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5 Basic Menstruation Facts All Adults Should Know

Do you have questions about periods? We’ve got you covered.

I think women and people who experience menstruation can all agree that it is no walk in the park. Sure, some have it worse than others—especially when it comes to pain—but even for those who have regular flows, it’s never a good feeling. Even without keeping track of your cycle—though we strongly recommend that you do—you know when she’s about to arrive. For me, I almost dread the week prior to getting it. My mood changes so fast; it always catches me by surprise. Then the cravings come in: Suddenly, I have to have “something sweet” after a meal.

When I start spotting, that’s also around the time my breasts feel tender, so accidental bumps feel worse than they normally would. And during the four days my uterus sheds its lining, every feeling is heightened and there’s just complete chaos—physically and mentally. For people who’ve never experienced a menstrual cycle, this can be difficult to relate to. So we came up with a list of menstruation facts for you. Keep reading.

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Facts about menstruation: Menstruation symptoms vary from person to person.

For example, some people experience mood swings (me, I do) and some don’t. When your period is just about to start, symptoms can include changes in sleep patterns, constipation or diarrhea, emotional outbursts, sensitivity to light or sound, and depression or anxiety. Normal symptoms during your period are: sore breasts, fatigue, bloating, headaches, food cravings, mood swings, lower back pain, and abdominal and pelvic cramping.

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Facts about menstruation: Period cramps can be really, really painful.

In fact, they can be so bad that there’s even a medical term for it: dysmenorrhea. This condition has two types. The more common type is primary dysmenorrhea. This is the kind of pain that isn’t caused by an underlying medical condition. These menstrual cramps can occur a day or two before your period arrives. It peaks in the 24 hours of the onset of your cramps and lasts for a few days. Secondary dysmenorrhea, which can occur later in life, is a result of conditions you develop that affect your uterus and reproductive organs. This pain can begin before your menstrual cycle and last even after it ends.

Facts about menstruation: How do you know if your period is normal?

Again, this really depends on the person. In general, a “regular” cycle lasts 28 days, but it’s also common for people to experience periods that just show up whenever it wants to. This can be pretty frustrating, of course, and sometimes it can even mean there’s an underlying issue. Most periods last anywhere from three to seven days. In terms of flow, it can be light and short, but it can also be pretty heavy. It’s normal for menstruation to have different colors, too, so don’t be alarmed if sometimes the blood is bright red and other times, it’s dark brown (or any color in between, really). The key is to figure out what’s normal for you, and keep an eye out for any changes.

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Facts about menstruation: Here’s the deal about menstruation with blood clots.

First of all, yes, they happen. People usually associate blood clots with what develops after you get a cut; basically, your body combines platelets and plasma in your blood and acts as a “plug.” Period clots are a little different: It’s essentially the lining that builds up in your uterus and when you don’t conceive, it leaves your body through menstruation. The clots appear when your flow is heavy because your body is trying to keep you from losing too much blood at once.

Blood clots can also form if the opening of your cervix is small. During a heavy flow, the platelets and plasma in your blood can congeal and turn into clots before it can leave your body.

Facts about menstruation: Can you get pregnant during your period?

There’s a common misconception that you can’t get pregnant if you have sex while you have your period. That is completely false. We want to say it again for the people: You absolutely can still get pregnant during your period. The likelihood may be smaller, but it is possible. So if you plan on having sex during that time of the month—there’s nothing wrong with that—and you aren’t trying to conceive, make sure you use contraceptives.

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