So, what’s a vagina and why is it bleeding? So many times we question the inner workings of the female body. We live with it, experience it, yet so many don’t understand it. At Sharktooth, we aren’t afraid to address the elephant in the room, or rather, the elephant in society.
The vagina is the birthing canal (for those living through their season of child bearing.) It connects to the cervix which connects to the uterus which houses the ovaries; one on each side. The ovaries release an egg which may or may not become fertilized. It then travels through the Fallopian tube and, depending on if it was fertilized, either sticks happily to the lining of the uterus or gets flushed out with that unwanted uterine wall during our period.
*pause anatomy documentary *
Have we lost you yet? To some this is pretty basic. And to those who find this mundane, be grateful! For far too many of us have been left without a full understanding of our female bodies. Which is a shame really. How are we supposed to live in a body we don’t understand?
So we want to break it down. Let this blog serve as a guide to women’s body positivity and empowerment. May we own it, may we love it, and for Pete's sake may we finally understand it.
It all starts with that first period. It’s a natural part of a girl’s life that usually shows up between the ages of 10 and 15; we all experience it at different ages. It’s definitely important to note that our girls are experiencing the start of their menses earlier and earlier with each generation. There could be many reasons for this including our diet and the medications we take. And while we won’t say it’s a bad thing that we are seeing girls starting their period at an earlier age, we need to remember that it takes a certain amount of maturity to fully understand our body and how to care for it. Educating our girls is the first step to having a healthy life and making sure their reproductive organs are cared for.
For those of us that need clearer understanding of the inner workings of the female body, here we go: Going off of a usual 28 day cycle.
Cycle Day 1
The first day of menstrual bleeding is day one of your cycle. Your period can be accompanied by cramps, bloating, acne and usually lasts between 3 and 8 days. Feeling extra irritable? This is most likely caused by the low levels of estrogen in your body at this time.
Cycle Day 8
Your Estrogen levels are rising and the follicles in your ovaries are growing larger and maturing. At this time the lining of your uterus builds up with blood and nutrients and gets thicker to prepare for pregnancy.
Cycle Day 14
Estrogen levels peak and trigger LH levels to release that egg; Ovulation day! Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from the ovary and travels down the Fallopian tube to be fertilized. A woman is most likely to get pregnant on the day she ovulates or the 3 days before. This is because sperm can last up to 3 days in our body waiting for that egg! If there is sperm waiting this is when that egg starts the first process of becoming a baby. If not it waits until it gets flushed out with our uterine lining.
Cycle Day 15-24
Progesterone levels increase and continue thickening the lining of your uterus. If there is a fertilized egg it will continue traveling down the fallopian tube and will attach to the lining of your uterus.
Cycle Day 24
If you are not pregnant, your progesterone and estrogen levels drop. This causes some of us to have symptoms the week before our period begins. Depression, irritability, and chances of some wonderful acne.
Cycle Day 28
Estrogen and progesterone levels continue to drop eventually causing the unfertilized egg to leave the body with the uterine lining (our period,) thus starting us back on cycle day 1.
These days are not exact because not every woman has a 28 day cycle. It can be perfectly normal to have a 24 day cycle or a 31 day cycle. It can change depending on how long you bleed, and the rising and lowering hormones in your body. These things are also altered depending on if you just started your very first period, if you have recently had a baby, or are entering menopause. Once you understand your cycle and how your body works, you can start making better decisions for yourself. From simpler decisions like what menstrual product to use (tampon, pad, disc, cup) to when you should avoid having unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.
Below is just a small list of things to help keep your “downstairs” happy throughout your cycle!
- Wear breathable undies/clothing!
- Don’t douche. We are self cleaning.
- Pubes are GOOD! We promise. They help keep bacteria out!
- Practice safe sex and pee after - you’ll thank us for this later.
- Schedule regular cervical screenings. If clinics make you nervous rest assured there are midwives that make at-home visits! (We see YOU AppleTree Midwifery!)
- Discharge is normal. It changes throughout our cycle to! But if you notice a foul odor consult your care provider.
- Healthy diet = healthy vagina.
- Wipe front to back. Please.
- Blood clots bigger than a quarter during your period is a good reason to contact your care provider.
- Listen to your body! If something feels off, trust your gut (or uterus) and get it checked out.
Our cycle is the cause of so much female angst. It’s not uncommon for you to experience acne, bloating, and/or constipation, mood swings, and everything else listed above. And we agree, being a girl isn’t always the easiest job in the world. But give yourself grace. Our bodies were made to house a human. That's amazing! Whenever you’re feeling down about yourself because your period caused you to break out or you're bloating is so badly that you’ve sprouted a super cute new muffin top between your crop top and button fly, try to remind yourself that you are awesome.