To continue our women centered theme for the month of March, this #HealthTalkThursdsay we will be discussing something that all women can relate to.
Our “monthly visitor” aka Mrs Red aka Menstruation aka MENSTRUAL PERIOD.
So here are some basic, frequently asked questions about periods.
What exactly is happening when I am on my period?
Well, think of it this way, every month, your ovaries release an egg, and this egg stays in the fallopian tube waiting to be fertilized by a sperm. This gets your uterus (womb) very excited. It thinks it will receive a special visitor this month. A baby! And so it starts to prepare itself for the arrival of this special visitor. It builds a special wall in preparation for this visitor. And then it gets disappointed. No visitor. And so, in anger it rips off this special wall it had prepared for this visitor and the contents are flushed out through your vagina. That is basically what happens in lay man terms. I particularly like this analogy because it somehow justifies all the cramps and symptoms I feel during that time of the month. My uterus is just being angry. lol
Why do I feel crappy on the days leading up to my period?
This is the evil known as Premenstrual syndrome aka PMS. I hate it. We all do. It affects 9 in 10 women (so if you that one person it doesn’t affect, tell me, how does it feel to be God’s favorite abeg?). PMS is a constellation of physical, emotional and psychological symptoms a woman experiences in the days leading up to her period. Some of the common symptoms include acne, breast tenderness, mood swings, irritability, change in libido, fatigue, abdominal bloating, weight gain (due to fluid retention), constipation, diarrhea etc. Most people can usually go about their day to day activities despite this. For some people however, these symptoms can be unmanageable, and could lead to Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which is a more severe form of PMS. If your symptoms are getting unmanageable, pls talk to a doctor or health care professional.
What does it mean to have a regular or irregular period?
To know this, let’s first talk about the length of your cycle. Your cycle usually starts on the first day of your period and ends on first day of your next period. An average cycle lasts about 21-35 days and a 7-9 day variability from month to month is considered normal i.e Your cycle could last 26 days one month and 28 days the next month, that’s normal. An average period lasts 2-7 days. Periods are usually considered irregular if for 6 consecutive months;
the length falls outside the normal 21-35 days,
there is huge variability in cycle length from month to month
you skip months i.e your period stops suddenly for more than 90days, or you are bleeding in between.|
A lot of things could affect your cycle. They include stress, intensive exercise, quick weight changes i.e sudden weight gain or weight loss, substance use, some medications, shift work, jet lag or lack of sleep etc. Some medical conditions eg uterine fibroids, PCOS, thyroid disorders, endometriosis could also affect your cycle.
How do I know what day my period will come?
Track your cycle. Get a period tracker app on your phone or get a journal and record your period dates. This will give you an idea of when next your period will come. It works better if you have a regular period. 2 apps I use and I really like are Flo and Ovia fertility.
Remember, you (or your period app) may not be able to predict the exact day of your period because of the cycle to cycle variability so try to keep an extra pad or tampon with you to avoid accidents. Most times, PMS symptoms will also let you know that your period is on the way.
How much bleeding is normal?
Most women lose between 5-80mls of blood during their period. Now that’s about 2-3 tablespoons. Not even up to a cup! Surprised eh? me too, cause most days if feels like a bucket, lol.
How then do you know if you are bleeding too much?
You don’t have to use a spoon to measure your blood or anything like that, lol. A rule of thumb is if you have to change your pad or tampons every 2 hours or less because they are saturated, or if you are passing large clots of blood (bigger than a quarter) then something might be wrong and you have to see a doctor.
Pads, Tampons or Menstrual cups?
Depends on your preference and which one works best for you. Thankfully we have come a long way with hygiene products and there are a variety of options you can experiment with to see which works for you. A few things to keep in mind;
Try to change your pads or tampons at least every 4-6 hours to prevent the growth of bacteria. Keeping a tampon in for too long can lead to toxic shock syndrome which is a life threatening condition.
Dispose of your use pads or tampons properly. Remember to wash your hands after doing that.
Ensure proper personal hygiene during this period. Shower frequently, wash your vagina properly, and avoid harsh soaps or scented products.
Change your underwear daily or if it gets stained.
What can I do about the pain?
A lot of women report painful cramps during their periods. It’s all the handwork of the angry uterus. Some people experience just mild discomfort, and for some people, the pain may be more intense. Pain-killers especially anti-inflammatories like Advil, naproxen or ibuprofen can help relive the pain. Applying a warm pad or warm water bottle to your lower belly could also help. Other strategies include exercises, yoga, warm showers etc. Some people notice that eating certain foods make the pain more intense, so if you notice that, avoid eating those foods closer to your period. If the pain is unbearable and painkillers don’t help, go see an healthcare provider as it could be an indicator that something else is going on.
That’s all I have for today girls. I am already thinking there should be a PERIOD 102 to discuss more about our cycles. So let me know if there are any more questions you will like answered.
The #HealthTalkChallenge for this month is: Download a period tracker app, or get a journal to keep track of your period if you are not already doing so. It is important. It helps you know what is normal for you, and could be an early indicator if something is going wrong.
Thanks for reading!