During Right For Education’s Menstrual Health Week we have been collecting your questions and comments. We have answered some of them below.
IRENE ANDERSON ASKED: HOW CAN THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE AFFECT FERTILITY?
A woman’s fertility (how likely she is to get pregnant) changes during different phases of the menstrual cycle. You can read more about the phases of the menstrual cycle here: https://rightforeducation.org/2018/04/the-different-phases-of-the-menstrual-cycle/ . For a woman to become pregnant, there must be an egg in her womb that is ready to be fertilised, and the lining of the womb must be ready to help the baby to grow.
This means that a woman is most fertile around day 12-14 of the menstrual cycle – around two weeks after the first day of her period (because the days of the menstrual cycle are counted from the first day of the period. The first day of bleeding is day 1.)
However, there is no ‘safe’ time of the month when a woman can have sex without contraception and not risk getting pregnant. Although it is less likely, you can get pregnant at any time during your menstrual cycle if you have sex without contraception. There are several reasons for this. Sperm can sometimes survive in the body for up to 7 days after you have sex. Also, the length of a woman’s menstrual cycle can vary from month to month. Although most women will ovulate (release an egg) 12-14 days after the first day of their period, it is possible to ovulate earlier.
Therefore you should always use contraception when you have sex if you don’t want to become pregnant.
KEHINDE SIMEON AKINWEKOMI ASKED: HOW CAN GIRLS MANAGE THEIR SCHOOL DUTIES DURING PERIOD POVERTY?
Period poverty is a serious problem. It would be best if all girls had access to menstrual hygiene products to help them manage their periods. Even if a girl cannot afford to buy products, it is possible to make reusable pads at home. Some organisations teach girls how to do this. If you do make your own pads it is very important to use clean fabric, and to wash the fabric between uses.
However, just as important as menstrual hygiene products, is the attitude of community members. Community members must make it clear that girls on their periods have nothing to be ashamed of, and help girls to continue to attend school while on their periods.
ABENA JULI ANKRAH ASKED: WHY DO YOU FEEL PAIN WHEN MENSTRUATING?
During the menstrual cycle, the lining of the womb gets ready to support the growth of a baby. If a woman does not become pregnant, this womb gets rid of this lining – this is what causes a woman to bleed. During the period, the womb contracts in order to help get rid of the lining. It is these contractions which are painful. The contractions are painful because as the muscles contract, the womb does not have enough blood supply for a short period of time, and this causes chemicals to be released which cause pain.
Most women will experience some pain while they have their period. However, if the pain is very severe and stops a woman from doing her normal activities for more than a few hours, she should speak to her healthcare provider. Some medical conditions, such as fibroids, can cause severe period pain.
NIMBU NIMBU ASKED: WHY DOES THE DATE OF THE MENSTRUAL PERIOD CHANGE?
It is normal that the length of a woman’s menstrual cycle will change slightly. The length of the menstrual cycle often changes when a girl starts having her periods, and when a woman is getting near to the menopause. Losing weight, stress, and exercise, can change the length of the menstrual cycle. Some types of contraception can also change the menstrual cycle.
For most women, the menstrual cycle will be between 24 – 38 days long. Within the same year, the length between the longest and shortest cycle can be up to 9 days.
If you are worried, you should speak to your health care provider. You should also speak to a health care provider if:
Your periods suddenly stop for more than 90 days (and you are not pregnant)
Your periods were regular and suddenly become irregular
Your period lasts for more than seven days
You start bleeding in between periods
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