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Question Time: Men On Menstruation

Artwork by Anna Jay
Most women will menstruate 400 to 500 times in their lives, yet most men are still pretty perplexed by periods. As young girls, we are educated by mothers, aunts, sisters, friends, teachers and magazines about our monthly cycles but the majority of men plod through life none the wiser about something that affects all of the women they know.

So, to round off Refinery29 UK's #RagWeek, we asked a group of guys – a group with a hazy, cobbled-together understanding of our uteruses – to share their pressing period questions, all in the hope that we can provide a fuller understanding of our flow.
Can you feel it leaking out?
Our vaginas aren't a faulty tap so we don’t feel it leaking out steadily as such but if/when a period is particularly heavy some women might be aware of their flow. Similarly, if you leave changing your tampon or pad to the last minute you may feel “a leak”. It happens to the best of us and the majority of women bleed through pants/jeans/pjs/bedsheets at some point. Thank you washing machines for saving our sodden sheets and garms.

How do you know when it's coming?
Once your menstrual cycle regulates after puberty, you can work out when your next period is due. For most women this happens every 28 days or so, but it’s also normal for women to have a cycle slightly shorter or longer than this – anywhere between 24 and 35 days.

"It's not blood exactly" – WTF does that mean?!
We understand that some guys are pretty freaked out by the idea that we are bleeding from our vaginas as if it's some kind of bloody wound. However, that's not the case. Each month, new membrane linings form inside the womb to prepare for pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilised by a sperm, that lining comes away and leaves the body through the vagina. This happens every month in order to rid the body of the membranes, particles and fluids that have formed in the uterus. This is a period, also known as the menstrual flow or "menses".

Sometimes the flow may include slug-like solids but that’s just older blood and cells of the uterine lining, and is perfectly normal though slightly alarming the first time you spot one.
How can you adequately prepare for its arrival?
It’s not like having your grandma come to stay. You don’t need to properly "prepare". If anything, you're more likely to change the sheets after. The best way to be ready is to calculate the length of your cycle by counting the days from the first day of bleeding in one period to the first day of bleeding in the next; there are also apps such as Clue or Period Tracker to help you keep track of your cycles.

Eating iron-rich food can be helpful for some women who lose a lot of blood during their period. But having some chocolate, a hot water bottle and a weepy DVD to hand can be hugely helpful too.

Does it hurt? Do you feel discomfort?
A lot of women experience pain during or right before their periods, and to those who don't, lucky you! This is generally caused by the uterus contracting in order to shed the uterine lining and might result in cramps and back pain. Some women may also notice extra-sensitivity in their breasts and heightened clumsiness too.

Why does it make you grumpy?
On behalf of all women, sorry guys if we've snapped unnecessarily but you have to bear in mind that women’s bodies produce different amounts of hormones at different times during the menstrual cycle and this can cause drastic changes in our emotions. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to the physical and psychological symptoms that can occur in the fortnight before a woman's monthly period. Typical symptoms include bloating, breast pain, mood swings, feeling irritable and loss of interest in sex.

These symptoms usually improve once your period starts and disappear a few days afterwards. As you may have witnessed, it’s quite common for some women to become hyper-sensitive just before their period arrives. Tread carefully.

What should we do when you’re on your period to make things better?
Avoid us at all costs. Just kidding. Kind of. The worst thing you can say to a woman on her period is “God, you’re snappy. Time of the month?” Say that at your own peril. Be patient. Be normal. Bring chocolate.

Can you feel tampons inside of you?
If a tampon has been inserted correctly i.e. angled towards the base of your spine, you shouldn't feel any discomfort. If you can feel a tampon, it probably hasn't been pushed deep enough into the vagina and should be removed.
What the hell is a mooncup, how does it work and is it hygienic?
A Mooncup is a reusable cup, about two inches long and made from soft medical grade silicone. It is worn inside the vagina a lot lower than a tampon but instead of absorbing menstrual fluid, the Mooncup collects it (three times the amount than a tampon). As a Mooncup is reusable, you only need one so it saves both environmentally and economically friendly too.

Why does your period sometimes last two days and other times five?
Menstrual bleeding usually lasts two to seven days, with the average being five days. Some women find their menstrual cycle isn't always regular. Periods may be early or late, and can vary in length or how heavy they are each time. A normal menstrual cycle might be disturbed due to a change in contraceptive methods or a hormone imbalance.

Are women more likely to get pregnant just before or just after their period?
Listen up lads, when a girl is most likely to get pregnant can be difficult to pinpoint so don't ditch contraception just because she's on her period. A woman's most fertile window is around the time she ovulates, which is 12 to 14 days before the start of the next period. But women with very short (21 days or so) or irregular cycles could be ovulating while they're still bleeding, which means they could still get pregnant even during their period. Additionally sperm can survive for three to five days.
Do you mind/like having sex on your period?
This is about personal preference. Some girls might think it's a bit messy or else might not feel at their sexiest when they’re slightly bloated with sensitive boobs, and so would rather avoid having penetrative sex. Some women actually feel more aroused and more vaginally-sensitive during their period and the menstrual flow can act as extra lubrication during sex, which can also increase pleasure.

If you're into period sex (apparently 60% of men are) to avoid stained sheets put down a towel or else relocate to the shower. Wearing a diaphragm can help reduce the amount of blood that might come out during intercourse too.

Do you ever use your period as an excuse not to have sex?
No comment.