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Ten Most Important Things I’ve learned About Periods

I’m always interested in receiving different viewpoints of periods.  It’s all around us but not considered a topic that should be in social conversation.  But tides are changing…….Read on to hear what Andrea Benson has to say about the Ten Most Important Things I’ve Learned About Periods.  RJ

I half-believed that a woman’s period must be blue right up until the sixth grade when one of my girlfriends clued me in during a whispered slumber party chat along the lines of, ‘have you got yours yet?’. I had, until that point, reasoned that period blood probably wasn’t the aqua blueof the mysterious, sterile liquid poured onto ultra-thin, winged pads in TV commercials, but perhaps a blueish-red…?

Fast forward a decade (or two) and while I chuckle at the naiveté of my eleven-year-old self, unfortunately my menstrual misunderstandings persisted right through my teen years, into my twenties and even following the birth of my children. Secret women’s business, as it turns out, is still a secret amongst many women.

Here’s the ten most important things I’ve learned about periods that I wish I knew when I was younger:

  1. There are three separate period languages! Don’t believe me? It’s true.

First, we have common period language. These are the terms we find in health class text books and the feminine hygiene section of the supermarket such as period, cycle, menstruation, menstrual cycle, light / moderate / heavy flow, clots, tampon, menstrual cup, maxi pad, winged pad, wings, ultra-long pad, sanitary products… you get the gist.

Then we have period euphemisms. These are the ones that ‘polite society’ or men-folk have made up over the years to mention the unmentionable, often in derogatory terms and include Aunt Flo,Riding the Crimson Tide, On Your Ragand That Time of The Month.

Finally, we have the clinical descriptions usually used by doctors. They include dysmenorrhoea (painful periods), amenorrhoea (absent periods), menorrhagia(heavy periods),metrorrhagia (frequent, irregular periods of normal length), menometrorrhagia(frequent, lengthy and irregular periods), oligomenorrhea (less than 6-8 periods per year), polymenorrhea (unusually frequent periods) and hypomenorrhea(unusually light periods).

  1. Think twice before using that tampon that’s been floating in the bottom of a bag you haven’t used for a few years – they have a use by date.

Usually this is around five years, however, if the plastic wrap has been damaged or if it’s been floating around in your gym bag with your dirty socks, don’t use it, as it may introduce harmful bacteria into your vagina and cause an infection.

Speaking of bacteria, if you use a menstrual cup, make sure that you wash it using warm, soapy water and dry it thoroughly before putting it away. You can boil it in water for 5 minutes if you want to be extra cautious about killing any germs that are colonising it.

  1. The men in our lives need to hear and be involved in period discussion!

Don’t hide your pads, tampons or cups when you’re with your boyfriend or husband. Let him know when it’s due, when it arrives and discuss it like you’re talking about any other part of your life and body – no shame

PMS and mood swings are real and serious for a lot of us, but it isn’t an excuse to be a tap out of society and be a horrid troll once a month.

Whether its tears, temper tantrums, the fog of depression or an appetite that can’t be satisfied, if your premenstrual symptoms are wreaking havoc in your personal life, try to be conscious of it and take time to practice self-care with activities that are good for your physical and mental health.

  1. Most women’s cycles are between 21 and 35 days long

You start counting your cycle from the first day of one period to the first day of the next. Periods themselves usually last from two to seven days.

  1. A loss of between 10ml to 80ml of blood during your period is considered normal,

 

Artwork @chanmanheyyy

but since most of us aren’t in the habit of collecting and measuring the volume of our periods, pay attention to what is normal for you.

  1. About 80 per cent of women will experience some period pain

but don’t think that you have to put up with pain that prevents you from doing normal activities like going to work, school or playing sport. It could be a symptom of endometriosis, intrauterine fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease among other things and should be checked out by your doctor.

  1. Heavy periods can be both the cause and a symptom of anaemia.

If you feel light headed, faint, weak, shaky, tired and have heavy periods that are soaking through a pad or tampon in less than two hours or if you are passing clots larger than 1.5cm across, then it may be worthwhile seeing your GP.

  1. It is, unfortunately, common for women reporting period problems to be prescribed the oral contraceptive pill by their GP

This is a first line approach before they are referred for medical imaging and review by a specialist.  If you are uncomfortable with trying an oral contraceptive first, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral – it’s your body.

  1. If you do need to see a doctor about your menstrual cycle, it’s helpful to take as much information with you as possible.

Either mark your period in your diary or use a period tracking app and make sure that you log symptoms such as pain intensity, flow, duration, bloating, appetite, mood, fatigue. A few months of data can paint a clear picture of what’s going on and what can be done to help.

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