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The menstrual flow: Facts and myths

By | March 12th 2011

Have you heard myths like the amount of bleeding determines how fertile you are? DR BRIGID MONDA debunks such and shares what is true

There are so many facts and myths that are associated with menstrual periods. Here are a few:

One’s period is more than just blood- True:

During each menstrual cycle, a new uterine lining is prepared for pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, this lining will slough off and this is what appears as menstrual period. It contains not just blood but cells, nutrients, debris and mucus from the womb mixed with the normal secretions from the vagina. These may appear as clots and jelly like lumps in the menstrual flow.

Menstruation cleans out the body-Myth:

Menstruation does not clean out the body. Not having a period means that there hasn’t been sufficient build-up of the uterine lining in preparation for pregnancy so there is nothing to shed when pregnancy does not occur.

Regular menstrual periods usually indicate that a woman is ovulating regularly-True:

A skipped period followed by irregular bleeding suggests the opposite —that there was no ovulation. If no ovulation occurs, the first phase of the menstrual cycle is prolonged, which leads to a late menstrual period followed by irregular bleeding and spotting.

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A normal cycle is always 28 days-Myth:

Most women assume that a normal cycle is 28 days long and that anything shorter or longer than this is abnormal but this is not so.

There is no fixed normal length of the menstrual cycle and cycles can range from as short as 15 days to as long as 35 days.

A period can be postponed- True:

This can be done when a woman does not want to have their periods for example during an important function like a pilgrimage, their wedding or honeymoon. This is done by manipulating the hormonal cycle using hormonal contraceptives.

Your period has to come at the end of every month- Myth:

Our menstrual cycles do not know Monday from Saturday or January from December, because they do not follow the calendar we use. Its length depends on the fluctuations of the hormones that control the menstrual cycle and when ovulation occurs. Anything that alters any of these can vary the length of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

That mid-cycle bleeding can be due to ovulation- True:

That blood stained vaginal discharge mid cycle when you are ovulating is most often due to the sudden rise and fall of the hormones that accompanies ovulation. It might also occur if you skip one or two of your oral contraceptive pills. This is known as ‘breakthrough bleeding’.

A normal period lasts only three days- Myth:

A normal period will last three to five days, but can vary from one to eight days. The normal amount of blood lost is about two to eight tablespoons or 30 to 80mls. Anything more than 80mls is abnormal.

You can still have what looks like a period when you are pregnant- True:

This is caused by the newly fertilised egg implanting itself into the lining of the womb. This implantation bleed is usually lighter than the normal one. A heavy type of bleed in an established pregnancy is usually a sign of a problem and one should go consult a doctor immediately.

It is normal to bleed after menopause- Myth:

This is absolutely false! Any woman who has had her menopause must always seek medical attention immediately this happens. A bleed of this kind could be a sign of cancer of the uterus.

It is abnormal when you bleed in between your periods—True:

Bleeding after intercourse or having heavy and persistent bleeding is often a sign of an underlying problem like cervical cancer.

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