Congratulations, you're a grown-ass woman! But that doesn't mean you don't still have questions about your period. We don't all instantly gain access to every bit of period wisdom out there the day we turn 25; it's perfectly normal to still have gaps in your knowledge about your menstrual cycle even when you're an old hand at stuffing tampons into your purse or fishing pads out of the bottom of bags. (Although by this point we're hopefully far past any embarrassment about it.) After all, there's still a bit of a taboo around discussing periods, even in private with friends, even after you hit the age where you begin chatting about cocktail recipes and your worries about mortgage payments. But I'm here to sort you out.
The questions you have about your period will likely change as you age. Though your first worries were probably about how to get blood out of clothes and whether virgins can use tampons (yes), your worries may have evolved towards questions about pregnancy, fertility, menopause and medication choices. But our period education usually stops not that long after we've gotten our first one — and even the information that we do get when we get older doesn't really fit in all of the nuance that can happen in the course of one woman's life, let alone every woman's.
So here are seven period questions you may still have as a grown-ass woman, and the answers to them. Knowledge is power! As is a good tampon storage system.
1. Why Am I Still Irregular?
There's a perception that irregular periods are just for teens, and that once you're a fully-functional adult with a credit card and a taste for martinis and all that, your body will "settle" into rigorous, by-the-book cycles you could set a watch by. Well, not so much. Irregular menstruation (i.e. periods that don't follow the 28-day cycle regularly) is very common in adult women, and can be caused by a variety of factors, from the influence of the birth control pill to more serious conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome. However, GPs point out that stress, changes to your weight, and travel can also be to blame, so irregular periods are not something to immediately freak out about. Monitor your cycles and if they stay irregular, go get it checked out.
2. Are Blood Clots A Danger Sign?
The sight of a of blood clot appearing in our pad (or, for the ill-prepared, underwear) is always worrying, no matter how old you are. But there's a pretty simple way to figure out if your blood clots are cause for alarm. If they're larger than a quarter, or persist throughout your entire period, you should go and check with your doctor. Otherwise, it seems that clots are a pretty normal part of the menstrual story, and not a sign you're sick.
3. Does My Weight Influence My Menstrual Cycle?
You may already know that being underweight or taking part in a lot of rigorous exercise is sometimes as a factor in irregular or absent periods. Sudden weight gain can also influence menstrual cycles, as it might include the development of fat cells that produce estrone, a form of the hormone estrogen. This builds up the blood in the uterine lining and can make your periods heavier and uncomfortable.
4. Can Period Sex Really Bruise The Cervix?
This is not an urban myth: sex of any kind that's penetrative and involves a well-endowed partner/ toy or insufficient foreplay can cause a bruised cervix, no matter where you are in your cycle. And it hurts like the bejesus.
But it is true that our cervixes are more likely to bruise during period sex — because while we're bleeding, the cervix is lower in the vagina than it is during ovulation. Result? Run-ins between whatever is penetrating you and your cervix are a bit more likely, even if you're really aroused (arousal tends to push the cervix back in normal circumstances, in order to allow you to be penetrated more deeply — how polite!). The bruising may cause serious cramping feelings or a weird aching sensation through your pelvis, and alas, there's not much you can do after it happens except sit it out.
5. Can I Get Pregnant During My Period?
Yes you can, but I don't blame you for thinking that you can't: the time when you have your period may seem like prime opportunity for worry-free sexy fun, but the possibility of pregnancy remains, partially because sperm can live inside your body for several days after ejaculation and fertilize an egg once your cycle begins anew. This is more likely if your cycle tends to be shorter than the normal 28 days — if you operate more on a 21 or 24-day cycle, period sex leading to a case of the preggers is a distinct chance — but it's a risk for everyone. So if you're not trying to get pregnant, keep using your favored method of birth control, no matter what time of the month it is.
6. Are My Meds Influencing My Cycle?
Possibly — it depends on what meds you're taking. The most common culprit for period interference is hormonal birth control, but other medications can also influence your menstrual cycle. Thyroid medications, steroids and antipsychotics are all possible culprits for period alteration; NSAIDs, chemotherapy and blood thinners have also been known to sometimes change a user's cycle. And some women on antidepressants report that they have side effects for their menstrual cycle.
7. My Periods Just Vanish When I Enter Menopause, Right?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this isn't the whole story. Menopause does eventually mean curtains for your period — but before that happens, you may actually get more frequent periods before you can get rid of them entirely. As hormones shift in the approach to menopause, the menstrual cycle progressively shortens, meaning that you gradually get periods with briefer and briefer intervals in between, before they vanish. The periods likely get lighter in this perimenopausal time, but it's also likely to annoy the hell out of you for a bit, so be warned.
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