1. How much pre-warning do you get?
Technically, periods are meant to work on a monthly cycle, meaning that you should be able to count a certain number of days in your diary and know the day that they'll arrive. Funnily enough, women's bodies don't run like the average MRT/LRT schedule, so they can turn up a few days early, a few days later, all month, or in times of stress or exertion, not at all. However, our bodies do tend to give us a few warning signs—greasier hair, changes in mood, and cramps all tend to make their presence known before the actual blood.
2. How bloody is it, really?
The answer to this depends on both the woman and the day of her cycle, but the truth is, it can get pretty gnarly. On average, a gal only uses between 30ml-80ml of blood throughout a whole period, which on paper seems like nothing, but on heavy days, it's not unusual to experience flooding (bleeding through your protection), or to see blood clots in your flow. So, ya know. Sorry if we ruin the occasional bedsheet and all that.
3. How long does it last?
Honestly, we know this question is a segway to the whole "when can we have sex again" thing, so let's just cut to the chase. It's usually about 5-7 days from start to finish, but it's possible to experience lesser bleeding a couple of days either side, so it depends how safe you want to be. Of course, some women (an estimated 30%, according to studies) are up for period sex anyway, which brings us to…
4. Do you WANT to have sex during?
This is such a double-edged sword—on one edge, periods make you feel heavy, bloated, sluggish, spotty, and for most of us, all around less sexy in general. On the other, lots of women also find themselves feeling more turned on around that time of the month—a change that's thought to be because the hormones progesterone and estrogen spike when you're ovulating, increasing levels of desire. So really, it's down to you and your girl to figure out—if you're both okay with it, having sex during a period can ease cramps and other PMS symptoms and even help the blood come out faster, so it's not the worst idea in the world…
5. What's with this whole 'day two' inside joke?
Day two of your period is THE WORST (yes, the caps are necessary). Again, not true of everyone, but it tends to be the day when the flow is the heaviest, the cramps are the worst, and your whole body feels like it's going to collapse from the stress, and that's before you've even dealt with the ensuing mess.
6. What are period undies?
Period underwear is usually three things—big, old, and ugly. This is for precisely three reasons—to support bloated period bellies, provide maximum coverage, and so that you couldn't care less when you inevitably bleed all over them. If you ever catch us in them, know that we're not wearing them to be attractive—they're purely practical, and we find them just about as sexy as you do (read: not at all). But also know that you should love us whatever we're wearing, so also, suck it up and deal.
7. What does the pain feel like?
Okay, so imagine your gut is totally swollen, sore, and bruised—boxer's face at the end of a fist fight kinda level. Then imagine someone has come and grabbed it, twisted it, and will continue to do so on and off for a number of days, every month, for 30+ years of your life. While this happens, you'll also be bleeding profusely from your most intimate area, experiencing head and back aches, nausea, bloating, sore boobs, and mood swings, and you'll either need the bathroom twice as often, or not be able to go at all. WELCOME TO WOMANHOOD, GUYS.
8. Is it weird wearing a tampon? Like, are you constantly aware of it?
When you first start using tampons, it's normal to feel pretty conscious of them, and panic majorly about forgetting they're in there/losing the string. However, for most women who've been using them for years, it's not really noticeable any more, and the only reason it might be uncomfortable is if you've inserted it wrong. In fact, the main problem is actually keeping track of the fact you have one in, because if you don't change them regularly, you're at risk of serious illnesses like TSS.
9. Can we help?
Other than supplying painkillers and acting as a human pillow whenever your services are required, there's not much you can do about the actual symptoms, so the best strategy is just to behave how you normally would. No one's ever going to complain if you buy them chocolate or let them watch whatever crappy movie they've chosen on Netflix, but to tell you the truth, that's just good boyfriend strategy regardless. There is just one last thing you should know: never, under pain of death, ask a furious woman if she's angry because she's on her period. Whether it's fact or not, she'll automatically be a million times madder at you than before you said it anyway.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.