Periods; what you need to know
We wanted to start the week with a discussion about the menstrual cycle, more commonly known as your period. It is something that women must deal with at some point in their lives, usually for the better part of 30-40 years. As such a big part of our lives, we feel it is important that information about your cycle is available, whether you are new to your period or just wanting a refresher.
So what is menstruation? The American Council of Obstetrics and Gynacology describes menstruation in the following way; ‘Every month, your body will prepare for a potential pregnancy. Hormones signal the ovaries to release an egg. The egg moves into one of the fallopian tubes. At the same time, the lining of the uterus begins to grow and thicken. If the egg is not fertilized by a man’s sperm, pregnancy does not occur. The lining breaks down and flows out of the body through the vagina. This is called menstruation, the menstrual period, or just your “period”.’
This should happen around once a month, as frequently as every 21 days or as infrequently as every 45 days. It can take up to 6 years after your first period for your cycle to be completely regular. Vaginal bleeding can be for as little as 2 days a month or up to 7 days a month but should be no longer than 7 days. If you find that you are bleeding for more than 7 days you should visit your doctor. If you have missed your period for any reason and you have had sexual intercourse in the recent past you may want to take into consideration the fact that you might be pregnant. Here is a diagram of a cycle that does not result in pregnancy but instead results in your monthly cycle.
In order to avoid staining your clothes, tampons and pads can be used. If you have only just gotten your period or you are preparing for your first one, we highly suggest that you carry a tampon or pad with you at all times just to be safe. Pads and tampons are the most commonly used methods of absorbing menstruation fluids. Most brands of tampons include an instruction guide to make application easier, but in essence a pad attaches to the inside of the underwear to catch blood as it leaves the body where as a tampon is inserted into the vagina to retrieve blood before it exits the body. We will go over various types of feminine hygiene items, how to use them, and the benefits of them in another article.
You should change out pads and tampons every 4-8 hours, depending on how heavy your flow is. At the start of your cycle your flow may be heavier than normal so you may need to change them slightly more often. Also keep in mind that there are different levels of absorption available so find the one that suits you best. You will want a level that, on an average flow day, allows you to change your pad or tampon within the time range given without leaking. Should you find that no matter what absorption level your tampon or pad is, you are changing them every 1-2 hours you should visit your doctor.
it is also vital to keep in mind that your tampon specifically should never remain within the body for more than 8 hours. Leaving a tampon in the body too long, specifically one that retains old blood, can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome otherwise known as TSS. This often turns women off of the idea of using them but as long as they are used correctly you should not encounter any problems. If you afraid you may forget a tampon or you find them to be uncomfortable a pad is a great alternative.
You may experience some discomfort in the form of cramps in your abdomen or lower back. Some women also experience headaches, dizziness, and diharrea. To alleviate the cramps or headache, Ibuprofen can be used if you do not have an aspirin allergy or severe asthma, you can exercise, and place a warm compress on your lower abdomen or back.
As a reminder, you should see your doctor if any of the following abnormalities occur:
- You are 15 years old and have not had a period.
- Your periods were regular each month and then they stopped being regular.
- Your period comes more often than every 21 days or less often than every 45 days.
- Your periods come 90 days apart (even if that happens only once).
- Your periods last more than 7 days.
- Your periods are so heavy that you have to change pads or tampons often (more than once every 1–2 hours).
- You have bad cramps that keep you from doing your regular activities and they are not helped by pain relievers.
Many people are curious as to when a girl should first visit the OBGYN of their choice. The generally accepted age range is between 13 and 15 years old. The first visit can be to discuss what to expect in the coming years and how to stay healthy. The patient can also ask any questions they have about menstruation, sex, developments in the body and growing up.
Until next time!