Periods: All you need to know about your menstrual cycle

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  • Periods are, quite franky, a pain in every sense of the word. And still, in this day and age, we can’t say they’ve been made a whole lot easier. Mad, when you consider that 800 million women in the world are on their period every day!

    But thanks to a new development from an American company, that could all be about to change. If you struggle with tampons, hate the thought of sanitary towels or you’re concerned over the amount of waste disposed of every day (the average UK woman disposes of 125 to 150kg of tampons, pads and applicators in her lifetime!) then listen up! Because this latest development might change that monthly hassle as we know it…

    Thinx are a range of ‘period-proof’ pants designed to backup tampons or menstrual cups, or even to be used as a replacement. Designed by three women in New York – Miki Agrawal, her twin sister Radha, and friend Antonia Dunbar – the absorbent knickers look like normal underwear and come in three designs: a thong (for light flow days), the ‘cheeky’ (for medium flow) and the ‘hiphugger’ (for heavy flow).

    Thinx have created a thong (left), the ‘cheeky’ (middle) and the ‘hiphugger’ (right)

    According to the Thinx website, the thong style can hold up to half a tampon’s worth of liquid, the ‘cheeky’ a whole tampon’s worth, and the ‘hiphugger’ can hold up to two tampon’s worth, thanks to their four ultra-thin micro-layers which work together to absorb the blood. They’re hygienic and washable too! A review on their website from ‘Bklyn Babe’ states: ‘I just wore my new pair for the first day ever and I love them! Nice to feel sexy and not worry about leaks at the same time. These are really well made, comfortable and look great. I’ll be buying more.’

    The magic pants cost between $24 (£15) to $34 (£22) plus delivery, so they’re not cheap. Here’s hoping a cheaper version comes to the UK soon, as this could be the end of periods as we know it!

    Everything you need to know about your period

    A woman’s period and menstrual cycle can change quite often or stay the same for many years. Whether you want to know more about your body, are trying to increase your chances of getting pregnant, or want to avoid pregnancy, we explain how the menstrual cycle works, answer the most common questions and help you to get to know your period better.

    What is a period?

    A period is when the lining of your womb (uterus) sheds its lining – this is why you bleed and you might also have lumps in your blood. The blood flows through a small hole in your cervix (the opening of the womb) and through the vagina.

    What is a menstrual cycle?

    The menstrual cycle lasts about a month, on average around 28-30 days and is the life cycle of one egg. The first day of the cycle is the first day of your period, that may last anything up to 7 days.

    Around day 14 is what doctors refer to as mid-cycle. For many women, this is when you are most fertile, however when you ovulate depends on the length of your cycle.

    You then have another 14 days to make 28 days, which is when your cycle finishes and you start your period again.

    Don’t worry if your cycle is not exactly 28 days – it’s very common for a period to last anything from 25-35 days in length.

    What is a normal period?

    A normal period can differ from woman to woman and will change over the years. However, it’s generally accepted that a girl will start her period between the ages of 10-14, although this could be later in some girls. It finishes around the age of 50, when the menopause begins, but for some women their periods stop sooner than this. A normal period will last between 1-8 days, although the average is 4-5 days.

    How much blood should I lose?

    The amount of blood flow should be the same from cycle to cycle – i.e.
    if you’ve always had a light flow then that’s normal for you. If your
    flow starts to change you should note the changes. Speak to your doctor,
    if you’re getting other symptoms such as pain in the breasts or tummy, headaches and changes in your skin.

    Try not to be too alarmed, though – periods do change over the years and stress can affect your menstrual cycle too.

    What if my period is really heavy or really long?

    A period is considered to be heavy if you completely soak through a sanitary pad or tampon every hour for 2-3 consecutive hours. If your period lasts for more than 7 days then it’s considered long. If either heavy bleeding or a long period isn’t usual for you, then you should visit your GP.

    What if my period is full of lumps?

    Usually this is quite normal, it’s the lining of your womb, however if
    the lumps are very large and unusual for you then you should speak to
    your GP.

    What if my period is irregular?

    For the first few years of your period and the last couple of years of
    your period it is likely to be irregular. If it is suddenly irregular or you’ve missed a period and you’re not pregnant then it’s a good idea to have a chat with your GP or local GUM clinic.

    What if I don’t have a period or they have stopped?

    Amenorrhea is the name given for when your period stops. It can be caused by many things such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, eating disorders, weight loss, over exercising, stress or hormone or reproductive system disorders, such as endometriosis. You must see your doctor or your local GUM clinic.

    Is it normal for periods to be painful?

    Unfortunately for most women there is some pain and discomfort before and during their period. Most commonly it’s abdominal cramps, tiredness, insomnia, sore, swollen breasts, headaches and backache. If any of these symptoms are severe or go on for longer than your period then you need to see you GP.

    How often should I change my sanitary towel/pad or tampon?

    Most women decide on when to change depending on what’s comfortable for
    them, but as a general rule whenever the tampon or pad is soaked

    Always follow the instructions on the package of your towels or tampons.

    • Always chose the right absorbency for your flow
    • Change your tampon or towel at least every 4 hours
    • You can alternate between towels and tampons

    If you have any of the following symptoms after using a tampon, see your GP:

    • Pain when inserting a tampon
    • High temperature
    • Muscle aches
    • Dizziness or fainting
    • Sunburn-type rash
    • Sore throat
    • Bloodshot eyes


    Cycle – this refers to the whole month not just the week or so of
    a period. The beginning of a cycle is the first day of your period.

    Flow – the flow of blood during your period

    – this is when a mature egg is released from the ovary, pushed down the
    fallopian tube, and is available to be fertilized. This is when you are
    most fertile.

    Menses, menstrual bleeding, menstruation, period – these are all words for your period

    Menarche – an American word for period

    PMT/PMS – Pre Menstrual Tension or Pre Menstrual Syndrome – both
    mean the same thing the period of time before your menstruation that
    gives you symptoms such as bloating, cramps and mood swings.

    More help and advice

    10 things you need to know about ovulation
    Use our ovulation calculator to find when you’re most fertile each month
    What really works for PMT