Periods are a massive part of women’s lives – on average, a woman menstruates for a total of seven years during their lifetime, but for something that takes up such a big chunk of our lives, we don’t talk about them enough. For years, periods have been seen as being embarrassing, unhygienic, or something that should be kept a secret – none of which are true. Not being comfortable about talking about our periods for so long has led to the cultivation of a lot of misconceptions. So, we’re here to decode what is fact, and what is fiction, as well as encouraging you to be more open about discussing your menstrual cycle and what it entails.
PMS isn’t real
If anyone ever tries to tell you that PMS is all in your head, they are lying. PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is the combination of symptoms you may experience leading up your period. These can include mood swings, feeling on edge, headaches, and spots (great!). Although medical professionals aren’t exactly sure what causes PMS, it’s definitely a real thing and is probably down to the fluctuation in your hormones leading up to your period. So next time you’re not feeling like your usual self, rest-assured it’s completely normal and okay for you to feel that way.
Everyone gets their period in their teens
Although it’s common for most people to start their periods during their early teens, this doesn’t mean that everyone does. You can get your first period any time between the ages of 8 and 16, and there’s no ‘normal’ time to start. So, if you haven’t got yours yet or you’ve had it for a while, that’s what’s normal for you – don’t compare yourself to others!
My period’s late, am I pregnant?
There are lots of reasons why your period might be late. Stress, irregular periods, sudden weight loss, and the contraceptive pill all play their part on having an effect on your periods, including making them late. If you’re worried, carry out a pregnancy test to put your mind at ease, and always remember to practice safe sex. Downloading a period tracker app can help you understand your menstrual cycle better.
The difference between spotting and your period
If you’ve experienced light bleeding between your periods (also known as spotting), you may wonder why it happens and whether it’s normal. First up, spotting is often part of a healthy menstrual cycle, so there’s nothing to worry about there. There are a number of reasons for spotting to happen, including being on the contraceptive pill. Spotting is usually characterised by being irregular, light, and sometimes a different colour to your usual menstrual blood. It doesn’t usually last for long. If you’re concerned about spotting, speak to a doctor or sexual health advisor.
Tampons can get lost inside you
Tampons cannot get lost inside the body. At the far end of the vagina is the cervix, where the opening is too small for a tampon to pass through. It is however possible for a tampon to become stuck in the vagina if another tampon is inserted, so it’s important to make sure that you remove a tampon using the string before inserting a new one. If a tampon gets stuck and you can’t remove it yourself (which is very rare), visit your GP practice of the nearest sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
Swimming is a no-go on your period
If your period happens to fall when you’re going on holiday or swimming, it can be more of a hassle than usual. But, being on your period does not mean you can’t go near the water. Swimming can actually be a good way for alleviating period pain and improving your mood. As sanitary pads are really absorbent, they’re no good for swimming. It’s best to use a tampon or menstrual cup. If you’re not comfortable using either of these, and your flow is lighter, the pressure from the water should stop your flow whilst you’re swimming.
No one gets Toxic Shock Syndrome
Although rare, Toxic Shock Syndrome is not something that should be dismissed. TSS is often associated with tampon use in young women, as it’s caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. It can get worse quite quickly and can be fatal if not treated properly (once treated properly, people make a full recovery). To prevent TSS, there are a few hygiene rules you should follow – don’t use a tampon that has a higher absorbency than you need, alternate between tampons and sanitary towels, wash your hands before and after inserting a tampon, change tampons regularly, and never have more than one tampon in your vagina at one time. To find out more information about the symptoms and advice on TSS, head here.