3 things you may not know about periods

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Whether you’ve just started your periods or they’ve been a regular feature of your life for decades, there may be things you don’t know about your menstrual cycle. Here, we take a look at a few period facts that may take you by surprise.

1) It’s usually easy to delay a period

Periods have the potential to spoil beach holidays and they can make choosing outfits for special events like weddings a challenge. They can also cause inconvenience during exams. What many women don’t realise though is that it’s usually straightforward to delay these monthly bleeds. If you’re not on the pill, you can delay your period for up to 17 days by taking the prescription medicine Norethisterone. This comes in tablet form and you must start taking it three days before your period is due.

Alternatively, if you’re on the combined pill, simply take two packs back to back, skipping the seven-day break. However, bear in mind that if you’re on a phasic pill, you’ll need to consult your doctor before trying to delay your period. Also, this approach doesn’t work if you’re taking the progesterone-only ‘mini’ pill.

2) Lifestyle factors can aggravate PMS

If you suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), you might experience a range of symptoms in the two weeks before your period, including mood swings, breast pain, bloating and a loss of interest in sex. It’s thought that these symptoms are the result of changes in hormone levels caused by the menstrual cycle. But did you know that certain lifestyle factors, such as a poor diet, stress and a lack of exercise are thought to aggravate PMS? So, by eating more healthily, doing regular exercise to increase your fitness and overall health and learning techniques to help you lower your stress levels, you might be able to ease your PMS.

If your symptoms are severe though, it’s worth speaking to your doctor, who may prescribe hormone medications or psychological therapy.

3) Cycle length varies

It’s often said that menstrual cycles, which describe the time from the first day of a period to the day before the next bleed, last for 28 days. This is what many people remember being taught at school. In reality though, this is just the average length and regular cycles are often longer or shorter than this. Typically, they vary between 24 and 35 days. So, if your cycle doesn’t match the 28-day pattern, you can rest assured you’re not alone.

You should only seek medical advice if your period is very irregular or infrequent (as this may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance), you have bleeding or spotting between periods or after sex, your periods are extremely heavy or last longer than seven days, or they are more frequent than once a month.

By making sure you’re in the know when it comes to your periods, you can avoid a range of problems and unnecessary anxieties. If there’s anything else you’re not sure about when it comes to your cycle, you should be able to access information through your GP, pharmacist or reputable online health resources.

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