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What's Going On Down There? Answers to Your Period Questions

There might be no such thing as a dumb question, but there are definitely embarrassing ones. We asked your most blush-worthy period questions, so you can get the answer from the safety of behind your computer screen.

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Get Over Your Period Problems

Pop quiz time: What do you really know about your period? Turns out it may not be all that much. Here, Dr. Lauren Streicher, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University's medical school, debunks the most common myths and questions about that time of the month. Because who can really remember all the way back to that uncomfortable PE class?

Q. I have very heavy periods. Could the blood loss from my period actually cause fainting?

A. Fainting is rare, but those who have especially heavy flows should talk to their gynecologist to make sure they are not anemic, a blood disorder where you don't have enough hemoglobin to carry oxygen from your lungs through your body. During a normal period, you should be able to wear a tampon for three to four hours comfortably and not experience any blood clots. If you think your flow is too heavy and often feel fatigued, talk to you doc to rule out anemia.

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Lost and Found

Q. Can your tampon really get lost?

A. Not lost, but it can become difficult to retrieve if it turns sideways or is at the very back of the vagina. If this happens, the most important thing is not to panic. Retrieve it by lying on your back and elevating your hips with a pillow. Insert two fingers into your vagina, creating a hook to bring the tampon forward. If you forgot you put a tampon in to begin with and insert another one or have sex, you'll notice an unpleasant odor and discharge. It's not an infection -- your tampon has just been pushed back. If you're still having trouble finding it, take a trip to your gynecologist. This kind of visit happens more often than you think!

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Safe Sex

Q. What are my chances of getting pregnant if I have sex on my period?

A. Your pregnancy risk is lower if it really is your period. Some women have light bleeding when they ovulate and think they are safe, when it is in fact their most fertile time. Make sure you know your cycle, and what is normal for you. If you're regular every 28 days like clockwork then you know it's your period and you're fine.

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Mood Swing Makeover

Q. Is PMS real, or just an excuse to be bitchy?

A. It is real, but if someone is moody all month long as opposed to just before a period, PMS is not the culprit. PMS happens when you start ovulating and you experience things like weight gain, breast sensitivity, and mood changes. Those symptoms are brief, and disappear once you start your period. It's impossible to PMS all month long, so ditch that excuse when picking a fight with your boyfriend.

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Pill Protection

Q. Does using birth control to skip a period have any consequences?

A. Not usually. If your doctor gives you the green light to take birth control, is typically safe to use them to bypass a period. By doing so, you skip all the negatives that come with your monthly cycle, which includes possible headaches, cramps and bloating. You may notice slight spotting as your body adjusts to a new cycle, but this will decrease over time.

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False Alarms

Q. Is it possible to be pregnant and still have a period?

A. No. Many women have light bleeding in the early stages of pregnancy, which they interpret as a period, but it's not. Here's a good rule of thumb for knowing the difference: The irregular spotting you have when pregnant is typically dark brown or very light, and not heavy enough to use a pad or tampon.

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Iron Woman

Q. Should I change my eating habits while I'm on my period?

A. Eating different the three to five days you're on your period will make no difference. The only change you should make is increasing your iron intake. Iron makes red blood cells, and if someone runs out of iron or has low iron levels their body can't keep up to manufacture a normal amount of red blood cells and could become anemic. For most women, normal menstrual blood loss does not result in anemia. If you have heavy periods, or are a vegetarian that lacks a lot of iron in your diet, the chances of being anemic increase. To boost your iron levels, stock up on red meat, eggs, and leafy greens.

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, March 2012.

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