Time!