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For something that happens to half the population every month for approximately half our lives, most of us still have a lot to learn about our monthly bleeding. Reemi exists to make period equity a real thing - which starts with understanding what is happening to us.

We're gonna start from the very beginning. Read on to get Reemi's 101 on periods and all phases of the menstrual cycle.

PERIODS 101

Menstruation, or period, is normal vaginal bleeding that occurs in bodies with a uterus. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining. The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus.

What is a normal amount of bleeding? Can you get pregnant during your period? Why does my period come so often? What is too much pain? Let's find out!

THE AGE OF MENARCHE

Menarche is a fancy word for the very first time you get your period. This usually occurs between the ages of 9 - 15 years old.

Over the course of a lifetime you may experience an average of 450 periods! Most people will reach menopause, the time when their period stops, between the ages of 45 - 55 years old.

It is important to know that once you have your period it is possible to get pregnant. It can also be possible right before your very first period because hormones in the body might already be active.

HORMONES: BEHIND THE SCENES

The menstrual cycle is regulated by hormones; luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.

A menstrual cycle is not just the days that you have your period but is the process of your body preparing for pregnancy and shedding the uterus lining if you are not pregnant.

There are three parts to the cycle that are regulated by each of the hormones.

1. Follicular (before release of the egg)

2. Ovulatory (egg release)

3. Luteal (after egg release)

At each stage, hormones affect many things in your body including digestion, mood, and even your immune system.

WHAT IS PMS?

Premenstrual Syndrome is a group of changes that can affect you on many levels. They can be physical, emotional, or behavioural. The changes come 1 to 2 weeks before your period and have many different symptoms. Once your period starts, they usually go away. It is normal to not feel okay before your period. Don't worry - it will pass! If you feel like PMS is significantly affecting your lifestyle and relationships (with yourself and/or with others) we recommend seeing a medical professional for guidance.

THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE

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The endometrium is the lining of the uterus. It is one of the few organs in the human body that changes in size every month throughout a person's fertile years. Pain during your period is from the uterus contracting to help shed its lining.

Did you know that sperm can survive up to five days in the female reproductive system? This means that there is a tiny chance of becoming pregnant from unprotected sex during your period.

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WHAT IS NORMAL?

Every body is different, including during our period. It is important to know your cycle and your body, so when something changes, it may be an indicator that something is wrong.

Some quick facts:

  • The average amount of blood lost over your entire period is between 5 - 80 mL. This is about 1 - 16 teaspoons.

  • A period usually lasts between 4 to 8 days

  • Time between periods is usually 24 to 38 days long

  • Most people have some sort of pain during their period and it can begin before your period.

  • Breast tenderness is another common period symptom. It can peak in the days just before menstruation starts.

  • For some people diarrhoea or constipation is normal during menstruation, due to hormone changes. 

  • Periods vary from cycle to cycle, and some months will be lighter or heavier, and can differ in how often they occur and how long they go for. There are many reasons why they change including stress, weight changes, age and so on.

  • Sometimes it can feel like you’re bleeding a whole lot more - that’s because period flow isn’t just blood, it’s also made up of tissue, and mucus that is part of the uterus shedding its lining.

  • Other common symptoms can include;  feeling swollen or bloated, changing emotions and/orfeeling fragile, fatigue, acne, headaches and appetite changes.

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

It is important to know when your body is sending you a message to pay attention as it can be a warning sign. 

 

Some signs you may need to ask for help:

  • If you notice a heavy period where you have to change period products every hour or two, or if you’re passing large clots 

  • If the pain is too much, as it can be treated with painkillers or hormones.  Even with severe pain there may be nothing ‘abnormal’

  • If have had your period for more than 2 years and it still doesn't come regularly (about every 4–5 weeks is considered regular)

  • If you have bleeding between periods

  • If your periods that last more than about a week

  • If PMS is so severe that gets in the way of your everyday activities
     

If you have bleeding, pain or other symptoms that are disrupting your life, then ask for help! Talk to your GP or book an appointment with Family Planning in your area.