Did you know that there are 5,000 different slang terms and euphemisms for menstruation? Despite it being a very common bodily function, people are often shy about discussing it, which can lead to misinformation and confusion.

So, what is menstruation? To put it simply, it's bleeding expelled from the vagina that happens about once a month, as a normal part of the menstrual cycle. It is also known as having a period. It's a normal and natural process that most females experience after puberty. But, just because it's normal, doesn't mean it's always easy. Some people may experience abnormal periods and it's important to know what to look out for.

What are periods, exactly?

During the menstrual cycle, female hormones make the lining of the uterus become thicker, preparing the uterus for a potential pregnancy. Hormones also cause an egg to be released from an ovary, which is known as ovulation.

If a woman does not become pregnant, then her period starts about 2 weeks after ovulation. The lining of the uterus starts to shed and, along with some blood, flows out through the vagina. Periods can be light or heavy, and usually last between 3 to 7 days. The blood can range from bright red to dark brown. There might also be small clots.

Some women may experience cramps or other pain and discomfort during their period, while others may not have any symptoms at all. Bloating in the abdomen, constipation before the period and diarrhoea when the period starts are also all normal.

There are various ways to manage your period. Women use different methods to control menstrual bleeding, including pads tampons, menstrual cups or period underwear. Everyone has their preference and might mix up period products based on their flow and what they are doing, e.g. sleeping, swimming etc.

It is common for the duration and flow of menstrual periods to vary from month to month. This can be influenced by factors such as stress, diet, and exercise. Some women may also experience irregular periods, which hormonal imbalances or other health conditions can cause.

But, there are some signs that may indicate a problem, and in this case, it's essential to visit a doctor. These include:

  • Excessive bleeding or prolonged bleeding

  • Severe cramping or pain during periods

  • Absence of periods (known as amenorrhea)

  • Pain during sex

  • Heavy or irregular periods

  • Large blood clots in menstrual blood

  • Abnormal discharge with a strong odour.

  • Abnormal growths in the reproductive tract.

  • Hormonal changes that cause excessive weight gain or hair growth.

  • Very low mood or extreme anxiety before your period

These symptoms could indicate a hormonal imbalance, fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) or in some cases cancer. So, if you're experiencing any of these symptoms, don't hesitate to visit a doctor.

Finally, we need to remember that not all people who menstruate identify as women. Menstruation is also experienced by trans men and non-binary individuals who were assigned female at birth.

So basically, menstruation is a normal and natural process, but it can be different for everyone. If you're experiencing any signs that might indicate a problem, don't be shy and visit your doctor. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: Mayo Clinic, healthdirect.

Image credit: Monika Kozub at Unsplash.

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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