We all know what periods are! Well, most of us do. For those who don’t, we get a period when the blood & tissue lining from the uterus comes out through the vagina, usually monthly.
Our friend, the ‘period’ like most friends has a number of nicknames like ‘that time of the month’, ‘Chums’, ‘Aunt Flo’ & the more recent ‘red wedding’ !
In spite of the fact that about 50% of the population menstruates, it is still a hushed topic, discussed behind closed doors which leads to further lack of knowledge, increased ignorance & the creation of myths which may last generations.
So, we want to talk about some important aspects to keep in mind if you’re an individual who menstruates !
Periods do not look the same for every individual, thus we see a varied range of blood colour during our periods which can give us an insight into our health. The blood flow & colour changes during the length of the period as well as during every cycle. It can range from dark brownish-black to light pink-grey.
Here are some things you need to know based on the color of the period blood:
Black or dark brown
It may occur at the start or the end of the period. The colour is a sign that your body is preparing for the start of a new menstrual cycle by getting rid of the old blood. But sometimes it may be seen during spotting or between the periods due to the change in hormonal balance leading to the colour change.
Contact a Doctor : Black or dark brown blood could be due to lochia (vaginal discharge after giving birth), during pregnancy or miscarriage or vaginal blockage, etc.
Red indicates the formation of fresh blood with a steady flow. The periods may start with bright red blood & darken towards the end or vice versa. Few people experience this colour throughout their period.
Contact a Doctor : Unusual bright red spotting between cycles may be pregnancy spotting, sexually transmitted disease (STI), polyps or fibroids which are non-cancerous which can cause heavy flow.
This can be a sign of period blood being mixed with cervical fluids but it might also indicate the presence of infection which needs to be checked out by a doctor.
Some people experience mid-ovulation or mid cycle spotting where the blood mixes with fertile cervical fluid giving it a pinkish appearance.
Contact a Doctor: Pale pink throughout the period can also be due to low oestrogen levels, increasing risk of osteoporosis or may be due to unhealthy diet or anaemia,etc.
If your discharge turns to a grey shade, you need to contact your doctor immediately and check for signs of infection like bacterial vaginosis (overgrowth of bacteria in your vagina) as this can be extremely harmful for your health.
Blood flow also varies during your periods from heavy to light or scarce with or without clots or watery consistency.
The flow can vary with changes in hormones, lifestyle, age, diet, environment. Normal blood discharge consists of pieces of uterine lining which may be tissues, clots & are not a cause for concern.
However, very heavy flow or large clots can be a sign of menorrhagia (menstrual periods with abnormally heavy or prolonged bleeding) lasting over 7 days.
Contact a Doctor if:
The cycle is irregular & changes greatly in length during each month or any unusual signs
The period has not occurred for 3 months or more.
There is unbearable pain during each cycle or quite frequently during periods.
There is bleeding in between periods.
You have gone through menopause and start to bleed again.
Do not ignore the signs your body subtly sends you!
We know that periods can be messy, emotional & painful, and sometimes this makes us want to stay in our beds forever! But this can sometimes result in not maintaining proper hygiene which can put our health at risk.
Here are some important tips of hygiene to follow:
Choosing the method
Pads: Try different brands to make sure that it works for you & doesn’t make you uncomfortable or itchy. If you are thinking about using cloth pads, you can find our guide here.
Tampons: Similarly, try a variety of tampons & try use the ones with lowest absorbency.
Menstrual Cup: Do proper research & Check for size!
Tampons - 4-6 hours
Pads: 4-5 hours
Cups: 10-12 hours
Even though tampons do have extra absorbance as compared to pads they have to be changed regularly. This not only helps you to prevent infections but also the foul odour during periods. Especially during low flow be sure to change your pads & tampons even though they are not entirely used.
Not changing them frequently can lead to infections and even Toxic Shock Syndrome, which can be life threatening.
Wash yourself regularly & do not avoid bathing. It is also recommended that you wash or use clean wipes to wipe yourself during each change.
Wipe or wash from FRONT TO THE BACK. Wiping from back to front can result in faecal bacteria from the anus which can come in contact with your vagina.
Even though you want your vagina to smell fresh & clean it can be very harmful to use vaginal hygiene products (unless prescribed by a doctor) as the chemicals can alter the vaginal pH. Vagina has a self-cleaning mechanism so all you need is a little warm water.
Beware of pad rash: Try & stay dry during your periods by changing pads frequently. Visit a doctor if you feel constantly itchy or uncomfortable.
Always carry extra pads or tampons, you never know when you may need them.
Dispose your pads by wrapping them properly and DO NOT leave them open!
We hope you find these helpful & are able to better understand your own reproductive health.