The most-Googled menstrual cycle questions answered

Periods are different for everyone.

Some people have long ones, others don’t – while some individuals have more severe period pain.

Not to mention all the different options for bleeding during a menstrual cycle, from pads and tampons to cups and period underwear. Everyone has a different preference.

There’s also contraception to take into account and how various types can affect a person’s period – as well as the Covid vaccine.

With so much ground to cover, it’s hardly a surprise that there are 45,000 monthly Google searches, on average, on menstrual cycles alone.

Spire Healthcare’s gynaecology consultant Kevin Phillips has answered some of the most commonly-asked questions on Google when it comes to periods and cycles.

Below is what he has to say to these common queries.

Can you sync your cycle with your friends when you spend lots of time with them?

Perhaps you’ve encountered this phenomenon with siblings or flatmates – but is it really a thing?

Kevin says: ‘Many women who live together or spend a lot of time together feel as though they have periods around the same time; also known as menstrual syncing. It has been suggested that this is due to pheromones they release that synchronise their menstrual cycles. 

‘However, clinical research hasn’t been able to conclusively prove this actually occurs. If you have your period at the same time as your close friend it is, therefore, it might just be due to chance.’

Is wearing a tampon totally safe?

Kevin stresses that wearing a tampon correctly is safe. 

He adds: ‘You should follow the recommended advice of not leaving a tampon in for more than eight hours. 

‘After eight hours, your risk of developing an infection or irritating your vagina increases. In very rare cases, leaving a tampon in for too long, usually when it is forgotten about, can cause a severe bacterial infection called toxic shock syndrome (TSS), which is life-threatening.’

How often should you change your pad?

Kevin explains that this depends on the individual and how heavy their period is.

‘How often you need to change your pad will depend on how heavy your menstrual flow is, so is very personal to each woman,’ he continues.

‘In general, you should change your pad every 4–8 hours – or sooner if it’s soaked.’

Should you be feeling tired during your period?

Many women feel tired during their periods due to changes in their hormones and dealing with pain or discomfort, such as period cramps, explains Kevin.

He adds: ‘However, if your tiredness is affecting your ability to carry out everyday activities, it is important to see your GP. 

‘Excessive tiredness during your periods, especially when accompanied by heavy vaginal bleeding, can be a sign that you have anaemia, for example.’ 

Do some foods aid period cramps?

Kevin says that period cramps are caused by your womb contracting in response to changes in your hormones, specifically prostaglandins.

‘Although inconclusive, some research suggests that avoiding dehydration, including a source of omega 3 fats and fresh fruit and vegetables could help reduce symptoms,’ he continues.

‘In general, eating a healthy, balanced diet should help with well-being during your period.’

Does heat help with period pain?

Applying a heat pad or hot water bottle can help ease period pain, says Kevin.

But, he adds: ‘It’s important not to use them for too long as this can cause skin changes, especially, for example, if a hot water bottle is placed directly against your skin.’

Why do we crave junk food on our periods and does it help?

Chocolate, crisps and pizza are the items lots of people crave during their period – but why is this?

Kevin explains the biology in a little more detail.

He says: ‘Changes in your hormone levels during your periods can cause your body to crave foods high in carbohydrates and sugars, which are often found in junk food. 

‘Some studies suggest that eating these foods releases the hormone serotonin in your body, which helps you feel happy and combat low moods caused by hormonal changes just before and during your period.

‘It’s possible that highly-processed junk foods can promote inflammation, which may worsen period pain.’

Will periods come around like clockwork each month?

Kevin says the average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but regular menstrual cycles can vary from 21 to 40 days and your period may not occur at exactly the same time each month. 

He continues: ‘If you notice that your periods have suddenly become irregular and you’re under 45, for example, or you have other concerns about your menstrual cycle, it is important to see your GP.’

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