Getting your first period as a young girl is a milestone moment, but your body goes through many changes that it can sometimes be a little scary.
World Menstrual Hygiene Day on 28 May 2017 aims to educate girls and women on menstrual hygiene and their periods. Our friend Kotex® believes in the importance of educating girls and women on their menstrual cycle, so with the help of their expert midwife and health educator Sister Burgie Ireland, they have put together a guide on menstrual hygiene and management, with some FAQs.
Ireland says, “Many girls are embarrassed or scared to ask the questions they want to ask. Kotex® has added a ‘What girls are asking’ tab to their website, where girls can submit their questions and I answer them.”
Q. Where does period blood come from?
Period blood comes from the lining of the womb called the endometrium. This blood is not a 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.
Q. How much blood do I lose during my period?
On average a woman loses 3 to 5 tablespoons of blood and womb tissue during her period. This varies from 75 ml (quarter of a cup) to 125 ml (half a cup) at the very most.
Q. 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 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 menstrual cycle is usually about 28 days but is controlled by hormones, emotions, diet, health and lifestyle, so it 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.
Q. What causes period pains?
The womb contracting or ‘squeezing’ mostly causes period pains. 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, which contributes to period pain. Painkillers for period pain help by blocking unnecessary prostaglandin.
Q. Why do pads and tampons need to be changed regularly during your period?
Bacteria thrive 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.
Q. 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 (bacteria) of the vagina that keep it slightly acidic and healthy. The outer labia and pubic hair can be washed with a mild soap.
Q. I have vaginal discharge. Is there something wrong?
A vaginal ‘wetness’ is normal at the time of ovulation (mid-cycle when the egg/ova is released). This clear, slippery mucous does not smell, itch or burn and it only lasts for a few days. Panty-liners are ideal to wear during this time to make you feel dry and comfortable. A discharge that has an offensive (bad) smell, itches or burns, is white, frothy, yellow or green is an infection that must be treated.
Q. 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.
Senior brand manager at Kotex® Shirley Nhlengethwa says, “Talking about your period is very uncomfortable for some girls and women, but it’s important that you do.” She adds that Kotex® wants to continue to make women feel confident and supported during this time of the month with their range of protection products, and be recognised as a brand that women can turn to with their questions.
This Sunday, let’s use World Menstrual Hygiene Day to start this very important conversation!
Source: Kotex. Image: iStock