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5 Things You Didn't Know About Your Period

June 14, 2024

Calendar with marked dates, clock, and feminine hygiene products on a pastel background.

Think you know everything about your period? Think again. Despite having around 450 periods in a lifetime, many women are still surprised by some of the lesser-known facts about their menstrual cycle. From unexpected pregnancy risks to the mysteries of PMS, here are five things you probably didn't know about your period.

Key Takeaways

  • You can get pregnant during your period, so it's important to use contraception if you're not planning on having a baby.
  • The period you experience while on birth control pills is not a 'true' period but a withdrawal bleed.
  • Your menstrual cycle can change at different stages of your life due to various factors like age, stress, and health conditions.
  • Tampons and pads are not the only menstrual products available; alternatives like menstrual cups and period underwear are also options.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is still not fully understood, and its symptoms can vary widely among women.

1. You Can Get Pregnant During Your Period

Calendar with marked dates and a question mark, indicating the possibility of getting pregnant during your period.

Many people assume that you cannot get pregnant if you have sex while on your period. However, this is not true. Although it’s more unlikely that you will become pregnant while you are menstruating, it is not impossible at all. This is because sperm can survive in the body for up to five or six days — so if you have a relatively short cycle, have sex towards the end of your period, and ovulate just after your period finishes, you could potentially fall pregnant. It's very unlikely you'll get pregnant while on your period, but it is possible. Though you typically ovulate about 14 days after the start of your period, some people can ovulate unpredictably. Use a condom or other form of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, no matter what time of the month it is.

2. The Period You Get While on the Pill Isn’t a 'True' Period

Calendar with marked date, birth control pills, and a question mark indicating uncertainty about periods on the pill.

When taking hormonal birth control, the bleeding experienced during the placebo week is not a true menstrual period. This phenomenon is known as "monthly withdrawal bleeding." Normally, ovulation occurs mid-cycle, and if the released egg is not fertilized, hormone levels drop, causing the uterine lining to shed, resulting in a period. However, birth control pills prevent ovulation and maintain consistent hormone levels for three weeks, followed by a week without hormones. This lack of hormones triggers the shedding of the uterine lining, mimicking a period but without the same biological processes.

It's important to understand that this bleeding is not caused by the same mechanisms as a natural period. The body does not release an egg, and the hormonal changes are artificially induced by the pill. This distinction is crucial for understanding reproductive health and the effects of hormonal contraception.

For those seeking alternatives to traditional menstrual products, period underwear can be a comfortable and eco-friendly option. 

3. Your Period Changes Throughout Your Life

Timeline of a woman's life stages: puberty, adulthood, menopause, showing how periods change.

Just when you start to feel like you can predict exactly when your period is going to show, everything can change. For that, you can thank the hormone shifts that happen throughout your lifetime. Increased stress levels are also a factor. That’s right — high-stress levels can actually trigger the beginning of your period.

4. Tampons and Pads Aren’t Your Only Choices

You have more options to help you manage that time of the month. A menstrual cup is a flexible cup that fits inside your vagina and collects blood during your period. Period panties are super-absorbent, and you can wear them on their own on your lighter days or with a tampon during heavier times. Reusable cloth pads can be washed and worn again.

Disposable tampons and sanitary pads (which are mostly made from plastic) are no longer the only options out there. These days, there are all sorts of sustainable period products to choose from that you can keep and reuse for years — such as menstrual cups and period panties.

These products can be cost-savers, since you can reuse them, and they also create less waste. In some cases, they give you more time between changes. For example, you need to change a tampon every 4 to 8 hours, but you may be able to go up to 12 hours with a menstrual cup before you empty it.

There are pros and cons to all these options, just as there are with tampons and pads. But you can find one that works best for you with some trial and error.

5. PMS is Still a Mystery

It’s 1 or 2 weeks before your period starts, and here come the breakouts, sluggishness, cravings, bloating, and mood swings. Sound familiar? Every woman is different, but for many, PMS is a fact of life.

But doctors don’t know exactly why that is. It seems to be a mix of hormone changes during your menstrual cycle, chemical changes in the brain, and other emotional issues you might have, such as depression, that can make PMS worse.

Men, PMS (Pre-menstrual syndrome) is very real and women are not moody and irritated for no reason. PMS starts a week (or even 10 days) before the actual period. As reproductive hormones, estrogen, and progesterone fluctuate, they can cause terrible mood swings, aches, cravings, anxiety and even cramps in women. In fact, for some women, a severe form of PMS, called PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) can drive them to bad sleep, and lead to symptoms of depression too.

Let your doctor know if PMS keeps you from doing what you normally do, or if you have symptoms of depression or anxiety. You may have a more serious condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) that needs medical attention.


Understanding the intricacies of menstruation is essential for both personal health and broader societal awareness. This article has highlighted five lesser-known aspects of periods, shedding light on the complexities and variations that many may not be aware of. From the possibility of conception during menstruation to the evolving nature of periods throughout a woman's life, these insights underscore the importance of continuous education and open dialogue. By expanding our knowledge about menstruation, we can better support those who experience it and foster a more informed and empathetic community.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get pregnant during your period?

Yes, it is possible to get pregnant during your period. Sperm can live inside the female body for up to 5 days, so if you have a short menstrual cycle, you could ovulate soon after your period ends and potentially conceive.

Is the period you get while on the pill a 'true' period?

No, the bleeding you experience while on the pill is not a 'true' period. It is called withdrawal bleeding and occurs due to the drop in hormone levels during the placebo week of your pill pack.

How does your period change throughout your life?

Your period can change in flow, duration, and symptoms throughout your life due to factors like age, hormonal changes, and health conditions. For example, periods may be heavier during adolescence and perimenopause.

What are some alternatives to tampons and pads?

There are several alternatives to tampons and pads, including menstrual cups, menstrual discs, period underwear, and reusable cloth pads. Each option has its own benefits and can be chosen based on personal preference and comfort.

Why is PMS still a mystery?

PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) is still not fully understood because it involves a complex interaction of hormonal, genetic, and environmental factors. More research is needed to understand the exact causes and mechanisms behind PMS.

How many periods does a woman have in her lifetime?

On average, a woman has about 450 periods in her lifetime. This number can vary based on factors such as the age of menarche, the age of menopause, and whether she has been pregnant or used hormonal contraceptives.

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