Know what to expect from your menstrual cycle and when to see a doctor
Even though periods are very common, it's a topic that many people don't want to talk about! And that can lead to people getting information that's not exactly accurate. So we're busting one of the most important myths you should stop believing about periods — with The Period Doctor herself, Dr. Charis Chambers!
We asked Dr. Chambers what she wants people to know most: "I think the one myth about periods that I wish people would stop believing is, 'They're natural, so they can't have any issues, or can't be dangerous.' You know, one of my analogies is, 'Natural disasters are also natural!" So, you need to know what periods should look like, what normal parameters of periods are, and when to seek healthcare advice if your periods are abnormal."'
Dr. Chambers is breaking misconceptions around women's healthcare with her Period Doctor platform. She makes accurate, unbiased information accessible and relatable to her followers — and that includes the basics about periods.
What Exactly Is a Period?
A period is part of a person's menstrual cycle — the hormonal process a body goes through over a period of time to prepare for a possible pregnancy. Hormones are released from the brain and uterus to "tell the uterus when to grow the uterine lining and then when to shed it," according to Dr. Chambers' website. The bleeding, also called the period or menstruation, happens when that uterine lining sheds from the body and comes out of the vagina.
When Do People First Get Their Period?
Dr. Chambers says the average age people get their first period is about 12 and a half. It's when your body enters puberty and first starts to produce hormones — like the ones that tell the uterus to grow and shed its lining.
How Long Do You Bleed?
Bleeding, or the shedding of the uterine lining, can last anywhere from two to seven days. Tell your doctor if it lasts longer than a week, says Dr. Chambers.
How Often Do You Have a Period?
About every 28 days. This is the menstrual cycle time frame — counted from the first day of one bleeding period to the first day of your next period. But every body is different! That time frame can vary anywhere between 21 days to 45 days. Let your doctor know if that time frame is shorter than 21 days or longer than 45 days.
How Much Do You Bleed?
On average, people only lose about 2-3 tablespoons of blood during their period. This means they're changing their pad or tampon every 4-8 hours. If you need to change every hour or so, you may be experiencing heavy bleeding. Tell your doctor about it.
Do Periods Hurt?
Pain and discomfort can come with periods. Many people feel cramping pain in the lower abdomen or back. It comes from the contractions of the uterus to help the lining come off. The changes in your hormones can also cause bloating, acne, tiredness, tender breasts, headaches, bowel issues (like diarrhea or constipation), and mood swings. You can help relieve many of these symptoms by taking pain relievers, exercising (even though you may not feel up for it!), placing a heating pad over areas that ache, eating healthy food and doing activities you enjoy.
If your symptoms are severe, don't respond to home treatment and disrupt your daily life, talk to your doctor.