Let's Learn About Periods

On our Instagram page (@theperiodtalks), we asked for people to send in any period-related questions they wanted answers to. Thank you to everyone who got involved and engaged with us! We have grouped together some of the questions and have answered based on our own experiences and our research. It is important to highlight that everyone who menstruates has unique experiences, pains, and ways of managing their period. Whilst we have done our best to speak on behalf of the majority, we are absolutely aware that these questions would be answered differently by others and do not intend to enforce that our answers are the only truths when it comes to menstruating. We hope that you learn something new!

Let’s learn about periods, together!

  • If you’re on the contraceptive pill, do you still get periods?

This depends on the type of contraceptive pill taken. Most pills suppress ovulation which means that a ‘real period’ won’t occur. However, it is normal to bleed when taking a combined contraceptive pill. This is usually taken for 21 days followed by a 7-day break in which it is normal to experience vaginal bleeding, similar to a period.

  • Is there only one type of contraceptive pill?

Good question! No. There are many different brands of combined oral contraceptive pills (“the pill”), made up of 3 different types: monophasic 21-day pills, phasic 21-day pills, and every day (ED) pills.

Monophasic 21-day pills

This is the most common type. Each pill has the same amount of hormone in it. One pill is taken each day for 21 days and then no pills are taken for the next 7 days. Microgynon, Marvelon, and Yasmin are examples of this type of pill.

Phasic 21-day pills

Phasic pills contain 2 or 3 sections of different coloured pills in a pack. Each section contains a different amount of hormones. One pill is taken each day for 21 days and then no pills are taken for the next 7 days. Phasic pills need to be taken in the right order. Logynon is an example of this type of pill.

Every day (ED) pills

There are 21 active pills and 7 inactive (dummy) pills in a pack. The two types of pill look different. One pill is taken each day for 28 days with no break between packets of pills. Every day pills need to be taken in the right order. Microgynon ED is an example of this type of pill.

Many factors are taken into consideration when deciding which pill to take and it is quite normal to change throughout the years until the best fit is found.

  • Does the contraceptive pill cost money?

Contraception is free to everyone through the NHS. Places, where you can get contraception, include GP surgeries, sexual health clinics, and community contraception clinics.

  • At what age does the menopause happen?

The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman's oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51. Around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age (premature or early menopause).

  • What things can men honestly do to help a family member / significant other with their period?

This is definitely down to personal preference. Some people who menstruate crave more affection and attention, some cry for no reason and need you to understand that and others may be more argumentative. 

You could track the person’s menstrual cycle to know when they are likely to be more hormonal, make sure that there are plenty of sanitary products in the house.

  • At what age do most people have a conversation with parents/guardians about puberty and periods, if at all?

Again, this is down to personal preference. It definitely depends on the kind of relationship you have with your parents. But, if you feel like you do want to talk to your parents or children about menstruation, then you shouldn’t be embarrassed to do so. Everyone is affected by it in one way or another so we should speak up and discuss it. (#normalisingperiodtalk)

  • Why do some people get really horny just before their period arrives?

Periods are related to hormones, and hormones present themselves in all sorts of ways when they are fluctuating. It is completely normal to feel this way right before a period and if anything, embrace it!

  • What are the common causes of period-related toxic shock syndrome? Is it as terrifying as I imagine?

Staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria. A build-up of these bacteria can release toxins that react badly and cause issues. Leaving tampons in for too long can aid these bacteria and therefore increase your chances of TSS. One tip to avoid TSS is to try not to always use tampons and switch between other sanitary products. 

As for it being terrifying, we have witnessed the impact of TSS! A friend of ours fainted and was sweating profusely after leaving her tampon in for a bit longer than usual. She described it as the worst period pain she has ever felt. She kept passing out and throwing up. Around ten minutes after removing her tampon, the pain completely disappeared but if she had left it in any longer, the consequences could have been a lot worse.

  • How much can it alter your mood, is it a gradual mood change or is it quite sudden?

Like many things that are hormone-related, it is down to the individual. PMS and PMDD are more severe health problems that can affect people for up to two weeks before a period. These can cause depression and heightened anxiety for those affected. This is not a symptom for every person who menstruates, however, it is important that if someone isn’t feeling themself and seems out of character that you should support them and help in any way they need. 

We will be sharing more on PMS and PMDD in the future, and we have links on our ‘Action’ page to charities and organisations, such as Vicious Cycle PMDD, who offer great support for people that suffer.

  • Is it true that being on your period makes people moody, or is it just a myth?  And if true, are you actively aware of it? Would it be annoying to have it suggested to you that your period is to blame for a mood, even if that is genuinely the case?

Following on from the answer above, yes periods can make you moody and we are (most of the time) actively aware of it. However, when you notice that someone who menstruates is a bit down or moody, it is definitely not advisable to use the common phrase “is it that time of the month?” Everyone has down days so it may not be “that time of the month”. Furthermore, it is likely to agitate someone who is menstruating at the time to blame the period, even if that is the cause. What would be more productive is to ask if there are ways to help improve their mood!

  • How do periods affect your day to day living?

For some lucky people, their day to day lives aren’t affected too much by the fact that they menstruate. On the other hand, it can affect your mood, attention span and weight (just to name a few) whilst on your period. In the weeks that people aren’t menstruating, life is pretty normal. Some are lots happier the week after because, let’s face it, we’ve just finished a week of hell. It is also important to emphasise that the week before, as well as PMS and PMDD, some people might be nervous or on edge because they are waiting for their period to begin.

  • How much blood do people actually lose on their period, like on a day to day basis? 

A school teacher once explained this to me in reference to teaspoons. This helps to visualise how much blood is actually lost. Most people who menstruate will lose less than 16 teaspoons of blood (80ml) during their period, with the average being around 6 to 8 teaspoons.

8 teaspoons doesn't sound like a lot but the side effects and inconvenience makes it feel like a lot more than this!

  • How can I make my daughter/sister feel comfortable about their period?

Before we answer this question in terms of how to add comfort, we want to highlight that periods are not just something that happens to women. Many people who don’t identify as women have periods - trans people and non-binary people, for example - and many people who do identify as women don’t have periods.

That being said, it is great that you care about the comfort of your relatives and want to help! Depending on how periods affect them, from a physical comfort perspective, hot water bottles and painkillers are great. In terms of being comfortable to talk about periods, perhaps start the dialogue! Make it clear that you are happy to discuss it and want to learn more.

  • Is it okay to have sex on a period?

Yes! Again, this is a personal preference. This is a conversation to have with your partner and if one of you isn’t comfortable then you simply take a few days off. It isn't for everyone but there is no need to judge anyone for their decision on this, as we mentioned above, it is totally normal to be horny right before your period.

  • What does syncing your period mean?

Syncing your period based on the theory that when you come in physical contact with another person who menstruates, your pheromones influence each other so that eventually, your monthly cycles sync up.

We hope that we have answered these questions enough to help you to better understand periods. If you have any more questions or wish to share some period-related information, get in touch with us on our socials or email us at theperiodtalks@gmail.com.