Periods

Period Glossary

Products

Tampons are a menstrual hygiene product that is inserted into the vagina during menstruation. Its purpose is to prevent menstrual fluid from leaking onto clothes. There are organic and non-organic tampons. Tampons come in different absorbances such as light, regular, super and super plus.  

Non-organic tampons are made from non-organic cotton and synthetic fibers. They can include ingredients such as chlorine, bleach, pesticides and by-products such as dioxin. They can be inserted with or without an applicator and absorb your menstrual fluid for 3-6 hours.  It’s important to change your tampon frequently as the bacteria can cause TSS.

Organic tampons are made with only 1 ingredient- 100% organic cotton. Organic tampons are similar to other tampons on the market aside from their ingredients.  They can be inserted with or without an applicator and absorb your menstrual fluid for 3-6 hours. It’s important to change your tampon frequently as the bacteria can cause TSS.   

Bio-plastic tampons applicators are made with 90% sugar cane and 10% plastic these tampon applicators are similar to normal plastic applicators but better for the environment.

Cardboard tampon applicators are similar to a plastic applicator in shape and size, but made of cardboard and are 100% biodegradable, making them the environmentally friendly applicator option.

Plastic Tampon Applicators are similar to cardboard applicators in shape and size, however they slide in easier because of the plastic material.

Pad also referred to as sanitary napkin, sanitary towel, sanitary pad, and menstrual pad is an absorbent item worn outside the body to absorb your period. The pad has an adhesive side that is attached to the underwear. Pads come in different absorbances and can have wings or no wings.

Reusable pads are made from cloth. They are similar to normal menstrual pads, however since they are made from cloth they are washable and reusable.

Menstrual cup is a silicone product that is inserted into the vagina when we’re menstruating. Its purpose is to collect menstrual fluid while inside the vagina and keeps it from leaking onto clothes. Unlike tampons and pads, a menstrual cup collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it.  It can be worn for up to 12 hours and should be sanitized between wears. One menstrual cup can last up to 5 years.

Menstrual disc is a reusable period product sits in the vaginal fornix, which is at the base of your cervix. It is at the widest part of your vaginal canal. The menstrual disc collects your period rather than absorbing it. Also, menstrual discs don’t block the vaginal canal, as they sit further into your body so it is possible to have sex while wearing it.

Period underwear are a product worn outside the body, like regular underwear to collect and absorb your period. The underwear includes an absorbent layer to prevent leaks from a pad or tampon. They are washable and reusable. Some brands even offer period underwear that can hold up to 2 tampons worth of menstrual blood.

Free-bleeding is a movement in which menstruators avoid the use of pads, tampons or other products that are usually used when menstruating.  Free bleeders openly bleed into their garments to raise awareness of the reality of the stigmatization of menstruation and to stand in solidarity with those who may not be able to afford menstrual hygiene products.

Bra is an article of clothing usually worn under a shirt to support your breasts and allow for equal weight distribution to reduce discomfort. Bras aren’t mandatory and it’s your choice to wear one or not.

Anatomy

Girls

Cervix: is the opening into the uterus.

Uterus also known as the womb, is a hollow, pear-shaped muscular organ. It is normally where the fertilized egg is implanted, and where the fetus develops. During pregnancy the uterus expands to about 500 times its prepregnancy size.

Vagina is the muscular tube leading from the external genitals to the cervix of the uterus in females.

Vulva: When people refer to the "vagina," what they usually mean is the vulva, which includes all the external parts, including the inner and outer lips.

Labia Majora/Outer Lips: These are the first things you see, and hair grows on them naturally. The labia majora's job is to protect the more sensitive parts inside.

Labia Minora/Inner Lips: The labia minora provide the second layer of protection for the underlying structures and openings, and they also have oil glands that secrete lubrication to keep you comfortable. Just know that the lips might not be symmetric, they might extend beyond the labia majora, and the edges might not be totally smooth. The labia minora is like our fingertips, unique for everyone.

Clitoris and Clitoral Hood: The clitoris, which is the little nub you see at the top of your external area when you spread the labia, contains 8,000 nerve endings. The hood, a flap of skin that slides back and forth, functions to protect the clitoris and prevent irritation and arousal when you don't want it. When you are aroused, however, the hood slips back to expose the clitoris.

Urethra: This small opening, which is where urine comes out, is right below the clitoris. It's hard to see and you can't really feel anything there.

Vestibule: Right below the urethra lies the opening to the vagina. Basically, the vestibule is the lobby leading to the vagina, which is inside your body. We should also say here that there are many color variations in the whole external vulva area, depending on your skin tone and whether or not you're sexually excited.

Fallopian Tubes and Ovaries: Every month your ovaries shoot out an egg and send it floating happily down the uterus where it will hang around in hopes of meeting up with some sperm to make a baby.

Internal Clitoris (crura): You have a wishbone-shaped structure extending from your clitoris on the outside of your body—the top of the wishbone—to the area under your labia majora deep inside. It's tissue that engorges during sexual arousal and that is excitable. So there's literally much more to female sexual excitement than meets the eye.

G-spot or Grafenborg spot is an area about two knuckles length deep on the top of the vagina. For some women, it can produce sexual pleasure when stimulated.

Ovaries are the organ in a girl’s body that produces, stores and once a month, releases eggs and produces hormones like progesterone, estrogen and testosterone.  Girls are born with two ovaries.

Anus is the opening from the rectum where poo leaves the body.

Boobs/Breasts two glands/protruding organs on a female’s chest that can produce milk after pregnancy

Endometrium is the lining of the uterus that grows and sheds during the menstrual cycle.  This is also where an egg is implanted to begin a pregnancy, if fertlized.

Everyone

Pubic hair the hair that grows around the penis or vagina.

Genitals are the external and reproductive organs of both males and females including the vagina, labia, clitoris (female), penis and scrotum (male).

Nipples are the tips of breasts that are sensitive to touch. Both men and women have nipples, however for women, nipples are where milk comes out of when breastfeeding.

Boys

Penis a males reproductive and sex organ that is made of spongy tissue that fills with blood during sexual excitement. Urine and semen pass through the penis in a tube called the urethra.

Sperm are the male reproductive cells that our find in semen.

Semen is the white, sticky fluid that is released during ejaculation.

Ejaculate is the fluid containing sperm that is released from the tip of the penis during ejaculation.

Foreskin is the retractable area of skin that covers the head of the penis.  If a male is circumcised, this is the skin that is removed.

Testicles (balls) are the gland in which sperm and the hormone testosterone are produced.

Testosterone is the hormone made by the testes that is responsible for changes to boy’s bodies like facial hair. Testosterone is also produced the in ovaries for girls, but in much smaller amounts.

Scrotum is the loose bag of skin beneath the penis that hold the testes and regulate their temperature.

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin from the head of the penis.  

Your cycle

Menarche: the term for the first menstrual cycle that a female has.

Menses: the blood and other bodily fluids that are discharged through the uterus during your period.

Menopause: the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycle. It's diagnosed after you've gone 12 months without a menstrual period. It usually occurs in your 40s or 50s, however the average age is 51. Some common, normal signs include irregular periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances, and mood swings.

Menstrual cycle: A recurring cycle that includes the process of ovulation and menstruation in females. If the egg released by one of the ovaries at ovulation (which occurs about midway through the cycle) is fertilized as it travels from the fallopian tube to the uterus, pregnancy occurs. If the egg is not fertilized, menstruation occurs: the blood-rich endometrium is shed, and the next month's cycle begins again. The first day of menstrual blood flow is considered day 1 of the menstrual cycle.

Premenstrual Syndrome most commonly referred to as PMS is a combination of physical and emotional symptoms that occur a few days before a woman’s period starts. Symptoms include bloating, acne, breast tenderness, fatigue, anxiety, food cravings.

The menstrual phase - Days 1-5  This is when your period is actually flowing and ang the blood and bodily fluids are being shed.

The Follicular Phase - Days 5-14 Your estrogen levels rise, your body starts preparing your uterus for a baby, you’re at your most fertile.

Ovulation Days 15 is the second phase of the menstrual cycle. During ovulation a mature egg is released from one of the two ovaries.If the egg is fertilized, pregnancy occurs. If the egg is not fertilized, menstruation occurs.

The Luteal Phase: Days 16-28 Your hormone levels rise and drop, this is when you’re most likely to experience PMS.

Your Period

Menstrual blood colour can vary depending on the day of your period. A consistently bright red flow is a signal of a “normal” period. Menstrual blood may become dark brown or almost black as you near the end of your period. This is a normal colour change. It happens when the blood is older and not being expelled from the body quickly.

Menstrual Spotting is the presence of menstrual blood that occurs outside of a woman’s period. It can occur around ovulation, which occurs at about the 14th day after the first day of menstrual bleeding. However, it can also be a sign of other conditions, so it’s always important to consult a doctor.

Period also known as menstruation, is the regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina. There are over 5,000 euphemisms for period. Common euphemisms include: time of the month, code red, Aunt Flo.

Period Bloating: when your abdomen feels heavy and swollen around the time of your period.

Period cramps also known as dysmenorrhea or period pains, can range from dull and annoying to severe and extreme. The pain occurs in the lower abdomen and lower back. It usually begins 1 to 2 days before menstruation and lasts from 2 to 4 days.

Menorrhagia are menstrual periods that are abnormally heavy in flow, or that are prolonged and last much longer than usual.

Health

Dysmenorrhea: also known as painful periods, or painful period cramps. The pain usually occurs in the pelvis or lower abdomen.

Endometriosis: is a condition whereby endometrial tissue that should normally grow inside the uterus instead abnormally grows outside the uterus, in the abdominal cavity and often on other reproductive organs such as on the ovaries, and fallopian tubes.

Obstetrician / Gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in the medical care of women with specialized training and skill in pregnancy, childbirth, and other matters related to the female reproductive system.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a set of symptoms due to elevated androgens (male hormones) in females. Signs and symptoms of PCOS include irregular or no menstrual periods, heavy periods, excess body and facial hair, acne, pelvic pain, difficulty getting pregnant, and patches of thick, darker, velvety skin.

Uterine Fibroids are relatively common non-cancerous growths (benign tumors) within the walls of the uterus.

Hormones are the chemicals in our bodies that affect our growth, development and reproduction like estrogen and testosterone.  

Estrogen is a hormone produced by the ovaries. One of its main functions are regulating the menstrual cycle.

Progesterone is the hormone responsible for pregnancy.

Pap test is a medical exam done by a healthcare provider that examines cells from our cervix to determine is their are any irregularities that may indicate pre-cancerous conditions.  During a pap test, a gynecologist scrapes the cervix with an instrument to remove some cells for testing. Pap tests are recommended for women after they turn 21, every 3 years.  

Vaginal Discharge is the small amount of fluid that is released daily from the vagina.  The purpose is to clean the vagina, however the consistency and amount fluctuates throughout the month.  Close to ovulation, discharge is usually thin and stringy. Other days, it might be cloudy or yellowish. A change in discharge can indicate an infection including foul smell, or greyish, greenish colour.  

Urinary Tract infection (UTI) is an infection caused by bacteria entering our urethra, bladder and kidneys.  Symptoms include frequent urination and a burning sensation during urination. It can usually be cured by antibiotics.  

Yeast Infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina.  Symptoms include itching, skin irritation, redness, change in discharge, and burning during urination.

Bacterial Vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in women.  It occurs when there is an imbalance in the bacteria normally found in the vagina. Symptoms include discharge, odor, pain or burning.

Ovarian cysts are fluid filled sacs found within an ovary.  Although they can be harmless, it’s important to get regular pelvic exams to ensure they don’t burst or need treatment.

Other

Menstrual Hygiene Day: Celebrated on May 28th this day was created in 2014 to raise awareness of the challenges women and girls worldwide face due to their menstruation and highlights solutions that address these challenges, including through media work.

Menstrual equity was a term started by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, an independent menstrual advocate and lawyer. It describes the ability to manage menstruation in a way that is affordable and accessible to everyone who needs them with the belief that we are held back if we are no given access to these necessary products.  

Tampon tax is the term used to bring attention to the fact that tampons—and other menstrual hygiene products are subject to value-added tax, at odds with the tax exemption status granted to other products considered basic necessities.

Puberty is the process of developing from a child to an adolescent or a young adult which involves a range of physical and emotional changes including for girls, getting periods and for boys, a change in voice and facial hair.

Acne includes bumps caused by bacteria and oil, usually during puberty.  Acne is most common on your face, however it can also appear on our neck and back.  

Fertile is the ability to have children. Throughout your cycle, you are most fertile during ovulation.