our glossary

Feeling a bit confused about the lingo?

Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered – from pads to dysmenorrhoea (a fancy word for period pain), you can find out every period-related definition right here.


A

Abdominal pain – It’s not uncommon to feel pain in the lower abdomen (belly) 1-2 days before your period arrives, lasting anything between 2-4 days. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who experience minimal pain (which is totally normal too!).

 

Anxiety – Did you know that women are more likely to suffer anxiety than men? If you suffer from anxiety you may notice that it heightens during your period due to an increase in the hormone cortisol which is linked to anxiety.

B

Bloating – A common side effect of PMS, bloating can cause your tummy to feel a bit tender and swollen. This usually happens when you’re on your period, and experts reckon exercise can help reduce the bloating.

 

Blood clots – Menstrual clots generally happen in the first 2 days of menstruation, these thick jelly like clots are made up of a mixture of blood and tissue and actually help to ensure you don’t lose too much blood. They’re perfectly normal and nothing to be worried about!

C

Cramps – Oh cramps! Cramps are thought to be caused by your uterus contracting before or when on your period and are another common side effect of pre-menstrual syndrome. Annoying, right? A hot water bottle and asking an adult for some painkillers can help ease them.

 

Cravings – Would you literally sell your sibling for a chocolate bar during your period? If so, you can totally blame it on your period! Research shows that a change in the hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause cravings for foods high in sugar and carbohydrates…pass the chocolate covered pasta!! Mmmm

D

Discharge – Vaginal discharge is a natural mucus that is produced from your cervix. Formed from normal bacteria and fluids, it’s your vagina’s way of keeping itself clean (if only bedrooms did that!). You normally start producing discharge about six months to a year before your first period. If you want to, you can wear a panty liner to absorb everything. Or not. It’s up to you!

 

Dysmenorrhoea – Dysmenorrhoea, if you want to be fancy about it, is just another word for period pain. You could whip it out when trying to impress your teachers, hey?

E

Egg – An egg cell (also known as ovum) is one of the largest cells in the human body and can just be seen without using a microscope. It’s the female reproductive cell.

 

Endometriosis – This is a common condition affecting up to 10% of women. Endometriosis is where the tissue (similar to the lining of the womb) starts to grow in other places such as the ovaries and the fallopian tubes causing tummy pains and fertility problems. Though there’s currently no cure, treatments are available to ease the pain and discomfort.

F

Fallopian tube – The egg cell travels down the fallopian tube from the ovaries towards the uterus during ovulation.

 

Fertilisation – Fertilisation is the moment when a sperm and egg join together, and the genes from the mother and father combine to form a new life.

G

Gas – Due to a fluctuation in hormones (namely estrogen and progesterone) you may find that you’re a little more gassy before and during your period. These higher levels of estrogen can also cause constipation and trapped wind…ouch!

H

Hormonal headaches – During your cycle you experience changes in the level of estrogen and progesterone. It’s these changes that can trigger a hormonal headache, also referred to as a “menstrual migraine”. These painful episodes can occur before, during or after your cycle.

 

Hormones – Ever wondered what exactly happens to hormones during your period? A woman’s menstrual cycle is divided into four phases known as the menstrual, follicular, ovulation and luteal phase.

During the menstrual phase the hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone drop causing PMS (mood-swings, fatigue, cramps etc). When your period arrives (follicular phase) estrogen levels rise as an egg prepares to be released and lower again once the egg is released during the ovulation phase. After the egg is released you enter the luteal phase during which progesterone is released, peaks and then drops ready to repeat the cycle next month!

I

Insomnia – Progesterone is a soporific hormone which means it has a gentle sedative effect. Your levels of progesterone drop significantly during your cycle, so it’s no surprise that you might find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

Similarly, you may feel tired the week leading up to your period because of the increase in progesterone.

 

IBS – Irritable bowel syndrome can cause symptoms such as cramping, backache, bloating and insomnia…to name a few! During your period these symptoms can increase, due to the change in hormone levels, causing diarrhoea, bloating, constipation and even nausea.

J

Joint Pain – It’s believed that estrogen protects against pain. Because the levels of estrogen drop before your period and then rise straight after, a lot of people experience an increase in joint pain and attribute it to these changes in estrogen levels.

 

Jeans – Item of clothing to be avoided throughout your cycle!

K

Knickers – It’s important to feel comfy on your period and you may find that you have certain underwear you prefer to wear during your cycle. If wearing a pad, knickers are obviously the sensible choice but there’s nothing wrong with wearing a thong if you’re opting for a tampon or a menstrual cup. The important thing is that you feel comfortable!

 

Kegel – Kegel exercise, also known as pelvic-floor exercise, is when you repeatedly contract and relax the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor. Doing regular kegels helps to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and prevent incontinence. The great thing is, you can do them at any time, anywhere!

L

Lunar cycle – As a “typical” menstrual cycle lasts 28 days and a lunar cycle lasts 29.5 days, scientists have studied for years in a bid to find links between the two. Whilst some studies found that the menstrual cycle is likely to be in sync with the moon’s phases, others found compelling evidence to discredit this.

 

Labia – Labia are the inner and outer folds of the vulva, at either side of the vagina. They have the very important job of protecting all of the inner vaginal parts like the urinary orifice, and vaginal orifice.

Labia come in all different shapes and sizes and the proper names for each are the labia majora (outer lips) and labia minora (inner lips).

M

Menstrual cycle – The menstrual cycle is the monthly series of changes a woman’s body goes through in preparation for the possibility of pregnancy. Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg — a process called ovulation. At the same time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. A woman’s average cycle is around 28 days.

 

Menstrual fluid – Otherwise known as your period, menstrual fluid is made up of a mix of uterus lining and blood.

N

Night sweats – Due to the fluctuation of hormones throughout your cycle, it’s not uncommon to wake up feeling a little sweaty, damp or in need of a change of pyjamas. However, full on night sweats (the change the bedding kind) are more common as you approach perimenopause in your mid 30s or 40s.

 

Night pads – Night sanitary towels are thicker and longer than those you wear in the day time, offering added protection while you sleep. Night pads can be worn for the duration of your sleep (whether that’s 5 or 8 hours) and should be changed first thing in the morning.

O

Ovary – An ovary is a female reproductive organ. Women normally have two ovaries, which are used to store their eggs cells.

 

Ovulation – Ovulation is when an egg is released from the ovaries and makes its way down the fallopian tube. If this egg is fertilised, it will make itself at home in the thickened lining of the uterus and a woman will become pregnant. If it doesn’t embed itself, the lining breaks down and you get your period.

P

Pad – Pads (also known as sanitary towels) are made of absorbent material that you stick, via an adhesive strip, to the inside of your underwear. They are used to absorb menstrual fluid/blood. Some have extra material on the sides called ‘wings’ that you can fold over the edge of your knickers to make sure your pad doesn’t slip around while you’re busy being fabulous all day.

 

Pantyliner – Pantyliners are like a smaller version of a pad – they look exactly the same but don’t usually have wings and are a lot thinner. You can barely feel them in your knickers at all! Some girls use them for when their period is really light towards the end, or to prevent discharge stains on to their knickers (vaginal discharge totally comes out in the washing machine though, so don’t worry if you don’t fancy having a permanent pad stuck to your knickers).

 

Period cravings – Cravings can be one of the symptoms of PMS, and are due to changing hormone levels. This can happen from two weeks before the period (known as the luteal phase) to the time when the period really gets underway (which could take a few days from when it first starts). Calorie requirements increase for many girls during this time of the month, and so there is an increase in hunger – hence the need for that second chocolate bar!

 

pH balance - Your body's pH balance or it's acid-base balance if you wanna be fancy, is the level of acids and bases in your blood that your body works best at.
When there is an imbalance in the natural pH levels of your vagina, pH levels become less acidic causing bacterial vaginosis (a bacteria infection) to occur in the vagina.
It's nothing to worry about and a quick trip to your GP should clear things up.
 

Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS) – Or otherwise known as Premenstrual Tension (PMT) or the monthly blues. Physically, PMS might make you feel a little bloated, tired or achey. Some people have headaches or backache and some get a few cramps before their period actually arrives. You might find your skin gets a little spotty too. Emotionally, you might find yourself feeling more irritable, anxious or weepy. It generally affects three in four women but don’t fear – exercise and a healthy diet will help ease PMS. Chat to your doctor or someone else who could help you, such as a teacher, parent, carer or friend, if you’re worried.

 

Pubic hair – Pubic hair is body hair which grows when you hit puberty (hence the name!) and is usually located on and around your private parts. It’s totally normal, so don’t worry!

Q

Queef – A queef happens when trapped air is pushed out of your vagina, resulting in a loud release of air that sounds a lot like a fart. Queefing typically occurs during or after sexual intercourse, however they can also slip out whilst exercising or inserting a tampon. Though your friends might not talk about them, they’re perfectly natural and nothing to be embarrassed about.

R

Rash – Napkin dermatitis or pad rash can occur when wearing a sanitary pad. Some pads can cause the skin around this area to become sore and inflamed. Be sure to find the right sized pad for your body and if you experience any discomfort speak to an adult or your GP about some alternative options.

 

Rage – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a mix of physical and emotional symptoms that occur right before your period. You may find that you feel unusually moody, irritable or full of rage for no apparent reason. Symptoms typically start 5-8 days before your period and as with PMS you may experience headaches, exhaustion, trouble concentrating, an increase or decrease in appetite, bloating, cramps and tender breasts. Don’t worry, they should go away once your period begins.

S

Spotting – A very light vaginal bleeding that occurs mid-cycle; between your usual periods. There are lots of different reasons for spotting (pelvic inflammatory disease, ovulation etc) and though it’s usually nothing to worry about, it’s always best to speak to your GP.

 

Smell – Your period is made up of a mixture of an unfertilized egg, blood, and tissues so it’s totally normal for there to be a slight smell. There are a-lot of factors that can influence the smell such as the vagina’s pH and bacteria. You may experience a metallic smell (due to the iron in your blood) a sweet smell or even one similar to body odor due to the sweat glands around the vagina. If you emit a fishy smell it could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis and you should consult your GP.

T

Tampon – Tampons are also made of absorbent material, but compressed into a small cylindrical shape and inserted into your vagina. Some tampons have applicators, which help guide the tampon into place, whereas others you can insert with your finger (just make sure you’ve washed your hands first!). They are used to absorb menstrual fluid/blood. Tampons may take a bit of practice to get right, but when they’re inserted correctly you shouldn’t be able to feel them at all (like, AT ALL). But remember, never leave a tampon in longer than 6-8 hours!

 

Tracker – A period tracker is a great way to keep an eye on your cycle. They can help you to understand your PMS symptoms, flow and fertility whilst tracking any irregularities in your cycle.

U

Uterus – The muscular organ in females where babies grow. Contains the uterus lining which is shed once a month if an egg is left unfertilised – hello period!

V

Vagina – The vagina is a 3- 6 inch muscular canal that runs from the cervix to the vulva allowing for birth, intercourse and menstruation. It’s important to note that not everyone with a vagina is a woman, there are many people who have a vagina who identify as a man or nonbinary.

 

Vulva – The vulva is all the outer parts of the female sexual organs that protect your internal sexual organs; urinary opening, vestibule and vagina. It is made up of the mons pubis (the area in front of the pubic bones that becomes covered with hair at puberty), the labia majora (outer lips) and labia minora (inner lips) and the clitoris.

W

Weight gain – Weight gain is caused by hormonal changes and can be the result of water retention, overeating or those sugar cravings! It’s totally normal to gain between 3-5 pounds during your period and typically you’ll lose them again a few days after your period starts.

 

Womb – The womb, commonly known as the uterus is about the same size and shape as an upside down pear and can be found nestled between your rectum and your bladder. The uterus is where a fertilised egg will nestle until a baby is ready for birth.

X

X chromosome – Humans have two sex chromosomes, the X and the Y, which determine sex…and they actually look like the letters of the alphabet! Females have two X chromosomes, while males have an X and a Y. Egg cells contain X chromosomes, while sperm cells contain an X or a Y chromosome.

Y

Yeast infection – A vaginal yeast infection (also called vaginal candidiasis) is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and extreme itchiness of the vagina and the vulva. They’re very common, affecting up to 3 in 4 people in their lifetimes and can be easily treated with a prescription or over the counter (your local boots) medicine.

Z

Zits – Yup, PMS acne is a real thing affecting 50-80% of women. The change in hormones around the time of your cycle can cause your sebaceous glands to secrete more sebum (oil) that can result in clogged pores and breakouts. Hormonal acne will typically set up home on the chin or jawline and can be very painful. It’s important to set a skincare regime and cleanse daily to remove any dirt or sebum from the surface of the skin.

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