LSU CASH’s Workshop Coordinator and volunteer writer, Megan McKone, details everything we need to know about periods.
Don’t worry this isn’t just for our period veterans. Just because you don’t have a period doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn about them. Period. Periods can affect several things such as hair, nails, and skin. It can cause headaches; mood swings and often causes physical pain. Understanding periods, as someone who has a period, is important but understanding periods as someone who does not experience them can make you more empathetic and better friends, lovers, or partners.
The Start of Something New: A Brief Overview of the Menstrual Cycle
The whole process of the menstrual cycle is to prepare the body for pregnancy. The cycle lasts roughly twenty–eight days and begins on the first day after a period has ended. It is completely normal for the length of the cycle to fluctuate. During a period, the pituitary gland releases the hormone FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone) which causes the ovaries to prepare an egg to be released. Once a period has ended, oestrogen and progesterone cause the uterus lining to thicken. When the lining is thick enough, the Luteinising hormone causes a mature egg to be released (ovulation). Some of us experience bloating and even some pain during ovulation. Hormone changes during this stage can cause premenstrual cycle symptoms (PMS), these could be: acne, headaches, breast tenderness or mood changes. If pregnancy does not occur the uterus lining breaks down, causing a period.
What are Periods exactly?
A period is not simply blood. Period ‘blood’ is made up of blood and tissue (a group of cells) from the uterus. The uterus lining sheds when the egg is not fertilised and this is what we refer to as period blood.
Who Gets Periods?
Not everyone who has a period identifies as a female. Transgender men/queer people who have uteri, vaginas, ovaries, and fallopian tubes also experience periods. Furthermore, not all women have periods. Some women may have a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus); some may have a genetic disorder such as Kallmann syndrome; some may be pregnant; or, some may have a contraceptive method that can sometimes stop periods such as an IUD (Intrauterine device). The absence or presence of a period does not define gender.
Most people get their period at age twelve, but it is completely normal for periods to start anywhere between eight and fifteen years old. Periods last until you reach the age of around fifty but again this varies, what is normal for one person may be a completely different normal for another person. On average, that is 456 periods in a lifetime.
If a period lasted for 5 days and there are 456 periods in a lifetime, 2280 days in a lifetime or 6.25 years are spent menstruating.
Is my Period Normal? Period Myths
One of the main things to remember is that people experience their periods differently. There is a lot of variation in the length of cycles, length of periods or number of periods in a year and that is completely okay. You know your own body better than anyone else. For those who do not experience periods directly, it can be difficult to know the facts about periods and this can lead to some misconceptions. But no worries because, these are easily solved and there is no judgement here!
Period flow is not continuous, and people actually lose a lot less blood than people think. During a whole period, the average person loses about six to eight teaspoons, have a look at the size of a teaspoon next time you are in the kitchen!
A person can still get pregnant while on their period, it is important to know this if you are a woman or, are having sex with a woman and there is the ability for you or them to become pregnant. You can also have sex on your period, it can even help relieve the pain.
Irregularities are also very common! There are several reasons a period can be missed even when pregnancy is not involved, excessive stress or exercise, chronic illness or rapid weight loss or gain can all cause periods to become irregular. Medical conditions and contraceptives can also affect periods.
It is also completely safe and healthy to swim or take a bath while having a period. Using a tampon or menstrual cup can provide a sanitary way to attend public swimming baths. As for during bath time, the water creates a counter–pressure which can prevent the period blood from flowing out, it is not unhygienic to have a bath while on your period. Baths can even help to relieve menstrual cramps.
Not having a period doesn’t make someone any less of a woman, just like having a period doesn’t make you any less of a man. Not all women have periods and that is one hundred per cent okay. Periods are a part of biology and they just mean you are not pregnant. Around half of the population experience periods, a period is just the shedding of the uterus lining. Talking about our bodies and the things that can come out of them is often considered shameful but it is liberating to talk about periods and it is important that everyone has access to the facts especially if they weren’t taught them in school.
There will be a Periods Part Two to follow with the article; focussing mainly on the different methods of period blood collection, the effects on the environment and our bodies as well as period poverty.
Periods are a major fact of lives, whether that be directly or indirectly, and should be treated as such. Period.
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