Ahh, periods. The monthly treat that we vagina-owners view with varying amounts of apprehension, annoyance and downright dread. Are you currently dating or living with someone who gets their period? Chances are, there’s a lot more going on in their body than you even realise.
For those who aren’t aware, a period occurs when the uterus sheds its lining and sends it shlooping out the vaginal canal. It spent all month making a tidy little home to pop a baby in, but there’s no need for it all without a baby to shelter so, out it all goes. Think of it like an angry ex tossing all your belongings onto the lawn outside.
But there are a lot of things you’re probably in the dark about when it comes to periods, and we’re teaming up with Libra and Ask Gemmah to answer all the questions you’re overflowing with. Besides, as a bonafide period-haver of approximately 15 years, I’m brimming with knowledge about Satan’s waterfall.
Here are eight things you should know about them.
1. It doesn’t work like a tap
I once went out on a date with a dude who suggested that I simply “turn it off for a bit” while we went to the beach, because I was whinging about cramps and bloating. Just “hold it in” for a while. IF ONLY, MATE.
It’s not like pee. You are able to hold onto your urine because it comes out of the bladder through the urethra, so there are cylindrical sphincters that help it close up tightly. Periods, however, come out the vaginal opening — and there ain’t no sphincter to close that bad boy off.
Thank you for thinking my almighty vagina has the kegel-trained strength to hold back the crimson tide, but it just simply doesn’t work that way.
2. There’s probably not as much blood as you might expect
If you’re expecting gushing floods of blood every day from your partner’s cooch, calm down for a moment. This is not a Carrie situation. Generally speaking, most people bleed an average of 5-80mLs of blood each cycle, which is… actually not a huge amount.
It’ll also be heavier at different moments over the cycle, so you have to be prepared for all circumstances. For example, if you’re dating someone who tends to get a really heavy flow for the first couple of days, you might want to stock up on Libra Extra Goodnights so that there’s no leakage overnight.
Conversely, people with lighter periods may only need a regular pad or tampon, or even just a liner. It really varies from person to person depending on what they cop, because every period and person is different.
it’s raining blood, hallalujah.
3. It’s not just blood
I hate to break it to you, but menstrual bleeding isn’t the same kind of blood that you see if you nick your hand open on something sharp. That blood? Shiny, bright red, possibly very runny.
That’s, uh, not necessarily what period blood is like. Remember that this is the lining of the uterus making its way out of the body, so it’s been up there a while and has, in parts, solidified.
Period blood in general is much darker than blood that comes from a wound, and yes, there may be some gooey bits poking their smooshy bodies out into their knickers too. This is perfectly normal, and any shaming about this says far more about you than it does about anything else.
4. The science is still out on whether they sync up
There’s a theory called the McClintock effect, named after a study done by psychologist Martha McClintock in 1971, which suggests that when women live together, they synchronise their cycles. One unproven suggestion for why this may happen, is because of pheromones — one person’s natural scent supposedly wafts its way down to another person’s uterus and demands they open up shop.
It might be why folks tend to experience it around the same time when they live in shared housing, or work together in close contact. Buuuuuut there have been a few studies which suggest that any alignment of periods is in the realm of mathematical coincidence, and there have been no substantial/consistent studies to prove or agree with this, so probs not.
In the meantime:
get your head in the game.
5. It has absolutely fuck all to do with the moon
There are a lot of inexplicably weird things that people believe in this world, but the alignment with periods and the moon is probably one of the most ridiculous. When researching this piece I found a BUNCH of articles out there with headlines like, “What Does The Moon Do To your Period?”
Now, this perplexes me because, the answer? Nothing. It does nothing. I didn’t think I’d be here in 2019 assuring folks that the big glowy orb in the sky has nothing to do with when someone’s red river starts a’flowing.
But people in ancient times believed that periods aligned with the lunar cycle so much that the word ‘menstruation’ actually comes from the Latin and Greek words for month (mensis) and moon (mene). Folks, they were wrong.
6. You can still get it on — and some people even get hornier
Sure, some people want absolutely nothing to do with sex when their uterus is doing the monthly spring clean, but just because it’s coming out doesn’t mean you can’t come in.
Period sex has been taboo for a really long time because people get real squeamish over the idea of blood on their ding dongs or fingers. But it also has a lot to do with the unfair belief that a period makes someone unclean. They’re not unclean, they’re experiencing a perfectly normal bodily function. Lay down a towel and have at it, mates.
Just be gentle on ye olde uterus. It’s working hard, and probably doesn’t need additional rough smashing when it already feels like it’s copping a battering inside the baby box.
chic a cherry cola.
7. Period poops are a real nightmare
When I started writing this piece, I asked a few girls in the office what their biggest frustration was when they’re on their period. Second only to “people saying I’m on my period when I’m just in a shitty mood,” was, well, the shits. The period poos.
I’m going to put this very delicately: do not be surprised if we’ve gotta spend a lil’ bit more time in the loo than usual when we’ve got our periods. Not only are we popping in tampons, changing pads or making sure we haven’t leaked after a stray sneeze, we’re potentially also dealing with mega dumps.
Bluntly put, yes, periods can give you diarrhoea. Just when you thought we had enough to deal with, right? It’s uncertain what actually causes it, but it’s thought to be linked to the fact that period cramps cause your uterus to contract. Either way, it shits us.
you’re shitting me.
8. Cramps can seriously hurt — do not mock them
Period pain, otherwise known as dysmenorrhea, can be INCREDIBLY debilitating and anyone who makes jokes about it without having ever experienced it for themselves deserves to swap places with someone who has.
Sure, most women have pulled the ol’, “I can’t do PE today because I have my period,” trick. But even beyond the pain of regular cramps, sufferers of endometriosis experience intense pain on a regular basis. Not-so-affectionately known as ‘endo’, this condition causes the uterine lining (endometrium) to grow (and shed) on other organs like the ovaries.
And let me tell you, it shits all over any other pain. You wanna make jokes about how getting a soccer ball to the nuts is painful? Hoo boy, try five days of that.
So, long story short, there’s a lot that goes on within our bodies on a monthly basis. Just remember: lay down a towel for sexy times, grab us some junk food, and know that a period has far less to do with the moon than it does with avoiding a human being shooting out your vaginal canal.
Otherwise, just go with the flow.
If your period questions were not answered, head over to Ask Gemmah. Disclaimer: the responses will not be from a physician.Image: New Girl