If you’re in your 20s or 30s you’ll have been having periods for years, huh? Yet for most of us, each time we learn something new about our monthly bleed, it’s another A-ha moment.
And there’s no shame in that. Here at Pink Parcel HQ, we like to think of ourselves as period experts, but we’re still regularly surprised, intrigued, and confused by them – our bodies are complicated things after all.
So, seeing as it’s Menstrual Hygiene Day (28th May), and the theme this year is education, we thought it fitting to run through a few of those burning period questions – y’know, the ones that we probably should know the answers to (but might not!) – and get the lowdown from Drs and pros in the know.
How much blood do you lose on a period?
Kavita Singh, consultant gynaecologist at BMI The Priory Hospital in Birmingham says:
“The average woman loses 30-40ml – equivalent to approximately two tablespoons each period. Heavy bleeding is considered to be 60-80ml, around four tablespoons. Heavier periods are not abnormal and periods can change with age and after pregnancy or miscarriage, but if the menstrual flow becomes too excessive, which means there is flooding with clots or the periods are lasting more than 7-8 days then they do need medical attention. If you’re not sure as to whether your periods are heavy, the NHS has a self-assessment quiz that is quick and easy to take.”
Can you get pregnant on your period?
Dr. Tatiana Lapa, says:
“In short – yes. You can get pregnant if you have unprotected sex whilst on your period if you ovulate early. Sperm can survive inside a woman’s body for up to seven days so although the risk is small, it can happen. If you have a short cycle you could be ovulating just after your period – therefore you could be fertile very early in your cycle when you’re still bleeding. It’s also important to keep in mind that the bleed may not always be your period (it could be spotting or another underlying health condition), which would mean you aren’t protected at all. The probabilities of getting pregnant while you are on your period are low, but the possibilities are still there.
Why do I get spots around the time of my period?
Dermatologist Bruce Pollock says:
“In the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle, estrogen is the most prominent hormone and in the last two weeks, progesterone is most prominent. Progesterone is what causes the facial oil glands to produce excess grease such as sebum – this is why you get more spots.”
What are the causes for bleeding between periods?
Dr Louise Newson from Spire Parkway Hospital says:
“There are many different causes of bleeding between periods. The most common causes are sexually transmitted infections, cervical polyps, starting or changing your contraceptive (this might be a pill, injection or implant). More uncommonly it can be due to cancer of the cervix or womb. Some women notice a very small amount of bleeding half way through their cycle that can be due to ovulation. Other women notice a change in vaginal discharge or a lower abdominal (tummy) pain around this time. The blood you see when spotting is usually darker red and far lighter than a period, sometimes it is only noticed on wiping yourself after going to the toilet. It usually does not last very long either.”
Ovulation pain, is that a thing?
Mr Pisal, consultant gynaecologist at London Gynaecology, says:
“Ovulation usually happens exactly midcycle in a 28 day cycle, if the cycles are shorter or longer it will normally take place about 12-14 days before your period starts. A lot of women can pinpoint ovulation in their cycle by recognising some of the symptoms such as more mucous discharge or pelvic pain. This pain associated with ovulation can sometimes be intense and may make you sit up and take notice. Usually it lasts for a few hours to a day, and responds to simple pain killers. It may alternate sides depending on which ovary you ovulate from. You may not necessarily feel something every month as it depends on how ‘explosive’ the ovulation is. In a regular cycle, it is likely to happen at the same time every month. You can also use ovulation-prediction apps such as ‘period tracker’ to see if the pain coincides with the time of ovulation.”
What should I eat when I’ve got my period?
Digestive health expert Linda Booth says:
“Women with diets high in plant foods have fewer painful periods. Spinach and kale are packed full of magnesium, but if your body has a lack of magnesium (e.g. you’re not eating your greens) it can cause spasms in the uterus and in the smooth muscle tissue of the bowel. This can contribute to period pain and bowel problems like constipation. Oats, nuts and seeds are all good sources of fibre as are dark green vegetables. You should be eating at least two portions daily. If you find this difficult, make a smoothie (not a juice as juicing removes all fibre) and add a little fruit or natural stevia to sweeten it. Fermented foods like sauerkraut help with bloating, painful intestinal gas, diarrhoea and constipation. Also, dark chocolate! It contains magnesium to increase energy, and endorphins to improve your mood.”
Why is period blood sometimes brown?
Dr. Tatiana Lapa, says:
“Brown period blood doesn’t mean anything bad. It’s either an indicator that you have ‘old blood’ left over from your last cycle that hasn’t yet come out, or that you are coming to the end of your period. It’s also more common in women who take birth control as their periods tend to be lighter.”
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