Signs of PMS and pregnancy risk
Hollie replies:I have a question about menstrual symptoms. My 13 year old cousin just had her first period and since I am really the only other girl that can give her advice on her period (we're the only girls in a large family made up of boys), I just wanted to know what are the signs when you're about to start your period. I told her from my experience, I'm 17, that my breasts get tender and I have cramps, but are there any other signs that I can tell her. I want to help her out because I had to learn about them on my own and I'm still learning, so this question really helps both of us out. Also, I'm sexually active and my boyfriend and I are really careful because we both don't want to get pregnant. Is there a certain time of the month that the chances of me conceiving are lowered? I mean, I read the article about discharge and how thick or thin it is tells me what phase I'm in. I tend to worry, even though I know the condom didn't break and no sperm were anywhere near my vagina. So really, how can I keep myself from stressing out about when my next period will start. Right now, I'm a day late but I know it's due to stress. I just started college and I'm now worried about things like tuition, my studies and the fact that my boyfriend and I are going to different schools. I trust him completely but a part of me can't help but wonder. How can I keep my stress levels down as well. I know of one way and that's when I'm with my boyfriend, but I'd like another way to reducing it. Thank you, I know this got a bit long.
First off, kudos to you for being such a great cousin! Signs of when a woman is about to start her period vary greatly from woman to woman. Some women have tender breasts and cramps as you described, others have headaches or nausea, while others really have no pain or discomfort to go by. The best thing you can tell her is to pay attention to her body and in time, she'll get to know her own signs. As her cycles regulate, it'll be extremely helpful for her to chart the days she gets her period, how heavy/light her flow is, and any signs/symptoms (eg, cramps, tender breasts) she has. It's a very good habit to get into, and it'll be easier for her in the long run if she starts now. This has many benefits, including allowing her to get to know her body faster, and should there ever be any question about her reproductive health, she'll have something in writing (because who ever remembers what kind of period you had three months ago?!).
As you're probably aware, condoms and lubrication are extremely effective (when used properly) in protecting against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. You're not alone in wanting added protection though; many couples choose to have a backup method as well. Unless you have regular cycles AND are charting your cycles religiously (taking your temperature every morning and checking your cervical mucous), it is impossible to say for sure when you're ovulating, and thus, when you're least likely to conceive. Charting is not hard, by any means, and there are even some websites online (such as www.fertilityfriend.com) that will help you to interpret your charts. It takes a while to get the hang of it though, and it's not recommended as the primary method of contraception for many couples. There are other methods of birth control you can discuss with your partner and your doctor, such as various hormonal methods, or the diaphragm.
Basically, if you're uncomfortable using condoms as your sole method of birth control, don't. There are many many options out there, and there is no reason to be taking risks we are not 100% comfortable with. Do try to keep it real though; condoms have only a 2% failure rate for perfect use (used for ALL genital contact, with lubrication, and no rips or tears, etc) and 15% failure rate for typical use. In the case of condom failure (or failure to use the condom properly - d'oh!), we have emergency contraception, which has been found to be about 80% effective when taken within 72 hours (and CAN be taken up to 120 hours after risk).
Reducing stress is so super important, I really wonder why they don't teach more of it in school! Stress reducers differ depending on who you talk to. For most people, proper diet (lots of water, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc), sleep routine (8 hours+ per night), and exercise (30 minutes, 3-4 times per week) are key. Having a life outside of work or school are important too. Allow for bad days and adjust your timetable accordingly. Putting off studying for that test and having a bubble bath and going to bed early instead is okay if it means having a clearer head in the morning. You really learn what works for you as time goes on, and unfortuneatly, it's a lot of trial and error.
I've got lots and lots (and lots) of handy articles here for you too. Many of them you'll want to share with your cousin.
- 10 of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Sexual Self (at Any Age)
- Not Everything You Wanted To Know About Puberty (But Pretty Darn Close)
- On the Rag: A Guide to Menstruation
- Get With the Flow: All About FAM
- Honorably Discharged: A Guide to Vaginal Secretions
- Birth Control Bingo!
- Emergency Contraception
- What's the Risk? Easy Pregnancy Risk Assessments