I can’t even remember how old I was when I started my period. I do remember being in junior high, telling my mom and her handing me the pads. That was the beginning. It seems like when you’re younger, you can’t wait to start your period. Then when you finally get your period, here come the cramps, the mood swings and the flow. Oh, the flow. It’s been so long since I’ve started my period, I thought it would be interesting to talk to an OBGYN from The Christ Hospital about periods. What can you do to help with cramps, and is it true that getting into water will cork the flow? To set the record straight about your period, I sat down with Sarah Bartlett, MD
, a gynecologist from The Christ Hospital Physicians. Watch the video above or follow along below to learn more!
When do periods start?Fritsch:
Hi, everybody. It's Fritsch from the Jeff & Jenn Morning Show. And today I am hanging out with Dr. Sarah Bartlett from The Christ Hospital. She's a gynecologist here at Christ. So, I want to talk about all things period today. I know a lot of people don't like talking about their period, but I do have a young daughter—she's only four now—but I want to know what is currently the starting age for girls to start their period?Dr. Bartlett:
Usually around 12. That's when most of us started, but it can be even as early as 8 now, which seems crazy, but that is considered normal. So, anywhere from 8 to 15, typically 12.
How to manage heavy flow
Fritsch: What about heavy flow? I know that that is something that a lot of women talk about. Is there anything that you can do for heavy flow?
Dr. Bartlett: It depends on why it's heavy. And is it truly heavy? I think a lot of young girls think it's heavy because they don't know any different. So, they assume they're bleeding to death. You have to establish, what does that mean? How often are you changing pads? And are you passing out? Are you soaking through your bed sheets? Establishing what heavy means is important, and then talking to your doctor about, is there a reason, is something wrong?
If nothing's wrong, and it's just part of normal heavy bleeding, there's all kinds of things you can do. Medicines, birth control pills, IUDs, all of that is great. But even just taking your ibuprofen and those types of products helps with cramping. Most women know that, but it actually helps with blood loss, too.
Fritsch: Oh really? So, it can lessen the flow?
Dr. Bartlett: It lessens the flow, lessens the cramping. So, it's a really good idea to take, if you can predict when your period is going to be, to start right before the period, get ahead of those chemical signals, and it can be very effective.
All the cramps
Fritsch: All right. You brought up cramps. That's something people love to hate because they're awful. Is there anything that we can do to lessen the cramps? I know you mentioned ibuprofen. Is there anything that we can do to make them not so bad?
Dr. Bartlett: Same thing as the heavy flow, where there's situations where the cramping is not normal and needs to be addressed medically. But cramping is just part of the gig, too. Everybody has it to different degrees. So, same thing—the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory. So, that's your ibuprofen, your Motrin, those types of medicines, they help the cramps and the amount of bleeding. Pills, IUDs, all those other medical interventions. Reducing stress helps, chemical hormones, all of that is interconnected. Exercise helps. So, there's lots of different things. Then we all know about heating pads, and just different types of home remedies.
Worse with age?
Fritsch: Is it true that the older you get, the worse your periods are?
Dr. Bartlett: There's no one size fits all. Everybody's periods change at different times of their life. So, what you experience in your teens is very different than what you experience in your 30s. And there's a lot of factors that go into that. So, not everybody's periods are going to get worse. Not everybody's are going to get better. It's hard to predict.
True or false - the impact of water, orgasms, nightlights and more
Fritsch: Now I want to do a little bit of true/false—fact or fiction here—when it comes to your period. Is it true or false that water, swimming, getting in the bathtub, etc., can kind of cork the flow of the period? Meaning, stop it?
Dr. Bartlett: It doesn't stop it, but the physics—the gravity aspect of water pushing against your body—yeah, it temporarily halts the flow or slows it down. Now, it doesn't stop it or slow it down. That same amount of blood is going to come out eventually, just later on. But you're right, people will notice while they're swimming, or while they're bathing, it doesn't flow as freely.
Fritsch: Can having an orgasm… Does that help your cramps feel better? True or false?
Dr. Bartlett: It does. Highly recommend that. Yes, absolutely.
Fritsch: There you go, ladies. Get after it! That's an easy fix.
Another true or false, fact or fiction, can sleeping with a nightlight help regulate your cycle?
Dr. Bartlett: I don't know if that's been proven or not. I can't quote the science on that, but theoretically. The hormones are so complicated, and they all start in your brain, and then they make their way down to your ovaries and your uterus. There's a lot of interconnections. But there is a part of the brain that perceives night and day, and sleep cycles, and all that. It's all hormonally controlled. It's all linked. So, in theory, yes, that all is very intricately connected in part of your brain.
Fritsch: Should we be sleeping with a night light? Is that going to regulate things?
Dr. Bartlett: No, I don't think so. I don't think it's practical for everybody. But I think you're touching on something, which is the importance of sleep, and normal sleep cycles, and getting enough of it, and all of that, which very much ties into everything hormonal and health-wise in general.
Fritsch: And here's my last fact or fiction: The average woman has more than 400 periods in their lifetime.
Dr. Bartlett: Well, you have to do math. So, if you start at 12, and the average woman's about 51 at menopause, and we have about 12 a year... And then give or take pregnancy. So...yeah.
Fritsch: Does that seem like a lot to you? I feel like that's a lot. Four hundred of anything sounds like a lot!
Dr. Bartlett: It is. It is. But I'm going to add something to that, though. There are ways to suppress your periods. When you're taking birth control pills and other things, there are healthy ways you can suppress them for medical reasons, as well as just lifestyle. You don't have to have regular heavy periods if your doctor allows you mechanisms to affect that.
Fritsch: So, that's one of the benefits of having this conversation with your doctors, quality of life with bad periods—can I reduce my number of periods?
Dr. Bartlett: The answer is yes. Usually it's with doing different kinds of birth control pills. But it is healthy. Most doctors and nurses have done it for a very long time. And when I tell patients that, they're like, "Is that okay?" Yes. If your doctor is talking to you about it, absolutely. It's a quality of life thing.
Fritsch: Awesome. Well, there are the facts on your period. Good luck out there! And thank you so much, Dr. Bartlett.