Despite what a carefree tampon commercial would have you believe, that time of the month can be uncomfortable, varied and complex.
No two periods look the same: Some women experience excruciating symptoms each time. Others may skip months entirely. And did you know that men can also have a physical reaction to a woman’s monthly cycle?
Basically, there’s more to a period than what you hear in pop culture. And it will serve everyone better to be more informed about the process and armed with the facts. Below are a few things everyone should know about that oh-so-wonderful time of the month:
1. The average woman will have her period for 38 years
2. A man can tell when a woman is ovulating
At least physiologically. Research shows that men find women’s scent more alluring (unbeknownst to them) when she’s ovulating. Even dance moves are more appealing to a male brain at a woman’s most fertile time of the month.
3. Severe periods can be the sign of a serious medical condition
Approximately 6 to 10 percent of American women suffer from endometriosis, an excruciating condition that can bring about debilitating cramps, chronic back pain and more. It can also sometimes lead to infertility. Concerned women should talk to their doctors, who can test for the condition. Treatment options include hormonal therapy or surgery.
4. That whole “synched periods” theory is a myth
While having the same cycle as a roommate may seem like a physiological link of friendship and sign of solidarity, it might just be a coincidence. There’s very little scientific evidence that suggests that synched periods actually occur.
5. PMS is a real thing, not an insult
It’s a cliché that a woman will struggle with cramping and bloating before her period begins, but many may not be aware that this time can also lead to upset bowels, trouble sleeping, joint or muscle pain and headaches. All of that added at once can make anyone feel like their body is waging a war on them. So prepare to get ripped apart if you ever suggest someone is “just PMSing.”
6. The seasons can affect how heavy the flow is
Summertime and the living’s easy? Research suggests that sunshine plays a role in periods. More specifically, if there’s increased sunlight before a woman’s ovulation (the time right before she gets her period), there’s a chance her actual menstrual cycle might be shorter.
7. Women don’t need their periods every month to be healthy
There’s a common fear that intentionally skipping a period is bad or unnatural. But for anyone who isn’t trying to conceive and wants to use hormonal birth control to skip it, it’s totally fine to do so.
“There is no medical reason why a woman has to menstruate every month. And there is nothing wrong with tweaking the system if bleeding is difficult for women,” Alyssa Dweck, an assistant clinical professor of OB/GYN at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told The Atlantic.
8. A period has a lifetime cost of more than $18,000
It’s true. A woman’s period theoretically will cost approximately $18,171 over the decades of menstruation between tampons, contraception, medication and other necessities. Check out our breakdown here.
9. Stress can cause irregular periods
So can extreme weight loss or other lifestyle factors. They’re not necessarily a cause for alarm, but it’s always good to check with a doctor if there seems to be something wrong.
10. Sex drives are higher during that time of the month
It is not your imagination. Menstruation leads to lower levels of progesterone, which is a hormone experts say can decrease libido. That means a woman may be feeling friskier than usual during that time of the month (and it’s totally safe and fine to have sex, if she so desires.)
11. Toxic shock syndrome can actually happen
While TSS is rare, it does happen. The infection occurs when bacteria (which everyone has to some degree) starts mass producing, which can be prompted by a tampon if it’s left in for an exorbitant amount of time. It all really depends on the amount of bacteria that’s already in a woman’s system at any given moment. Women should follow all the instructions on their tampon box or even give natural products a try. Here are some signs of TSS.
12. No, a period does not make someone “weak”
Or “irrational.” Or “crazy.” Or any other derogatory remark. Menstruation is not an explanation of behavior ― it’s a biological process. Period.
(See what we did there?)