- 1. Are periods really necessary?
- 2. Why Am I Still Irregular?
- 3. Can I get pregnant on my period?
- 4. Does your period change after you have a baby?
- 5. Are Blood Clots A Danger Sign?
- 6. What is the brown discharge?
- 7. Why is my period getting heavier as I am getting older?
- 8. Does My Weight Influence My Menstrual Cycle?
- 9. Can Period Sex Really Bruise The Cervix?
- 10. My Periods Just Vanish When I Enter Menopause, Right?
Even as we’ve gotten older, some of us still don’t know much more about this monthly miracle than the fact that it has an uncanny ability to arrive just when we wish it wouldn’t.
Aren’t we supposed to know how our periods work by the time we are women?
Women have an estimated 450 periods during their lifetimes. Whether it’s your first period or your four hundredth, there is no shame in admitting you don’t know everything.
In fact, a Chinese proverb says, “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”
Let’s all collectively get out of our fool-dom by starting the conversation with our doctors, who know a lot more about female anatomy than most of us could fit into our craniums.
In the meantime, here are answers to 10 questions you may have had.
Are periods really necessary?
The 450 periods that the average woman has in her lifetime is three times as many as her hunter-gatherer ancestors had. As most women don’t look forward to their periods, it may seem ideal to go without, especially as the “period” during the sugar pill week of birth control is not a real period at all.
Choosing to forego menstruation with the use of oral contraception is recommended by some doctors, while others remain cautious, citing the lack of long-term studies and possible bone density risks. Rely on your individual sources to determine if it is the right decision for you.
Why Am I Still Irregular?
There’s a perception that irregular periods are just for teens, and that once you’re a fully-functional adult with a credit card and a taste for martinis and all that, your body will “settle” into rigorous, by-the-book cycles you could set a watch by. Well, not so much. Irregular menstruation (i.e. periods that don’t follow the 28-day cycle regularly) is very common in adult women, and can be caused by a variety of factors, from the influence of the birth control pill to more serious conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome. However, GPs point out that stress, changes to your weight, and travel can also be to blame, so irregular periods are not something to immediately freak out about. Monitor your cycles and if they stay irregular, go get it checked out.
Can I get pregnant on my period?
Yes, but it’s unlikely.
Here’s what’s up: You already know that you can only get pregnant during the 3 to 6 days of your cycle that you’re ovulating and ovulation does not happen at the same time as the period. What you might not realize is that sperm can live in your body for up to five days. So if you have a short cycle – meaning ovulation happens five days or less after your period – a sperm that enters your body during your period could still be alive during ovulation. That means the sperm could fertilize an egg when your body enters ovulation.
However, most women don’t have such a short cycle. This means that it’s unlikely you’ll get pregnant if you have sex on your period. Still, this shows how important it is to be aware of the pattern of your personal cycle (we recommend using a cycle tracker to get insights into your personal cycle).
Does your period change after you have a baby?
Some women report having noticeably easier periods after having a baby. Others insist that their periods worsened after giving birth. How can this be?
Women who had been on the pill for long stretches of time before conceiving sometimes find that their periods go haywire after birth.
In this case, it has more to do with regulating the cycle than it does having the baby. Periods may get erratic for some time after birth, affected by changes in weight and increased stress.
Endometriosis sufferers do sometimes find relief, but many women find the period they had before birth is the period they had after birth. If anything is at all concerning, don’t wait for your yearly physical to figure out the cause.
Are Blood Clots A Danger Sign?
The sight of a of blood clot appearing in our pad (or, for the ill-prepared, underwear) is always worrying, no matter how old you are. But there’s a pretty simple way to figure out if your blood clots are cause for alarm. If they’re larger than a quarter, or persist throughout your entire period, you should go and check with your doctor. Otherwise, it seems that clots are a pretty normal part of the menstrual story, and not a sign you’re sick.
What is the brown discharge?
When blood is oxidized, it turns brown. So during your slower days, the blood has already been exposed to air before it’s released causing your menstrual blood to come out in small amounts in a brown hue.
Why is my period getting heavier as I am getting older?
“The main reason periods are heavier or lighter is hormones,”wrote Dr. Molly O’Shea, pediatrician. “When you are first starting out with your period, you may or may not have high enough levels of the hormones that trigger the uterine lining to thicken up. 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 get near menopause, the hormone levels get really wacky again and some cycles can be super heavy while others are light.”
The older you get, the more your body figures out where it needs to be. What is normal for you might be irregular for someone else, which is why the meaning of the words “irregular period” are entirely dependent on the history of your cycle.
Does My Weight Influence My Menstrual Cycle?
You may already know that being underweight or taking part in a lot of rigorous exercise is sometimes as a factor in irregular or absent periods. Sudden weight gain can also influence menstrual cycles, as it might include the development of fat cells that produce estrone, a form of the hormone estrogen. This builds up the blood in the uterine lining and can make your periods heavier and uncomfortable.
Can Period Sex Really Bruise The Cervix?
This is not an urban myth: sex of any kind that’s penetrative and involves a well-endowed partner/ toy or insufficient foreplay can cause a bruised cervix, no matter where you are in your cycle. And it hurts like the bejesus.
But it is true that our cervixes are more likely to bruise during period sex — because while we’re bleeding, the cervix is lower in the vagina than it is during ovulation. Result? Run-ins between whatever is penetrating you and your cervix are a bit more likely, even if you’re really aroused (arousal tends to push the cervix back in normal circumstances, in order to allow you to be penetrated more deeply — how polite!). The bruising may cause serious cramping feelings or a weird aching sensation through your pelvis, and alas, there’s not much you can do after it happens except sit it out.
My Periods Just Vanish When I Enter Menopause, Right?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this isn’t the whole story. Menopause does eventually mean curtains for your period — but before that happens, you may actually get more frequent periods before you can get rid of them entirely. As hormones shift in the approach to menopause, the menstrual cycle progressively shortens, meaning that you gradually get periods with briefer and briefer intervals in between, before they vanish. The periods likely get lighter in this perimenopausal time, but it’s also likely to annoy the hell out of you for a bit, so be warned.