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We like to call it the crimson wave, shark week or Aunt Flo's monthly visit. Basically, we try to avoid ever really talking about it. And that makes sense; Periods are painful and gross. But not talking about them doesn't make them go away. It just means we don't get educated about them.
So here are eight questions you might still not know the answers to:
Here's what's up: You already know that you can only get pregnant during the 3 to 6 days of your cycle that you're ovulating and ovulation does not happen at the same time as the period. What you might not realize is that sperm can live in your body for up to five days. So if you have a short cycle - meaning ovulation happens five days or less after your period - a sperm that enters your body during your period could still be alive during ovulation. That means the sperm could fertilize an egg when your body enters ovulation.
However, most women don't have such a short cycle. This means that it's unlikely you'll get pregnant if you have sex on your period. Still, this shows how important it is to be aware of the pattern of your personal cycle (we recommend using a cycle tracker to get insights into your personal cycle).
2. Why are my bowel movements so weird during my period?
Your hormones are affecting every part of your body, so it shouldn't be a surprise that your bowels are affected as well. When your period starts, your body releases prostaglandins, a hormone-like compound. Prostaglandins play a few roles during menstruation. For example, they cause your uterus to contract (triggering the lining shed and cramps) but can also cause your bowels to contract (more bowel movements).
It seems like every woman says she has a heavy flow, but if everyone is heavy, isn't it just normal? How are you supposed to know how heavy your flow really is?
You can figure out how heavy your flow is by tracking how many pads or tampons you soak (or just use the handy-dandy measure in your menstrual cup). Each regular-size sanitary product holds about 1 teaspoon of blood. If you release nine to 12 teaspoons of blood during one period (or, in other words, soak nine to 12 pads or tampons), you have a heavy flow.
If you have a heavy flow, make sure you are getting enough iron, salt and fluids or reduce it with ibuprofen or contraceptives.
4. Are there alternatives to pads or tampons?
For some reason we talk about maxi pads and tampons as the end all be all for period protection, but you've got other options.
If you hate the discomfort, trips to the bathroom and shifting of pads, you might want to consider period panties. They build period protection right into the garment (comfy) and are washable (aka good for the environment and your wallet). You can find them in all styles from patterned to boyshort to lingerie. In fact, Dear Kate makes period yoga pants so you can bend freely (or lounge freely)!
Menstrual cups are the best alternative to tampons you could imagine. They only need to be changed every 12 hours, eliminate trips to the bathroom, save you money, are good for the environment, eliminate smell and you can't even feel them in your body (read this for more information).
Reusable pads and tampons
If you're concerned about the cost, environment or the materials feminine hygiene products are made with, reusable pads and tampons are a good option for you. They come in many styles and can be washed after use.
5. Why am I still irregular?
There's a common misconception that once you become a real life adult your period will leave the irregularity behind with your teens. But there are so many factors that affect the way your body menstruates that you shouldn't expect it to stick to a reliable schedule. Your period's regularity is often interrupted by stress, weight, birth control pills, diet, etc. So do your best to understand your body's schedule but don't be too concerned if you're not regular.
However, irregular periods can be a sign that something's not right with your body. If you are missing periods or are completely unable to predict your cycle, you should talk to a doctor.
If you're still trying to figure out who the alpha female in your home is, you can set the issue to rest. Although one study back in 1970 showed the legitimacy of period syncing, modern scientists have found their methodology to be flawed.
When blood is oxidized, it turns brown. So during your slower days, the blood has already been exposed to air before it's released causing your menstrual blood to come out in small amounts in a brown hue.
8. What are those goobers in there?
As you know, during menstruation your uterine lining sheds. Through this process, anticoagulants break down solid material. However, sometimes they come through your period blood in small pieces.
On the other hand, it's also possible for blood clots to come through. This occurs when there is more blood than anticoagulants for example, when your flow is heavier. Unless they are bigger than the size of a raisin, they are nothing to worry about.