We encounter many different questions when we give workshops about menstrual hygiene. Some fill a whole classroom with laughter, others make all participants sit on the edge of their seats. Like many learn from a young age: there are no wrong questions. But there are questions we get asked so often, that it is worth dedicating a blog post to them! So here’s 10 must-know facts about menstruation.

1. What happens when you have your period?

The first time you get your period, you may think you are ill or even worse, dying. Do not worry: you’re not. Here’s what happens:

“[Y]ou have two ovaries, each of which holds tiny eggs – too small to see with the naked eye. Hormones make the eggs in your ovaries mature. They also make the lining of your uterus thick and spongy.

When an egg is mature it can be fertilised by a sperm cell. About halfway through your menstrual cycle, your hormones tell your ovaries to release a mature egg. This is called ovulation. When the egg leaves your ovary, it travels through one of your fallopian tubes toward your uterus.

If you are not pregnant, your body does not need the thick lining in your uterus. Your lining breaks down, and the blood, nutrients, and tissue flow out of your body through your vagina.”[1]

Congratulations, you have your period! Here’s a diagram of the female reproductive organs.

2. When will it happen?

The average age girls are when they get their first period, is 12. Note that this is an average age. Most girls start to menstruate between the ages of 10 and 15. Some get their first period at 8 or 9, others at 16.

3. How many days should I be on my period?

Most girls’ and women’s periods lasts three to five days. Some people menstruate for just two days, some for 6 or 7 days. Some days are light, some days are heavy. Some periods are light, some are heavy.

There is no rule. Everybody is different. Everybody experiences their period differently. 

You should also know that many girls under the age of 18 experience irregular periods. This is normal. The body is still working on perfecting the system.

4. Should I talk about my period?

You should not be ashamed of menstruating or of talking about menstruation. Every women experiences menstruation for an average time of 40 years. It is something completely normal and natural, and it should not be a taboo.

Of course, it is up to you whether you want to talk about your period. We encourage girls, boys, women, and men to do so because the culture of silence surrounding menstruation leads to indignity, shame, low self-esteem and poor reproductive health. Breaking the silence on menstruation benefits women and girls.

5. Can I get pregnant when I have sex during my period? And will I get my period when I am pregnant?

Yes. You can get pregnant if you have unsafe sex during your period, because sperm can survive up to five days in the body. It is unlikely that you will get pregnant in this case, but it is definitely possible.

When you are pregnant, you do not get your period. About 20 per cent of women do experience some bleeding during the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy and some mistake it for a (light) period.

6. What if my period is irregular?

Irregular periods are not something to worry about immediately. They can be a symptom of a more serious condition. Yet, they can also be caused by extreme weight gain, extreme weight loss, or stress. It can be a result of hormone imbalance, which is common for a few years after puberty and before menopause. As mentioned before, many girls under the age of 18 experience irregular periods. If your irregular periods continue, or if you are worried, contact a doctor.

7. What menstrual hygiene products are out there?

Sanitary pads and tampons are disposable menstrual hygiene products that are widely available. Reusable menstrual hygiene products are reusable sanitary pads, menstrual underwear and the menstrual cup.

A woman will use an average of 16,800 disposable pads or tampons during her lifetime. That is why we encourage girls and women to use reusable products. Reusable pads, menstrual underwear and the menstrual cup last a long time and are therefore cheaper to use. Besides, reusable products are better for the environment as they won’t immediately end up in the bin.

8. Which menstrual hygiene product should I use?

No one can tell you which menstrual hygiene product you should use. There is no right or wrong choice. You can try different products, or you can stick to one. The best menstrual product is the one that you are most comfortable using.

9. Will I still be a virgin after using tampons or a menstrual cup?

The simple answer is yes. Tampons and menstrual cups do not necessarily stretch or tear your hymen. Both menstrual hygiene products can be used by virgins as well as by girls who have had sexual intercourse. One does not lose their virginity by stretching their hymen. The hymen can be stretched or ruptured doing all sorts of things, including walking or riding a bike. That does not mean you are not a virgin anymore. You can only lose your virginity by having sex.

10. Will I be able to pee when I am using a tampon or a menstrual cup?

Yes. There are two holes in your vagina. One is the urethral opening and one is the vaginal opening. Pee comes out the first, and the tampon or menstrual cup goes inside the vaginal opening. (Here’s what a vulva looks like)

As mentioned before, menstruation is something completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of. If you have any questions about your menstruation, you should not be afraid to ask them. In case you do not know who to ask – you can always contact us on Twitter or Facebook!