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Menstruation information.

5 menstruation myths and facts

Do you know the truth about common period myths and facts? Tia Guster, M.D., a Piedmont obstetrician and gynecologist, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about menstruation.

1. Can you get pregnant while on your period?

YES. Dr. Guster says sometimes women get confused about this when they have intermenstrual bleeding, or bleeding that’s out of sync with their normal periods.

A normal period occurs each month when a woman ovulates, releasing an egg. If the egg isn’t fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds, thus creating your period.

“Sometimes a woman will have a random episode of spotting, or light bleeding, when they are ovulating,” says Dr. Guster. “They will consider that their period, but because they are ovulating, they are actually quite fertile and able to get pregnant.”

This may also happen to women who don’t have reliable periods and don’t know when they are ovulating.

2. Can PMS make you go crazy?

YES and NO.  Many women suffer from the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which include bloating, breast tenderness, irritability and mood swings. But some women have a more serious condition known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). 

“PMDD is essentially when your whole life, including your emotional life, turns upside down,” says Dr. Guster. “You just cannot function appropriately before your cycle. And it’s a real syndrome.”

PMDD sufferers can have panic attacks, anxiety and problems sleeping. Treatments range from taking birth control bills to reduce symptoms to taking antidepressants.

3. Can friends and family sync their periods? 

YES. “It has to do with the ebb and flow of your cycle,” explains Dr. Guster. "Some people would say it’s related to hormones or pheromonic, but you literally start getting in sync. “ 

This can also happen to women who work together, live in close proximity to one another or are part of the same sports team.

“It’s a fun biologic phenomenon,” says Dr. Guster.

4. Can your tampon get lost inside of you?

NO. “The vagina is like a sock, and there is an end,” explains Dr. Guster. “Sometimes you may not be able to feel the string; the string may break off, so it’s difficult for you to retrieve. But it won’t get lost and go up to your abdomen and up through your stomach and come out of your throat. It’s going to stay in your vagina. If you need help locating it, make an appointment in the office, because it happens more commonly than people like to discuss.”

5. Can you lose too much blood during your period?

YES. The average period lasts between four to seven days. Though it varies, most women lose the equivalent of several tablespoons of blood.

“As long as you’re not soaking through more than one pad an hour, you’re doing OK,” says Dr. Guster.  

But some women have extremely heavy and prolonged periods, which can cause them to lose too much blood. This condition is known as menorrhagia.

Menorrhagia symptoms include:

  • Bleeding for longer than a week

  • Developing symptoms of anemia, like shortness of breath or fatigue

  • Soaking through one sanitary pad every hour for consecutive hours

Women with this condition may be treated with iron supplements, birth control pills or even surgical procedures.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), menorrhagia affects more than 10 million American women each year. Dr. Guster says this condition is becoming increasingly common.

“In American society, we consume a lot of fats,” she says. “Those fats turn into extra estrogen that don’t need to be there. Then our body feeds into that and makes these heavy periods. We probably don’t exercise enough, which might mitigate some of the other hormonal reactions that go on when we have a period. So it’s becoming more and more common.” 

Talk with your doctor if you have symptoms of menorrhagia.

Learn more about women's health.

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