Dr. Lisa Masterson, an ob-gyn at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, has the answers to all of your questions about your period.
"Cravings are caused by hormones, hormones, hormones," Dr. Masterson says. "Women are hormonal beings. As the cycle goes up, the hormones go up and then they go down. These actually will make your taste buds want salty foods to head off anemia so that your iron goes up and your blood volume goes up."
With the changes in their metabolism, women may feel cravings for carbohydrates, sushi, chocolate or any number of other foods.
While some women have cravings for chocolate or sushi, others just gotta have it!
Like the desire for chocolate, an increased sexual libido during a period has to do with hormones. "They cause the vaginal secretions to increase," Dr. Masterson explains, "causing the breasts to swell, so there's that sexual feeling. It's nature's way of saying, 'Let's do it.'"
Have a heavy flow? Your body may be trying to tell you something.
"Your period is your barometer," Dr. Masterson says. "A heavy flow can be a marker of uterine fibroids, which are benign growths on the uterus, or thyroid problems or hormone irregularities. It's really important if your periods are heavy [meaning more than a pad an hour], if you're flooding [meaning bright red blood that just doesn't stop], if you have large clots, call your ob-gyn."
It's not unusual for women to see clots in their menstruation, but what if those clots are extremely large?
Mentrual clots point to the existence of fibroids, which are very common, according to Dr. Masterson. "But if you have a lot of them, more than a cup a day or saturating those pads, again, over an hour, or you're starting to have symptoms of anemia or low iron like headache and dizziness, that's when you need to get a workup by your doctor."
These extreme symptoms could point to uterine cancer, menopause or thyroid irregularities. If you have these extreme symptoms, Dr. Masterson says, "It's very, very important to get that checked out by your gynecologist."
Again, Dr. Masterson has a single word of reasoning: hormones. "All women react differently to hormones," she says. "People don't realize that the hormones in our body control our temperature, women's temperature, around the time they ovulate. It's responsible for the acne around periods that people hate. Breast tenderness. It's responsible for so many things and our metabolism, slowing down the gastrointestinal tract, the stomach, that's why a lot of pregnant women will become constipated or have diarrhea because of those high hormone levels during pregnancy.
"Again it's the same thing with the menstrual cycle. The ebb and the flow of hormones can cause constipation and diarrhea."
Some women get such bad cramps that they can hardly do anything but lay on the couch with a heating pad. Is there any way to decrease cramps when they're so debilitating?
"There are a lot of things to do for cramps," Dr. Masterson says. "As a gynecologist, I get asked this question every day. The warm packs are a great thing. The other things you want to concentrate on are diet and exercise. Very simple but it actually helps with cramps. Now the other thing is Motrin, a great pain reliever for cramps. The trick is to take it a day or two before your period actually starts." Dr. Masterson says taking pain relievers and calcium work to help blood vessels in the uterus.
Other ways to control cramps are with acupuncture and contraceptives, she says. "Birth control pills are excellent at taking away cramps because they decrease how much you bleed. And a lot of women take the contraceptives continually so you don't get a period and therefore you don't get the cramps."
Nearly 10 percent of women who took our Oprah.com health poll said they use a tampon for more than 10 hours.
"No more than 6 to 8 hours, you should not wear a tampon for longer than that," Dr. Masterson warns. "Women are very busy so they'll try to push the limits." However, Dr. Masterson says that a tampon inside can be a medium for bacteria and using one for longer than recommended can lead to uterine infections and toxic shock syndrome.
Could a tampon get lost?
"It cannot get lost, but it can get stuck," Dr. Masterson explains. "Your vagina is a blind pouch. It can get wedged behind the cervix." If a tampon does become stuck, it absolutely needs to be removed."
Think this isn't a common occurrence? "I see this at least once a month," Dr. Masterson says.
While doctors routinely prescribe antibiotics to cure infections, Dr. Masterson says they can actually make you more prone to yeast infections.
"Try to eat yogurt, which is the more natural way, or taking antifungals like Monistat or something like that," Dr. Masterson says. "They're really helpful in decreasing yeast infections while taking antibiotics."