Dr Cuterus Answers Common Period Questions You're Too Shy To Ask

Apr 12, 2022, 11:25 IST

Period

Image: Pexels

 

Let me just start by saying – periods are one of the most common and natural phenomena that exist. Periodt. But still – in spite of more than half of the world trying to perpetually reinstate this fact – periods are still regarded as taboo. This sad state of affairs has improved only so much over the decades. However, today there’s also a section of more aware people who try to propagate the right information in all possible ways. It could be your elder sister, a friend or a doctor/content creator like Dr Tanaya Narendra a.k.a Dr Cuterus, who’s becoming one of the most non-judgemental and approachable gynaecologists on the internet. So, we turned to her and asked her to answer some of the most common period questions that you might be too shy to ask.

 

Is PMS a real thing and why is it so strenuous for so many women?

Yes, it’s very much a real thing and can be really strenuous. The reason why we experience PMS is because normally in our body through our monthly cycle we have certain hormones that are working in the background and then towards the end of your cycle all of these hormones fall away. So, because of that two things happen – firstly, all the things that the hormones usually do, stop happening which is why women can experience breast tenderness, irritability, fatigue, hungry, etc and secondly, after a certain period (say 3-4 days or upto a week) you then get your period. Hence, PMS –  the phase where hormones stop working and symptoms begin to show (just before you get your period) can be difficult.

Period


Let’s get to the point - why do periods hurt so much?

Periods hurt a lot for a lot of people and the reason behind that is because there are two things happening. First – the uterus is trying to get out everything that’s on the inside, all the lining that it has built up inside and there’s only a very small hole through which all of this can exit in the cervix. So for everything to exit through that cervix, the uterus has to squeeze itself (caused by one chemical released in the body called prostaglandin, that not only squeezes the uterus but also surrounding areas like the thighs, back, etc causing aches) and second is that everytime the uterus squeezes itself, the blood supply stops – there’s no way that the blood can go in. So, the amount of oxygen that reaches the uterus also gets limited and this also causes pain. But all in all, the uterus is just juicing itself like a lemon, causing all the discomfort and pain.

 

Dysmenorrhea has become a common problem. Does it need extensive medical attention? Or, is it just another common phenomenon?

Dys refers to bad and menorrhea refers to flow, which basically means painful periods. A lot of people unfortunately do experience dysmenorrhea and it’s not something that should be dismissed. A little bit of cramping and pain is normal because you’re bleeding after all. But if there is so much pain that you’re forced to take a break from regular life activities or are unable to get out of bed, it does need medical attention. I’d recommend speaking to a doctor who can prescribe a pain medication and figure out any other lifestyle interventions that can help like yoga, supplements, etc.

 

Period

 

Why does one get deep red or brown discharge during periods?

Your vagina has an acidic environment and it is extremely important for the natural bacterial colony that lives in the vagina to thrive and one of the things that happens because of this is oxidisation. For instance, if you put some lemon juice on blood, you’ll see it turning deeply red – meaning it’s getting digested, also known as oxidisation, medically. Normally we have so much blood coming out of our uterus through our vagina and out in the real world that the acidic environment is not (fully) enough to digest it. However, towards the start and end of your period, there’s very little blood, which means it’s easily digestible which is why people do experience dark brown or deep red blood.

 

What about the clots?

It’s a similar situation – your uterus and vagina have this enzyme called fibrinolysin. It prevents the blood from forming clots so that it could move out of the body easily. So fibrinolysin acts on the blood and makes sure it’s all liquid and not clotting. But at times we have so much period blood that the amount of fibrinolysin that the body produces falls short which is why some of the blood can be flowy and some of it can be clotted. Another reason why you may see clots with regular flow is because your uterus is also shedding other things along with blood like mucus lining and some cells. So, extra blood plus mucus plus uterine tissues equals clots.

 

Period

 

What is the deal with period poops?

Remember the chemical prostaglandin that I talked about? So they cause squeezing – not just in the uterus but in surrounding areas too. This is why you experience pain in your back and legs. Now because your rectum (the last part of the intestine where we store our poop) is close to the uterus, it also gets affected and some people do experience period diarrhoea. 

 

Why does period blood smell? Is that normal?

Period blood has that particular smell because of being exposed to the air. It’s not just period blood, it’s all blood – if you expose it to air, the air oxidises the blood and that’s why that smell occurs. Some people find their period blood especially smelly and that’s because the general crotch area can get quite sweaty, moist and humid which can lead to the growth of certain microorganisms. It’s critical to maintain dryness in the area.

 

Period

 

Why do you think there is such a taboo associated with tampons and menstrual cups?

There’s unnecessary taboo around the use of any insertable menstrual hygiene device be it tampons or menstrual cups. This is because people are obsessed with the idea of virginity by seeing the hymen. Now virginity is a social construct, it doesn’t mean anything medically. The hymen is a delicate membrane that covers the front part of the vagina. It can break due to a lot of reasons like simply stretching too hard and not by just inserting something. It’s important to note that 40-60% of women report *not* bleeding at all in their first intercourse, so it’s not necessary that your hymen bleeds when you have sex for the first time, it’s not an indicator of virginity. But, a lot of people get caught up with the idea of not using anything insertable.

 

Do period panties really work?

Period panties are really, really helpful, especially when you’re not comfortable using insertables like tampons or cups. It is for days when you have a lighter flow; even the heavy flow panties don’t hold so much that you could go about an entire workday without having to change them. However, they can be used as a brilliant backup option – wear a tampon or cup and use your period panty as a backup and don’t worry about leaks. Personally, I enjoy using period panties when I’m having a lighter cycle.

 

Also read: 5 Expert Dermatologists Share Their Favourite Summer Skincare Product