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Suzi’s Sexy Secrets: What Don’t You Know About Your Period?

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about your period, some of these facts may surprise you…

When you were young, you might not have gotten the full scoop on your period until it showed up for the first time in gym class or some other awkward situation– though hopefully not when you were wearing white pants. Think back to all the scary rumors you heard. How many of those did you actually believe? And how many of them are you still not totally sure of? Of course we all know that good nutrition and regular exercise can help reduce the aches and pains of menstrual cramps, PMS, and PMDD and help improve your overall physical and emotional health. Most women know the basics when it comes to their period– or at least think they do– but wouldn’t you like to know a couple of “secrets” I’ve got hidden up my sleeve?

Q: So what exactly IS a period?

A: Think of your period as a sort of detox. The purpose of a period to get rid ofold, unused uterine lining and to make way for your next cycle. Those crippling cramps you’re feeling? That’s the uterus contracting in order to gently push the lining out. Some women on the birth control pill find their periods to be lighter and less painful due to a temporary thinning of the lining caused by said pill.

According to Judy Grahn, author of Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World, a woman will spend approximately 3,500 days menstruating in her life! Sounds fun, right?… Or not.

Q: Are periods really contagious?

A: Remember hearing the buzz that you could catch your period like you catch a cold? Well, that’s not too far from the truth! Chemical signals in one woman’s body may be picked up by another’s. Women who live together share similar stressors that can also effect the time of menstruation. So, you and your roommates might get your periods around the same time (what a party!).

Q: Concerning stress and the missed period:

A: Your flow might have decided to take a vacation due to anything from extreme weight loss or weight gain to the development of serious medical conditions that require immediate care. One main factor that contributes to a missed period, though, is STRESS. Not only does stress keep you tossing and turning all night long, but also, it can throw your menstrual cycle out of whack. Dr. Ralph Dauterive, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Ochsner Clinic in Baton Rouge, LA says, “Your brain responds to nerve-wracking events by releasing stress hormones.” These hormones can then interfere with your regular cycle, setting you up for shorter, more irregular periods. So get it together, ladies! No need to throw off our cycles for months at a time!

  1. Is it possible to mess with Aunt Flo’s mojo?
  2. While some women think that birth control pills that put your period on hiatus are the greatest things since sliced bread, others worry about messing with Aunt Flo’s mojo. Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale University School of Medicine, tells ladies to CHILLAX! “Your uterus won’t explode if you don’t have a period,” says Minkin. Extended-cycle pills give you 28 days of hormones, rather than the more usual 21, plus seven days of placebo pills, so there’s no hormonal week of bleeding. In fact, in many cases women benefit from taking birth control pills. Studies show that they decrease your risk of ovarian cancer by about 50%.

Q: What’s the connection between menstruation and pH?

A: First off, what on earth is pH? Simply put, it’s the measure of how acidic something is. Water, with a pH of 7, is considered neutral. The pH of blood, on the other hand, is 7.4, so during your period, the high pH of menstrual blood can causes vaginal pH, normally an acidic 4.5, to increase beyond the normal range and venture into less acidic, alkaline territory Regular tampons retain the fluids that cause pH to increase.

So what does this mean? Here’s what the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center has to say about it: “The menstrual cycle affects the vaginal environment. You may notice increased wetness and clear discharge around mid-cycle. The pH balance of the vagina fluctuates during the cycle and is the least acidic on the days just prior to and during menstruation. Infections, therefore, are most common at this time.”

So, remember, girls: the pH of the vagina should be always be kept balanced at a pH of 4.5. To help out with this balancing act, there’s a new tampon in town that’s just what it says it is: “Brilliant!” They’re called RepHresh Brilliant pH Tampons, and they actually reduce the usual vaginal pH increase caused by your period. Check them out.

Here are some more fun facts about your menstrual cycle:

  • The term “period” dates from 1822 and means “an interval of time” or “a repeated cycle of events.” Fitting, don’t you think?
  • Back in the day, menstrual blood was thought to cure all kinds of fun things, including but not limited to: warts, birthmarks, gout, goiters, hemorrhoids, epilepsy, worms, leprosy, and headaches.
  • It was also used in “love” potions, was believed to ward off demons, and was occasionally used as an offering to a God.
  • According to Janice Delaney’s article “The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation,” the first napkin worn by a virgin was thought to be a cure for the plague. Oy!

It’s important to understand the many aspects of Aunt Flo, for she can be very testy at times. Remember to keep a healthy, well-balanced diet, relieve yourself from as much stress as possible, keep that pH balanced and make note of your cycle and its symptoms so you can discuss any concerns you might have with your doc.

And don’t forget to share my secrets!