9 Things You May Not Know About Your Period

Women have an average of 450 periods in their lifetime, so it seems strange that they would be surprised by anything related to the menstrual cycle. However, there are many things women of all ages don’t know about their periods! Here are some facts that every woman should understand about their menstruation:

1. You can still get pregnant on your period

It is a myth that you can’t get pregnant during this part of your menstrual cycle. It isn’t as likely as when you are not on your period, but it does happen. This is because ovulation can occur right after a short period and sperm can survive in your body for five or six days. So, if you have intercourse at the end of a short menstruation, pregnancy could follow.

2. Periods are worse when it’s cold

This is, unfortunately, true. For many women, their periods will be longer and heavier during winter. Pain levels can also be higher and mood changes worsened when the days become shorter. This is because along with the normal hormonal changes that occur during a menstrual cycle, the loss of vitamin D can affect moods. Women living in colder environments can experience this as the norm.

3. The age at which girls get their first period has changed over time

In the 1800s, girls would get their first period later in their teenage years. Today, many girls begin menstruating around twelve years old and some get theirs even earlier. It is thought that this is because of improved nutrition and health. Having more food to eat and fattier foods results in more fat cells, which produce estrogen. On a negative note, another reason scientists have considered for earlier periods is stress.

4. Women spend years on their period

We don’t mean consecutive years, but cumulative years. On average, women will have 450 periods over their lifetime, which equals 3,500 days spent menstruating. That’s over 10,000 period products in one lifetime! Of course, each woman is unique so that number will vary, but understanding your cycle is important since you will have so many throughout your life.

5. You lose a lot less blood than it seems on your period

For a lot of women, it seems like menstruation means losing an alarming amount of blood. On average, women lose only three tablespoons of blood when on their period. That being said, if you feel that you are losing too much blood while menstruating, contact your doctor. Increased blood loss can lead to anemia, causing dizziness and fatigue.

6. Menstruation can affect how you sound and even smell

This is another odd aspect of menstruation, but it is true! The female reproductive hormones in your body can slightly alter your voice during your period. These hormones can also affect the way you smell. This means that you will smell slightly different when menstruating versus when you are ovulating. This may not be consciously detectable, though.

7. When you take birth control, your period isn’t true menstruation

Although you will bleed when taking your week of sugar pills, it isn’t the same as a true period. It is sometimes known as monthly withdrawal bleeding. Because birth control prevents ovulation, the processes are different.

When you aren’t on birth control, your ovulation should start somewhere in the middle of your cycle, though this can vary. When the egg created by your ovaries isn’t fertilized, your hormone levels decrease. Then, you began to shed the lining of your uterus.

Most types of contraceptives give you hormones for three weeks and then stop for one week (when you take your sugar pills). They will prevent your ovaries from producing an egg every month, but they won’t usually stop the buildup of the uterine lining. The bleeding at the last week of your birth control schedule is just a reaction to not having hormones.

8. Your period can change

And it most likely will! This is because your hormones change at different points in your life. When menstruation begins, cycles are longer and can be unpredictable. For example, teenage girls have cycles between 21 to 45 days. As girls age, their periods will become more predictable with an average cycle between 21 and 35 days.

During perimenopause, the years when your body begins making less estrogen, your period may change again. The time between menstruation may become shorter or longer and bleeding might be heavier or lighter. These changes should be gradual and may last for ten years. Any sudden changes, though, should be discussed with your doctor.

It is important to note that menopause has occurred when your periods have completely stopped for 1 year.

9. Your period can indicate health issues

Every woman is different, so it is important to know your own menstruation cycle when considering if it is healthy or not. If your periods are consistent and any changes are gradual, there is likely nothing wrong. But, you should be aware of any problems that could indicate a health concern.

Heavy bleeding

This doesn’t always mean you have a health condition, but it is a common sign. Menorrhagia, or abnormally heavy flow, means you soak through at least one period product (pad, tampon, etc…) in an hour. If you have this type of menstrual flow, you may also show signs of anemia. Here are just some common causes of menorrhagia.

  • Hormonal imbalance: PCOS, obesity and hypothyroidism can both affect your hormone levels, which can result in a thicker uterine lining. This causes a heavier flow.
  • Endometriosis: This condition occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus. The tissue has nowhere to go during menstruation, so it can cause extreme pain and other symptoms.
  • Fibroids or polyps: Both of these are non-cancerous growths that sometimes cause heavier bleeding during menstruation.
  • Bleeding disorders: Conditions like Von Willebrand disease, which is inherited, can cause abnormally heavy bleeding because it causes reduced blood clotting.
  • Cancer: Both cervical and uterine cancer can cause menorrhagia, but these are typically diagnosed after menopause occurs.

Missed periods

Missing a period does not always mean you are pregnant. Most women experience regular periods, but there are some things that can cause you to skip menstruation. These include excessive weight loss or gain, continuous birth control use, PCOS, and extreme stress. If you are concerned about a missed period, speak with your doctor as soon as possible.

Intense cramps

Most women experience cramps to some degree before and during their periods. For those with severe cramps, periods can be debilitating. Conditions like fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and even stress can cause bad cramping and heavy bleeding during your period.

Women’s healthcare with WHA

If you would like to learn more about menstruation or if you are concerned about your period, contact Women’s Healthcare Associates today. Our caring doctors, nurses, and staff are here for you! You can reach us at (806) 355-6330 to learn more about our Services or schedule an appointment.

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