My patient Olivia had terrible cramps that started when she was about sixteen. When even prescription-strength ibuprofen didn’t work, I suggested the other standard prescription for severe periods—oral hormones (aka birth control pills).
Olivia and her mother both looked a little nervous when I mentioned the pill. Even though it’s perfectly safe and often used for period pain they just weren’t comfortable with it. Olivia’s mother felt she was too young to be on the pill and Olivia herself wasn’t...
Slang: Time of the month, the crimson tide, on the rag, riding the cotton pony, Aunt Flo (as in "My Aunt Flo is visiting.")
Most common: Your period
Basics: The menstrual cycle is a month-long series of events that prepares your body for pregnancy. If there's no fertilized egg growing in your uterus (womb), it sheds the inner lining. You lose blood for five to seven days.
Periods usually start around age 11 or 12. For most girls and women, they cause only a few days of hassle, maybe mild cramping.
Your choices for absorbing flow have colorful nicknames, too.
Basics: Pads can be made of cotton or other absorbent materials. Sticky tape on one side holds them in your panties to soak up menstrual blood. They can be thin or very thick. "Wings" on the sides help stop the pad from bunching.
Slang: Cork, plug, wick, pen (as in ''My Aunt Flo needs a pen.'')
Basics: Tampons are plugs of cotton or other materials that you slide into your vagina with a cardboard or plastic tube to guide it into place. Once inside, your vagina hugs it so it stays put. You shouldn’t be able to feel it. Sizes range from light to super-absorbent.
Tampons have a string, or wick, that you gently pull to remove them. You should change a tampon every four to six hours to prevent leakage and infection.
PMS and Ovulation
Formal: Premenstrual Syndrome
Slang: Part Monster Syndrome, Pass My Sweatpants, Perpetual Munching Spree
Most common: PMS
Basics: PMS refers to unusual feelings you may have for one to two weeks before your period starts. Your hormones shift during this time. This may cause mood swings, bloating, tender breasts, headaches, or symptoms of depression. Some women have a lot of symptoms, and others don't have much trouble at all.
Basics: Your ovary releases a mature egg about two weeks after your period starts. PMS symptoms can start around this time. It's also the most fertile time of the month -- when you're most likely to get pregnant.
The egg travels through the fallopian tube and toward the uterus. If the egg unites with a man's sperm, it can be fertilized, attach to the uterus, and grow into a baby. When the egg is not fertilized, it passes out through the vagina during your period.