If you grew up in the U.S. you probably had a very brief & rushed health class where Mr. Wallace the Middle School gym teacher showed you a few diagrams and told you that periods happen to girls and that was it. Some girls learned from their friends, some got their parental figure awkwardly trying to talk about it, some just had to figure it out. Let’s change that. We want this space to be a go-to resource when we don’t feel equipped to handle what our body does every month. A space that is judgment & shame-free, a place for ALL women!
Let’s get into it.
What is a period - science and all?
Your period makes up a part of your hormonal cycle. The period is the menstrual part of this cycle - bleeding occurs once a month.
For women, the body has the capability to produce life. Each month, the body prepares for pregnancy by releasing the egg from the woman’s ovaries (ovulation). It then travels through the fallopian tube to enter the lining of the uterus. The body can only become pregnant when the egg is fertilized (by a sperm cell, occuring through sexual intercourse). When it is not fertilized, your body sheds the lining of your uterus to make room for a new lining to form. The lining of your uterus is tissue that accompanies your bleeding every month through your vagina. Most girls get their period between ages 12 and 14, but some people get it earlier or later - and that’s okay. A woman will have her period once a month, every month until around the ages of 45 and 55.
This whole process is what can cause PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Bloating can occur in an attempt to stay hydrated due to your body losing blood and water. This is why drinking lots of water during your period can sometimes help reduce some of your PMS bloating. Additionally, you can feel fatigued, irritable, nauseated, or overwhelmed due to hormones like progesterone and estrogen fluctuating in order for your cycle to occur. Everyone’s cycle is different and can be affected by different factors (birth control, exercise schedule, foods, etc) but most cycles last 2-8 days. Some people’s periods are heavier or lighter than others, there’s nothing to be afraid about - but talking to your doctor about how to manage PMS and making sure your vitamins, exercise, hydration and sleep is balanced.
Can I get pregnant on my period?
A time and time again asked question. You have the highest chance of getting pregnant during the days leading up to ovulation (when the egg is released) because this is when you’re most fertile. This happens about 14 days before your period starts, but again, everyone's body is different!
Most people use tracking apps or notes to help them figure out when they’re ovulating. Some use it to get pregnant (or prevent pregnancy) or just for personal knowledge in case their PMS changes or fluctuates. It’s important to note that some people have regular symptoms and some have more irregular cycles. If you do not want to get pregnant, it is recommended to use protection or forms of contraception - always consult with your doctor so you can make sure you can choose what’s best for you.
Tampons, pads, menstrual cups, period underwear - what are they and how do they work?
First things first - it’s important to know what feminine hygiene product makes sense for you. There is no one-size-fits-all.
Pads, sometimes referred to as sanitary pads are absorbent pieces of fabric that you stick to your underwear with a peel-off sticker on the bottom. Some brands have flaps or “wings” that fold over the sides of your underwear to prevent leaks or stains. Most pads are disposable for 1 time use only, but other pads are made from fabric that can be washed and reused. They come in different sizes and thickness in order to match the flow amount of your period.
A tampon is inserted into the vagina to absorb blood before it comes out. These also come in different sizes to match the flow of your period. They sometimes come with an applicator that can help insert the tampon and leave a little string for you to use to pull out when the tampon needs to be removed. These can only be used for 6 hours at a time - if left in too long they can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), so you always need to be careful to track how many hours you have them in for. It’s rare, but serious so make sure you set an alarm or track efficiently.
A menstrual cup is a small cup made from flexible and body-safe plastic, which you insert into your vagina similar to a tampon. It can be used for up to 12 hours. The cup collects period blood while a tampon absorbs it but can be used for longer than a tampon. The sizes and shapes can vary for menstrual cups, so make sure you choose the best one for you.
Period underwear or period panties are just like regular underwear but have extra layers of fabric that absorb your menstrual blood during your period. You can also wear pads or tampons with this type of underwear as well. There are several different types of these, so check out details of use and care to make sure it’s the best option for you.
All of these different types of feminine hygiene products are effective and it’s more about picking the right one for you. It’s also important to choose brands that you trust and pay attention to the ingredients or mission statements - some products use chemicals or fabric lighteners that may irritate your skin or cause infection. Choosing the best quality and organic cotton options over generic can prevent complications.
In addition to period education, check out Aura Essentials natural supplements that are backed by science and designed to empower you.
Opinions, content, and any information expressed in this article are intended to be general in nature and do not constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice from your professional healthcare provider.