Periods 101

Periods 101
            At birth, the average uterus contains about two million eggs. Of those two million, only about 500 will be released after puberty. Five hundred eggs makes for a lot of periods, which generally aren’t viewed as enjoyable. However, there are many ways to make periods less painful.

            If your cramps are killer, most easy treatments such as taking a painkiller, exercising, and applying heat to your stomach may not work. Sometimes, the foods you eat can worsen your cramps. If you overindulge on chocolate or coffee (both of which contain caffeine, which worsen cramps), salty foods, dairy, alcohol, or red meat, you’ll feel it. Some things that can help lessen the pain from cramps are to eat a lot of green vegetables (which have calcium that lessens period pains without the dairy), pineapples, bananas, tea, and salmon. Every period is different, though, so choose what works best for you and stick with it.

            If you don’t know what to wear to collect your period blood, or you just got your period and don’t know which one is best for you, here’s a crash course. There are many ways to collect your period blood, but I will only focus on four: cups, pads, tampons, and sponges..

            Pads and tampons are relatively well known, but not everybody knows about cups, so that’s what I’ll start with. Menstrual cups, such as the well-known Diva Cup, are tiny cups with small poles at the bottom that are inserted into the vagina and can collect blood for twelve hours. They run at about $40, and have gotten rave reviews, but can cause leakage if they slip too far up. Cups are also reusable, and can be boiled for sanitary purposes. Apparently, as I’ve never tried them, they lose they color after about a year, which doesn’t affect the actual usage, but makes some women replace theirs annually.

            Pads and tampons, on the other hand, are a one-time thing. Menstrual pads are shaped like the bottom part of a diaper and stick to your underwear. Some pads come with flaps or wings on the sides that help keep the pad in place. Pads vary in size according to flow, which can make them uncomfortable for people with heavy pads. There are many things to worry about with pads, such as them sliding when you sit down and getting blood everywhere, them leaving a noticeable indent in your pants if you are wearing thin pants, and the ripping noise they occasionally make the first time you stand up or sit down after putting one on.

            To sum it all up, tampons look like cotton popsicles that you put in your vagina, kind of like a diva cup, except tampons are not reusable and they have a string at the bottom, not a pole, which you use to remove them. Tampons come in tiny plastic containers called applicators that push the tampon into your vagina after you put the tip of the inserter against your vagina, where the tampon needs to go, which is near the bottom of the vagina.  Once you insert the tampon, you throw the wrapper and the plastic away and replace it after about four hours, depending on your cycle.

            Tampons, just like pads and cups, are not for everyone. There is a minute chance that you could develop Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) from wearing your tampon. Toxic Shock Syndrome’s main cause is a strain of the staph bacteria, bacteria that is already present in the bodies of most people with vaginas, growing at a fast rate. If you wear your tampon for more than 24 hours, that blood becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. TSS is a potentially deadly disease, and you should get to the hospital immediately after you learn that you have it. Some symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, red eyes, a fever of at least 102°F (38.8°C), dizziness, drops in blood pressure, and lightheadedness. TSS may cause liver and kidney failure.

            Menstrual sponges, though not quite popular yet, are said to work better than expected, and can last up to 6 months with proper care. They're considered an alternative to tampons as they create less waste, but can hold pollution and sand when you get them. Some menstrual sponges come with cleaning solutions. One solution that can be used is equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide. They are not vegan friendly, however, as they are living creatures being harvested. They are also not the best option for people with heavy flow because they need to be removed and washed every 3 hours or so. They are also hard to remove and can rip while inside the vagina, so be wary of that, too. Some women will tie unwaxed floss to their sponges to help with removal. Menstrual sponges are an eco-friendly alternative to pads, tampons, and cups, but they are not the only option. There are other options such as cloth pads and reusable tampons. Information about them can be found here and here, respectively.

            Mood swings are another common occurrence during periods, which is caused by the flux of your body’s estrogen levels. Some ways to help lessen mood swings are: eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day rather than three meals, to take calcium supplements, avoiding things like coffee, alcohol, and sweets (which also play a factor in period cramps), and utilizing stress management techniques, such as meditation or yoga.

            500 eggs released into the uterus after puberty is a lot of periods and a lot of cramps. Thankfully, there are ways to lessen the pain and mood swings accompanied by bleeding.