8 things you didn’t know about periods

Many of us women consider periods an inconvenience we have to put up with for much of our adult lives, or at worst, if you suffer from bad PMT, heavy periods or cramps something you have to manage with medication and rest. But do you know all there is to know about them?

1. Swimming when you have your period – yay or nay?

The answer is yes, if you want to. There’s nothing unhygienic about swimming while your menstruating.

Gentle exercise can help tummy cramps by triggering the release of feel-good endorphins which alleviate pain. You don’t have to worry about catching a vaginal disease as skin infections and stomach upsets are a much bigger risk, as a result of swallowing water.

There are a few provisos. Some people may have a reaction to the chlorine which can cause itching around the vagina, that may go on to develop into a yeast or bacterial infection. You can limit the risk of this by showering afterwards, and try not to sit around in a wet swimsuit.

It’s unlikely you’ll leave a trail of blood in the water as water pressure usually temporarily stops the flow. However, it will start again when you get out, so you might want to use a tampon, menstrual cup, or absorbent swimming costume.

And for the record, there’s no evidence you’ll be more prone to shark attack. But if you’re worried swim in a pool.

2. Can I delay my period?

It’s possible to delay or skip your period, if say you’re going on holiday, and will be in and out of the water, or if you have an important presentation or interview and don’t want to feel unwell. With the help of your GP you can simply keep taking the combined hormonal contraceptive pills, without a break. Some hormonal contraceptives are designed so that you only have a period every three months.

If you have heavy periods, ask your doctor about tranexamic acid tablets. The tablets work by helping the blood in your womb to clot. They've been shown to reduce blood loss by around 50%.

3. Do you feel sexy in the run up to your period?

You’re more likely to flirt with other men – even if you’re in a committed relationship, and wear revealing clothes when you’re ovulating in the few days before your period, studies show. This is nature giving reproduction a helping hand as this is when you’re most fertile. It works both ways, as other studies show that men who were given the clothing of ovulating women to sniff experienced a surge in testosterone.

4. Is it normal to want sex during your period?

It’s quite common to feel amorous during your period. This is because progesterone (the libido diminishing hormone) is at its lowest, so you might find yourself craving intimacy.

5. Can you get pregnant when you’re menstruating?

The time of ovulation a day or so before your period is when you’re most likely to get pregnant. However, you can get pregnant at any time during your cycle. Your chances of getting pregnant steadily increase as you move out of menstruation and into the pre-ovulation phase.

6. What might be causing irregular periods?

You might expect your periods to be irregular in adolescence, pregnancy, and during perimenopause. But there are other factors that can cause periods to become erratic or stop altogether.

There are other causes of irregular periods, that you should discuss with your GP or nurse.

  • Dramatic changes in your weight
  • Medication: such as anti-epileptic drugs and anti-psychotics.
  • Benign or malignant tumours
  • Medical conditions: diabetes, thyroid imbalances, polycystic ovary syndrome and high levels of the hormone prolactin in your bloodstream.
  • Bleeding can be a sign of womb cancer

7. What are the causes of heavy periods?

An average period is considered to be 3-5 table spoons of blood, but this can seem like more. These factors might cause your period to be heavier.

  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Some forms of intrauterine contraception
  • Emergency contraception, or the morning after pill

8. Treatment for periods

Some procedures for heavy periods are suitable for ‘office gynaecology’, also known as ‘ambulatory gynaecology’, which means they are carried out without general anaesthetic and in treatment rooms rather than surgical theatres. This results in minimum disruption to daily life and faster recovery time.

What is a hysteroscopy and hysteroscopic resection?

A hysteroscopy is a procedure where the lining of the womb (uterus) can be assessed by direct visualisation with a telescope (hysteroscope) and a small camera. If fibroids and polyps are identified then these can be removed either during this assessment or at a later date using a special telescope which allows a piece of equipment to be passed through it which treats the fibroids and polyps (the MyoSure system) without any cuts or scars.

Endometrial ablation

This is an alternative to hysterectomy that works by treating just the womb lining rather than removing the whole womb. It involves removal of the womb’s lining to treat heavy periods. The leading method of ablation is the NovaSure Endometrial Ablation, which requires no incisions and uses precisely measured radio frequency energy. Mr Francis Gardner, of London’s women’s clinic Twenty-five Harley Street, has achieved very high patient satisfaction with NovaSure, with women experiencing a 95 per cent reduction in menstrual dysfunction.

Hysteroscopic resection

This treatment is the removal of fibroids or polyps from the womb. Hysteroscopic resection with MyoSure is an extremely safe treatment for fibroids and Mr Francis Gardner is the most experienced surgeon at performing this procedure in Europe. After assessment with a hysteroscope, the procedure is performed without any cuts or scarring.

Mr Francis Gardner and Mr Pandelis Athanasias Consultant Gynaecologists at Twenty-five Harley Street are experts in office gynaecology. Miss Tania Adib is a consultant gynaecologist and specialist in helping women to manage menopause.

Book an appointment with one of the doctors at Twenty-five Harley Street Day Clinic, 25 Harley Street, Marylebone London W1G 9QW. Telephone 020 3883 9525, or email appointments@25harleystreet.co.uk. Visit 25harleystreet.co.uk

A medication that reduces sensation. Full medical glossary
A group of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye, which are usually made up of just a single cell. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
Blood that has coagulated, that is, has moved from a liquid to a solid state. Full medical glossary
A means of preventing pregnancy. Full medical glossary
A term used to describe something that prevents pregnancy. Full medical glossary
A fluid-filled, enclosed pouch developing in a bodily structure as part of a disease process Full medical glossary
A disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, or because the tissues are resistant to the effects. Full medical glossary
A benign tumour, most often in the uterus. Full medical glossary
Benign tumours, most often in the uterus. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
A substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. Full medical glossary
The surgical removal of the uterus (womb). Full medical glossary
A tube equipped with a light source and either a small camera or an optical system, used to examine the inside of the uterus (womb). Full medical glossary
Examination of the inside of the uterus by endoscopy, using an instrument called a hysteroscope inserted through the vagina and cervix. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
inside the uterus Full medical glossary
Sexual drive. Full medical glossary
Describes a tumour resulting from uncontrolled cell division that can invade other tissues and may spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary

The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods cease

Full medical glossary
The shedding of the lining of the uterus (period), as part of the female reproductive cycle. Full medical glossary
When one or more eggs are released from the ovary. Full medical glossary
The period leading up to and around the time of the menopause Full medical glossary
A hormonal disorder characterised by scanty or absent periods. Full medical glossary
A growth on the surface of a mucous membrane (a surface that secretes mucus, lining any body cavity that opens to the outside of the body). Full medical glossary
Growths on the surface of a mucous membrane (a surface that secretes mucous), lining any body cavity that opens to the outside of the body. Full medical glossary
the period from conception to birth Full medical glossary
A hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the brain that stimulates breast growth and milk production. Both men and women produce some prolactin, but levels increase in women during pregnancy and breastfeeding Full medical glossary
Lying face-downwards. Full medical glossary
Relating to psychosis. Full medical glossary
The surgical removal of part of the body. Full medical glossary
the organ or the body where food is stored and broken down Full medical glossary
The main male sex hormone. Full medical glossary
A gland in the neck that produces hormones with a role in controlling metabolism. Full medical glossary
An abnormal swelling. Full medical glossary
The womb, where embryo implantation occurs and the growing foetus is nourished. Full medical glossary
The muscula passage, forming part of the femal reproductive system, between the cervix and the external genitalia. Full medical glossary
Relating to the sense of sight (vision). Full medical glossary
The uterus. Full medical glossary