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Women's Health

5 Things You Didn't Know About Your Period

Even well-informed women have questions about their menstrual cycle. Here are answers to the most common questions encountered by gynecologists.
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2. Why are my cycles irregular?

Some women don't ovulate regularly and therefore have irregular periods, Frieder says. Stress and illness, for instance, can adversely affect the cycle.

But it's important to know the definition of a "regular" cycle before deciding you are having irregular periods, Frieder says. What some women think is an irregular cycle may not be, he says. A "regular" cycle, Frieder says, means one that is between 25 and 35 days -- counting from the first day of bleeding to the start of your next period.

"Many women consider themselves not normal if they don't get their period on the same day of the month, every month," says Mary S. Dolan, MD, MPH, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta. She tells them not to worry and not to expect it the exact same day of the month.

Sometimes women's memory about when their last period was is not accurate, she says. For that reason, she suggests her patients keep a menstrual calendar or other record, making note each month of when their period starts and stops.

Other reasons for irregular or missed periods (besides pregnancy) include excessive weight gain or loss, eating disorders, strenuous exercise such as that done by endurance athletes, and hormonal problems.

If your period doesn't return to normal the next month, you can check in with your doctor.

3. Is it possible to get pregnant during my period?

Possible, but not likely, experts concur. The key is to determine if the bleeding is really a period, says Dolan. It may just be spotting between periods.  "Some women have bleeding when they are ovulating,'' Dolan says. "And if you interpret that as a period, yes, you can get pregnant."

Or a woman may have intercourse toward the end of her period and, depending on the length of her cycle, ovulate a few days later. "You could technically be at the end of your period, ovulate two or three days later, and the sperm is still there," Dolan says. And you could get pregnant. Not likely, but possible.

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