Frequently asked questions about periods

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28th May 2017 marks World Menstrual Hygiene Day, a day that aims to educate girls and women on menstrual hygiene and their periods.

Kotex® together with their expert; Midwife and Heath Educator Sister Burgie Ireland, have put together a guide on menstrual  hygiene and management with some frequently asked questions.

Where does period blood come from?

Period blood comes from the lining of the womb called the endometrium. This blood is not dirty, smelly or bad blood that girls or women should be made to feel ashamed of. Period blood is all part of the menstrual cycle.

How much blood do I lose during my period?

On average a woman loses 3 - 5 tablespoons of blood and tissue during her period. This varies from 75 ml’s (quarter of a cup) to 125 ml’s (half a cup) at the very most.

Why does my period not come on the same date every month? Should I be worried?

No, there is no need to worry! It is normal for periods not to come on the same date every month. This is because periods come in cycles rather than in months. A cycle is calculated from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. A cycle is usually about 28 days, but because the menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones, emotions, diet, health and lifestyle, they can be shorter (21 days) or longer (occasionally up to 90 days). Depending on when a girl/woman ovulates (releases her egg) her periods can come earlier or later than expected.

What causes period pains?

Period pain is mostly caused by the womb contracting or ‘squeezing’. Because the womb is a hollow muscular organ – about the size of a clenched fist – it needs to do this to break down the inner lining called the endometrium so that it can be shed through the vagina. A hormone called prostaglandin helps the womb to contract. Too much prostaglandin can cause stronger contractions, and this contributes to period pain. Pain killers for period pain help by blocking unnecessary prostaglandin.

Why do pads and tampons need to be changed regular during your period?

Bacteria thrives in the dark, warm and moist environment and this is why pads and tampons should be changed at least every four hours.  When these are not changed often enough, bacteria builds up causing a bad odour, discomfort and skin irritations. Women are also advised against using vaginal sprays and deodorants because these can also cause skin irritations.

How should I wash my vagina? Should I use soap or a douching solution?

The vagina is ‘self-cleaning’ and has a natural smell that is normal. Douching, washing the vagina with a chemical mixture from a plastic bag and nozzle, is no longer recommended because it interferes with the normal flora of the vagina that keep it slightly acidic and healthy. The outer labia and pubic hair can be washed with a mild soap.

Will I lose my virginity if I wear a tampon?

No, tampons do not break virginity. Having vaginal sex breaks virginity. Tampons are essential for girls who do sports like swimming, skiing, surfing, dancing and gymnastics.

So, on the 28th May 2017 let’s celebrate World Menstrual Hygiene Day by starting the conversation and to use this day as a platform to ask the questions that need to be asked.

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