Periods - love them or loathe them, they are an amazing cycle in a woman's body, so here are 15 facts that may surprise you about your period.
Your monthly cycle prepares you for childbirth and can tell you so much about your health in general.
Yes, they can be painful and cause a rollercoaster of emotions - but it's a vital monthly hormonal cycle.
Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining and your menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus.
Here are 15 facts that may surprise you about your period.
15 facts that may surprise you about your period
- You could have as little as 150 or as many as 450 periods in your life: Every woman has a slightly different cycle length which can vary from every 21 to 36 days. Cycle length alone doesn't drastically change the number of periods a woman experiences throughout the course of her life, but culture and lifestyle do. For example, how young you start having kids, how many kids you have, and if you breastfeed and for how long.
- The average starting age for periods has dropped: A century ago, the average starting age for periods was 16. But now the average is 12, and it’s not uncommon for girls as young as 8 to start puberty. This is thought to be due to a number of factors such as better overall health and diet. However, other things such as stress, being overweight and climate can all influence the age at which girls start puberty.
- You’re born with all your eggs: It's hard to believe, but it's true; you get all the eggs you’ll ever need before you're even born. You actually start life with more than a couple of million eggs, which is way more than you’ll ever need. As you reach puberty and the menstrual cycle kick-starts, one of these eggs matures each month and is released. All of the extra eggs gradually die off as your biological clock ticks and so this is why you can’t have any more babies once you reach the menopause.
- Pregnancy and periods can go hand in hand: You can’t get pregnant while you're on your period, and you won’t have a period if you’re pregnant, right? WRONG! Yes, it’s unlikely you’ll get pregnant during your period and a period that comes during pregnancy is not a 'true' period, but you could still bleed a little. It's important that you get any bleed during pregnancy, no matter how small, checked.
- Some periods aren’t 'real' periods: As you know, your period occurs when the lining of your womb sheds if you haven't gotten pregnant throughout the month. So, any bleed outside of this isn't a 'real' period. For example, the period you get if you’re on the combined pill. Implantation bleeding - which can occur when a fertilised egg imbeds in the wall of the womb - also isn't a true period.
- A missed period doesn’t always mean you’re pregnant: Another misconception is that a missed period automatically means you are pregnant. Hormone imbalances, stress, and even your body weight can impact your menstrual cycle.
- You don’t need to have a period when you're on the pill: A break from contraceptives can feel more natural and can also be reassuring, but some women run pill packs together without having the break.
- You lose less blood each month than you’d expect: If you’re on hormonal birth control, you’re likely to have very light periods due to the more controlled levels of hormones. But even without it, you probably still think you’re losing a lot more blood than you actually are. On average, women lose between 10 and 35ml of blood throughout the duration of each period. That's only the equivalent of 1-2 tablespoons and it's spread over 5 days.
- Heavy periods aren't normal: This could indicate a hormonal imbalance, so it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms. If they are accompanied by mood swings, painful cramps and bloating, you need to see your doctor.
- Anaemia can be a vicious cycle: Anaemia occurs when there is an iron deficiency, a problem that is often caused by heavy periods, and symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Even if you are anaemic, your heavy periods are unlikely to cease and you risk losing more precious red blood cells. Talk to your doctor.
- Your brain can be affected by your period: Research carried out at the University of Bath in the UK suggests that cognitive functions and attention span may be affected as a result of period pain. So, if you were wondering if you're the only one experiencing brain fog and lack of concentration, take note!
- Your period could make you smell: Calm down, we're not talking full-on repulsive pong! But you might smell a little bit differently around the time of your period.
- Periods have some perks: Periods are a sign that you are healthy and fertile, so we should never take this for granted. You might also feel a little more frisky around your time of the month as testosterone is high relative to the hormones progesterone and oestrogen.
- Period leave is a thing: Some firms have already adopted ‘Period Leave’, which involves giving women the option to take a special type of paid sick leave, specifically for period troubles.
- Body weight can be a factor: Being over or underweight could be affecting your menstrual cycle. Fat cells in your body act as reservoirs for hormones so having too many or too little could really throw you off balance. So can excess alcohol or stress.