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Oops, I got by it again!

Whether you've been menstruating for months or you're still anticipating the arrival of Aunt Flo, we've got the answers to your most perturbing period questions. ...

Time for a period pop quiz: Is ovulation a) a chocolate-flavored breakfast drink, b) what happens after a BSB concert when fans chant for an encore, or c) the cyclical process of an egg being released from an ovary.

Feel like you're totally in the dark over this whole time-of-the-month thing? There's more to menstruation than realizing that those weren't kneepads your mom had stashed in the medicine cabinet. Don't worry--even old pros have question marks about periods. We have the answers to your most common concerns and wackiest worries. Oh, and C is the correct answer to the quiz, above. And, yes, you can pee with a tampon in....

I'm clueless. A little primer, please?

Menstruation is totally normal. It usually happens to girls between ages 9 and 16. Simply put, getting your period means your reproductive organs have started cranking.

Starting to menstruate--or worrying about when you will--can be a little stressful. But, there's really no reason to freak. All women get their periods at some point, and you will, too--whether you like it or not.

Yes, it can be totally inconvenient, and some aspects can be pretty uncomfortable (like killer cramps--ugh!). But, it really is an amazing thing. Nature in action!

Are there any signs to let me know when my first period is coming? I'm scared of having an accident.

You can't predict the exact time and day you will be hit with The Curse, so be prepared. Be sure to carry supplies with you. Have a few pads in your locker and backpack--just in case you're caught off guard.

If you don't have a pad handy? Roll up some toilet paper or tissues and temporarily tuck them into your underwear. Wrap the TP around your underwear, and tuck the end in so it won't ride up or (yikes!) fall down your pants leg. This should work until you can snag the real thing from the school nurse or a friend.

Does it hurt when you first get your period?

You probably won't feel much of anything. According to Dr. Paula Hillard, director of women's health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, most girls don't have much (or any) pain with their periods--especially their first. If you do experience some pain or cramping, Dr. Hillard recommends taking ibuprofen (Advil or Nuprin) or naproxen (Aleve).

If these medicines don't do the trick and you're still writhing in agony, missing school or changing holiday plans, you should definitely see your pediatrician or gynecologist.

I'm too embarrassed to tell my mom I got my period. What should I do?

Rejoice that you have become a woman! It's nothing to be embarrassed about--be proud. Every woman experiences menstruation at some time, so your mom can answer a ton of questions. She's been there!

If you just can't spit it out, leave her a note or send her an e-mail: "Mom, I got my period. Can we pick up some pads after school today?" She might even take you to Burger King to celebrate.

What's this yucky brown stuff in my underwear? Is it my period?

It's probably just old blood. You'll most likely see this brownish blood at the end of your period, and its nothing to worry about.

According to Dr. Lisa Masterson, a Santa Monica gynecologist, you should have the brown stuff in your drawers checked out by your doctor only if it is accompanied by a foul or fishy odor. In that case, it could be an irregular discharge or sign of infection.

What is the difference between ovulating and menstruating?

This is a not-so-simple question with a pretty simple answer. But we'll betcha a box of Super Slims the average woman can't give you a dear explanation.

So here goes: The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, and your reproduction organs are working hard the whole time. Bleeding is just part of the menstrual cycle. Ovulation, when an egg is released from your fallopian tube, occurs in the middle of your cycle. Biology lesson 101: If an egg is fertilized during ovulation, a woman becomes pregnant and menstruation ceases for nine months.

What does it mean to have a period that's "normal"?

If your "friend" knocks on the door every 21 to 35 days, you have a pretty normal cycle. According to Dr. Masterson, you shouldn't bleed longer than seven consecutive days. (Who wants a houseguest for over a week anyway?)

Your bleeding shouldn't be gushingly heavy, either. If you're running through a super thick maxi every hour, you have a very heavy period--that's not normal. You should call your doc.

Also watch for excruciating cramps. Cramps, of course, can be uncomfortable and somewhat gnarly. But extreme menstrual pain isn't normal. If the agony interferes with your daily activities and Advil doesn't help, let your doctor know.

I got my period last year and haven't had it since. What's up with that?

If it was your first period and you haven't had another one for a couple of months, that's OK. In fact, most girls are pretty irregular in the beginning.

If you definitely got your period and it's been like an entire year since, you should tell your doctor because that's just too long.

My period stops after three days, and then it starts again. Is this normal?

If you get your period for three days, it stops for a day and then reappears for a couple days, no worries. If you have spotting in the middle of your cycle, however, you're likely experiencing irregular bleeding. This is not good. Back to the doctor.

These are your reproductive organs, and you really shouldn't ignore anything that seems amiss. Though sharing your irregularities with your doctor might be a bit embarrassing, it's really important. You want to take good care of your body. It's the only one you've got!

Can people really tell 'when Fm having my period?

Is it just us, or does it smell like teen spirit in here? OK, OK, menstrual blood has a certain distinct smell. You could catch the occasional funky whiff when changing pads but, trust us, it's certainly not noticeable to others. As long as you shower regularly and change your pad often, no one should sniff you out.

However, those near and dear to you may notice that you get period-related mood swings or tiredness. So if someone asks if it's that time of the month, it ain't the nose that knows.

Why does my period stop while I'm sleeping and bathing?

If you're sleeping (that is lying down, not asleep at your desk in French class), the blood and tissue will build up inside you. So if you've been snoozing for eight hours and then hop out of bed, it might take a bit for your period to start flowing down again.

As for bathing, your period doesn't actually stop flowing in water. "For most young women, there isn't much flow to the outside when you're in water," says Dr. Hillard. However, even if you usually don't bleed in water, don't skip the tampon. It's better to be safe than sorry.

My mom says you can get a deadly disease from using tampons. Is this true?

That disease is TSS, or Toxic Shock Syndrome. TSS is a very rare bacterial disease, and it can be fatal. But you don't need to be afraid of using tampons because of TSS. The disease is associated with tampon absorbency, and it's more likely to affect users of super-absorbency tampons who don't change them often enough.

To be on the safe side, change your tampon every four hours, and use the least absorbency possible without risk of ruining your white capris. If you experience symptoms such as a high temperature, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and a rash, remove the tampon and contact your doctor immediately.

I use tampons. Am I still a virgin?

Why wouldn't you be? A virgin is someone who's never had sex, not someone who's never used a tampon. Using a tampon can break or stretch the hymen. But even if it breaks, you're still a virgin.

Should I wear a tampon only when I'm having my period, or do I need to wear a tampon every day?

"No!" Our resident gynecologist nearly screams her one-word answer to this one. Getting your period can be confusing. But, thankfully, you only need to deal with pads and tampons during the days you actually have blood flow.

If you're not bleeding, definitely skip the tampons. You'll also eliminate the chance of picking up TSS. That should make you feel better. Just think of all the money we just saved you. (Tampons aren't cheap.)

How can I tell if I have a light, medium or heavy flow? I never know what size tampon to use.

You'll probably have to take a test run or two. It all depends on how fast you go through your pads and tampons.

If you're comfortable with a slim tampon for four hours, chances are you have a light flow. If you need to change your tampon between Friends and Leno, you probably have medium flow.

Even at your heaviest, the most you'll probably need is a super. If you're running through a super every other hour, graduate to a super plus and use a pad for backup. But that's a pretty heavy flow, so you should let your doctor know.

Does using tampons cause more cramping? Does it make cramps worse?

Now hear this: Tampons do not affect cramping. And anybody who says you have to tighten your pelvic muscles to hold a tampon in is full of it. Tampons expand, and you never have to exert any energy to keep them in place.

I seem to get diarrhea right before and during my period. Are they related?

More than likely. Often, the surging of hormones before and during the menstrual cycle can cause your bowels to loosen. Some girls experience constipation right before their periods and diarrhea after their periods. How lovely! Remember to say "please" when you ask a bud to pass you some extra tissue under the bathroom stall.

What is PMS?

Contrary to popular belief, PMS doesn't stand for Pretty Mean Sistah. It's pre-menstrual syndrome. Most women experience some physical or emotional changes prior to their periods. Your breasts might be sore, or you might cry over those Folger's "Peter Surprises Mom for the Holidays" commercials.

Headaches, bloating and food cravings are all symptoms of PMS, too. "These changes are due to the complex cycling of hormone levels and their effects throughout the body," explains Dr. Hillard.

To ward off PMS, try exercising regularly and limiting your intake of salt, caffeine and sugar. Eat a balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, protein and carbohydrates.

PMS actually disappears once your period starts (hence, the "pre" in premenstrual). Sorry, you can only blame a foul mood on PMS for the seven days leading up to your period. The rest of the time, just chalk it up to those bad burritos in the cafeteria.

Can I still run and play sports when I have my period?

If not, we wouldn't have the WNBA, now would we? It's perfectly fine to work out when you have your period. In fact, being active helps relieve cramping by releasing endorphins, those feel-good chemicals in your bod.

Playing sports can also help diminish the pain of minor cramps because it gets the oxygen flowing to your uterine muscle. In other words, having your period is a totally lame excuse for skipping track practice. Nice try!

Is it true your body burns more calories right before your period?

Your body doesn't necessarily need more calories before the monthlies come, but some women's metabolisms are higher two weeks before that time of the month hits.

When an egg is released (ovulation, remember?), your body secretes progesterone. This signals your uterus to thicken its lining, which burns calories. So you might spring for a little Super Size with your Super Size.

Why do my BFFs and I all get our periods during the same week?

"Research shows women who live together do start to synchronize their periods. Whether or not this happens among friends is not as well-known," says Dr. Hillard. But Dr. Hillard speculates that these in-sync periods may depend on how much you and your buds hang out together.

"It may relate to the secretion of pheromones in the air," she explains. Pheromones are chemical signals that regulate bodily functions. Sounds like an excellent topic for your next science research project!

Someone told me that, when you go camping, you need to he careful because hears attack women who have their periods. Is this true?

Somebody, hurry up and alert the producer of Urban Legends 3! "There is no statistical evidence regarding bears attacking women on their periods," says Cheryl Matthews, a spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park.

However, most animals do have acute sensing and smelling organs, and they can detect the scent of blood and pheromones, according to Lee Werle, mammal curator at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

If your period coincides with a camping trip, don't bury your tampons or pads. Animals will likely dig them up and could get sick.

Instead, place them inside an airtight bag, and put in a crushed aspirin to absorb the odor. Just be careful not to confuse that bag with the one you packed your crush's sandwich in.

Do you have to go the gynecologist once you get your period?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a visit to the gynecologist when you're between the ages of 13 and 15.

However, seeing a gyno doesn't necessarily mean you need to undergo a pelvic exam. Instead, you can ask your new doc all those teen health-related questions. If you're not comfortable talking this stuff over with your mom, ask your doctor. Your conversation will be private and confidential.

And, remember, if you're having problems with missed or skipped periods, bad cramping, or heavy or prolonged bleeding, you definitely need to see a doctor, whether it be your family practitioner or a gyno! We know, we know--we already said that.

Your most embarrassing period moments

And you thought getting cramps was bad....

During a party, I changed my tampon. I threw it away in the bathroom's waste basket and went back to the living room. Just then, my crush's dog ran into the room with his mouth full. My crush asked, "Whatcha got there, Spud?" Spud dropped the bloody tampon in his hand. Yuck!

My little sis, my BFF and I were talking about a hilarious moment. My sister thought she'd be funny and add, "Tampax was there," like the commercial. My BFF asked, "Do you even know what Tampax is?" "Sure," she said, "it's a camera."

I started my period in the middle of the night, and it went through my white sweatpants. As luck would have it, my brother's friends were sleeping over. When I walked to the bathroom, they laughed and said I peeped my pants. I ran into the bathroom and cried.

My friends and I took the bus to the mall. My crush and his friends happened to be on the same bus. When I stood up to get off at our stop, there was a red smudge on the seat. The guys teased me and said the bus company would sue me for damage.

I baby-sat my neighbor's dog for two weeks. After the first week, Fido stopped eating and acted really sick. My dad took the dog to the vet, and they had to open up his stomach. The dog had eaten my used tampons from the wastebasket.

I didn't have a pad, so I put toilet paper in my underwear. During gym, we ran a mile, When I finished, everyone was laughing at me. There was a stream of nasty tissue paper trailing behind me.

I went canoeing at Girl Scout camp, and I decided to go with a pad instead of a tampon. Of course, my canoe was the only one to tip over. My pad was full of water, and there was this loud squishy sound every time I took a step.

I started my period at a really rad water park. I was totally freaked out about it because I had never used a tampon before and didn't know how to insert it. I thought I got it in right, but I was wrong. I went down my favorite waterslide and felt a funny sensation. I turned around to see my tampon sliding along behind me.

I was biking with my friends and wearing short shorts. Evidently, my pad was not very secure because it came off accidentally while I was riding and slipped out from under my shorts. My ultimate crush was behind me and shouted, "Ew! Pad alert, pad alert!"

My friends and I went for an impromptu swim in the ocean. I told my BFF I couldn't go in because I was wearing a pad. She said, "Just throw it far out into the water." I did, and a few minutes later this totally hot guy swam past us with a disgusted look on his face. My pad was floating back to the shore. Dops!

After swimming in my backyard pool, my friends and I went inside my house for pizza. During lunch, someone spilled some Sprite on the floor so I jumped up and threw my towel on it. The towel had a blood stain on it! My crush looked at me and said, is that pizza sauce?" My face turned the same color as the towel.
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Title Annotation:questions and answers about menstruation
Author:Cordi, Sarah
Publication:Girls' Life
Date:Dec 1, 2000
Previous Article:Make a diff!

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