Three Surprising Questions About Periods

Lots of our bodily functions seem gross, and
that makes them hard to talk about. Especially periods. They combine bodily fluids and sex, two topics
that make some people a little squeamish. But they’re a totally normal part of life
and are experienced by about half the population. Understanding our bodies means not being afraid
to ask questions, so seeing as this week is Valentine’s Day, what better way to celebrate
than by answering three surprising questions about periods, in honor of the tens of millions
of women who’ll have theirs that day. And men, there’s even stuff in here for
you, too! I’m so romantic I’m Anna Rothschild and this is… NOT SO Gross Science. Ok, let’s get started. Question 1. What’s actually in period blood? Well, it’s made up of cells from the lining
of the uterus, immune cells, vaginal secretions, and of course, blood. And one small study in which doctors collected
participants blood from their used tampons found that it contains 385 unique proteins
that aren’t found in either vaginal secretions or in the blood circulating in your body. The cool thing is that if we can figure out
what’s in average menstrual blood, one day doctors could possibly use it to diagnose
different diseases, or figure out why a woman might have trouble getting pregnant. It turns out that by studying periods, we
could even learn how to keep other parts of our body healthy.The uterus has to withstand
inflammation really well, and despite all the shedding and rebuilding of the lining,
it doesn’t get scarred, even after many cycles. So as scientists figure out how the uterus
stays so resilient they could maybe figure out how to heal other parts of our bodies,
too. Ok, let’s move on to Question 2, which is
about going number 2! Why do I always have to poop so much when
I have my period? Lots of women experience this phenomenon and
for that you can probably thank two chemical signals: prostaglandins and progesterone. Prostaglandins signal the uterus to contract,
to push out the uterine lining. But it’s likely that some nonconformist
prostaglandins head over to the bowels and make them contract too, with some stinky results. Also, progesterone, which is a hormone that
helps you maintain a pregnancy, is slightly constipating. But levels of it drop during your period,
so it lets things loosen up down there. Finally, Question 3. Are humans the only animals that menstruate? The answer is no, but there aren’t many
others. As far as we know, menstruation only happens
in some primates, some bats, and weirdly, elephant shrews. That said, some animals, like dogs, may bleed
at other times, like when they’re about to reach peak fertility. Now, from what we understand, primates, bats
and elephant shrews all evolved to have periods independently. So what do they have in common? Well, they all build up their endometrial
lining before they get pregnant. And this is different from most other mammals,
which build up the lining only after they get pregnant. So, why did we evolve that way? Well, one idea is that humans have super invasive
embryos, which burrow far down into the uterus to interact with the mom’s blood vessels. The embryos of many other animals really only
graze the surface. So, it’s possible that building up the lining
before getting pregnant actually evolved as a way to protect the mother’s uterus, kinda
providing a cushion for the embryo to burrow into. In other words, it may have kept the embryo
from damaging the uterus, which could have prevented the mother from ever getting pregnant
again in the future. Of course, that cushion also provides a comfy
environment for the hungry embryo to grow in. On top of that, the lining might also help
recognize fetuses with problems, and signal the body to abort early on if it detects abnormalities. If there’s something wrong with the embryo,
or the woman doesn’t get pregnant at all, she’ll shed the lining and start the process
over. Alright, those were my three questions. But before I go, I wanted to fill you guys
in on a conversation I had while I was researching this story. I spoke to Dr. Kathryn Clancy, an anthropologist
who studies female reproduction. She told me that some basic studies on healthy,
menstruating women still haven’t been done—likely ‘cause there weren’t enough scientists
around asking questions about it. As she said, “This is one of those reasons
that diversity in science is very important.” It seems like that’s starting to change
now, but we need to keep up the conversation, and encourage more research on the subject. ‘Cause knowing more about periods could
be helpful for all of us.

38 Replies to “Three Surprising Questions About Periods”

  1. My gynecologist explained me years ago at my first appointment that our uterus decorates a baby room every month and when we don't get pregnant, it angrily tears everything down.

  2. My girlfriend didn't let me do her from behind during her periods. @2:18 now i understand why.

  3. I told my friend once how when I’m on my period and I hate going poop cause it hurts, she looks me and asks “it’s hurts?” And I thought it hurt for everyone. But nope. I guess her just feels like a normal poop? Any advice to stop it from hurting tho?

  4. Yo, T-guy passing through here! I'm really glad I've started period blockers now lol. No results yet, but hopefully they'll either drastically lighten or completely stop my periods. Any other transguys here?

  5. It is very scary every time I'm on the toilet is cry it is scary 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭

  6. they are actually not experienced by half the population. There are girls (like <14 years old) that haven't experienced them and older women (like >0 years old) that will never experience them again. 😉

  7. I was the first in my friend group to get mine, the question I got after telling people was ALWAYS “does it hurt” 😂

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