8 awkward questions you were afraid to ask about…. Periods

girl on bed

  1. Why is the blood a brownish colour at the start of a period?

A brownish colour usually indicates that it’s just older blood coming out, but it’s nothing to worry about. Most likely it’s some of the uterus lining left over from your last period, or you might just shed the lining at a slower rate so the blood turns brown before you see it on your tampon.

  1. Why does it sometimes smell a bit fishy downstairs during a period?

The blood itself doesn’t usually smell, but when it mixes with bacteria and sweat you might start to notice an unwelcome aroma. Changing your tampon or sanitary pad frequently to stop blood building up will really help, as will regular showers. But don’t be tempted to use harsh soaps, gently does it when you’re dealing with your delicate lady bits.

  1. Do orgasms really help period pain?

The great news is they do! Monthly cramps are caused by the uterus contracting to shed the endometrial lining. So those involuntary muscle spasms you feel in your body when things reach fever pitch, can help the uterus shed its lining more effectively and relieve the cramping. And if that wasn’t enough your body produces a hormone called oxytocin during sex, which acts like a natural pain reliever. Result!

  1. Are heavy periods something to worry about?

Some women just experience heavier periods which is usual for them, but if things suddenly change and your period gets heavier and stops you doing things, then speak to your GP about it. They will check there is nothing else going on such as fibroids and may be able to offer a change to your regular contraceptive pill to reduce the monthly bleed.

  1. Are large blood clots during a period something to worry about?

It’s not uncommon to experience blobs of blood up to the size of a cherry, particularly during the heavier days of your period. This is just a sign that your uterus lining is shedding particularly quickly. If however you start to get bigger blobs, or you are worried then speak to your GP about it. They will probably want to check for anaemia if you’re losing quite a bit of blood.

  1. Can you get pregnant during a period?

Irregular periods mean that you can experience bleeding at different times in your cycle, including while you’re ovulating, which means you can still get pregnant. What’s more, because sperm can live for up to five days inside the female reproductive tract, the window of conception opportunity gets even bigger. If you’ve had unprotected sex during your period or your usual form of contraception has failed and you don’t want to fall pregnant, you might want to consider using an emergency contraceptive. ellaOne is a morning after pill which contains ulipristal acetate – always read the label.


  1. Why do toilet habits change during a period?

During your period, the body produces hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which is the sign to the uterus to start contracting and shed the lining. These same prostaglandins send a similar message to your bowels, which is why you can feel the need to go urgently and more frequently, sometimes with looser poo. If there are less prostaglandins, then that can cause constipation.

  1. Are there any alternatives to tampons and sanitary pads?

If you want to be more environmentally friendly and save money you can try reusable pads. Just throw them in the washing machine after every wear and they are ready to use again. You can also try a menstrual cup. These are little devices that sit inside your vagina to catch blood. You then remove the cup and rinse it out before replacing it. Alternatively, you can try wearable period pants – knickers which are designed to absorb blood without the need for a separate pad. The pants are then just washed as normal and used again.

Read about your choices here.