Image: The Period Project, We Bleed.
So, if we’re going to really get into period positivity here we should probably start with a comprehensive guide to ridin’ the crimson wave.
I don’t know about you but the sex ed description of ‘it happens when you’re not pregnant’ and estrogen and other hormone words being thrown around, I had very little clue what was going on down there.
So, let’s chat, I’m not going to pretend that periods are a fun week of the month, but it is a sign that your body is functioning healthy.
It’s important to understand your body so that you can recognise when something is wrong, so I’m going to make this a simple as possible (as little hormone talk as possible I promise).
Let’s start of with a quick revision lesson:
The age range for girls starting their periods is 9-16 and the average is 12. Remember all of our bodies are different and you’ll get to bleedin’ when your body is ready. However, if you reach 16 without starting your period, you should see a doctor just to make sure everything is okay.
Flow and lengths of periods vary. Periods are about 2-7 days and your flow may be anywhere from light to heavy, again it just depends on your individual body (don’t freak out if your period insists on overachieving and running longer, mine used to be 9-11 days, but again if you’re worried, check in with your doctor).
Your cycle overall can be 21 to 45 days long. You’ll most often hear it referred to as being 28 days but that just makes understanding the whole process a little easier, we’ll get to that in a minute.
Your cycle is counted as day one being the first day of a period. I don’t know if it was just me confused by this but nevertheless, we all get it now.
You’ll probably have your period until somewhere between 45 and 55. Just as a fun fact, the average female menstruates 3,000 days in her lifetime.
You only loose about ¼ cup of blood each period. Still not sure if I believe that if we’re being completely honest (I might have to put that to the test – too much?).
Your period will probably change as you get older. Length, flow and symptoms are all likely to change as you grow and mature but that’s completely normal.
There is no right or wrong period product to use. Personally, I’m a big fan of the menstrual cup and period underwear but it’s your vagina, use whatever makes you feel comfortable (as long as it’s safe of course).
‘So, what’s actually happening when I bleed from my vagina and feel like I need all of the chocolate in the world in my possession?’ I hear you ask.
Well, let’s break it down real quick.
Basically, every month your body prepares to house a child, your uterus lining (with the help of our good friend estrogen) thickens so that if/when an egg if released from your ovary (this is called ovulation) and is fertilised with a sperm cell it can attach to your uterus.
If your egg isn’t fertilised, the egg breaks apart and that causes your hormone levels to drop which ques the start of your period! The uterine lining sheds and exits your body through your vagina, and voila, period!
For a quick recap (with a timeline):
Day 1- Aunt flow is here to visit
Day 7- bleeding (on this theoretical time perfect period) has stopped.
Day 7 to 14- follicles (that each contain an egg) develop to reach maturity on your ovaries. Lining of your uterus starts to thicken.
Day 14 (approximately, remember these are perfect word numbers)- hormones cause the now mature follicle to burst and send fourth an egg the ovary (ovulation whoooo)
From there the egg travels to the uterus and waits to see if is going to get fertilised (think The Batchelor contestant waiting around to see if they’re going to get a rose, but for like two weeks).
Day 25- if the egg doesn’t get a rose – I mean sperm, hormone levels get low and the whole shebang starts again.
Okay, so now that we get what’s going on when our periods happen, let’s talk symptoms.
I’m fully aware that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but, all of our bodies are different, and we respond in different ways.
However, symptoms can be anything from cramps and bloating to acne and tiredness, from mood changes and diarrhoea to constipation and getting really emotional over reality tv (or in my case, more emotional).
The symptoms that you should look out for (and maybe consider a visit to the GP), according to healthdirect.gov, are:
- Periods getting heavier
- Periods getting much closer together or further apart
- Periods have stopped but you’re unsure why
- Severe period pain
- You are 16 years or older and haven’t started to have periods
- Bleeding in between periods or after sex
- Bleeding after menopause
Finally, I just want to reiterate that if you think that something is wrong, you should go and see your doctor.
You know your body better than anyone, allow yourself time to adjust but don’t ignore pain.
Periods do hurt, to an extent, but no one is handing out trophies for pushing through tremendous pain (unfortunately) and even if there is nothing wrong your doctor is a great person to talk about pain management with.
But if you feel like your pain is being overlooked, get a second opinion, get a third, it’s your health and there isn’t anything more important than that.
Thanks for sticking with me through that, more (shorter) period content to come.