One expert explains all
From what the colour of your period blood says about your health (a lot, BTW) to how having period sex can ease the symptoms of cramping, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to our period health.
But what about how your period affects your vagina?
As it turns out, our vaginas go through a hell of a lot of changes during our time of the month. We spoke to Anna Druet, researcher and Science and Education lead at the female health app Clue to get the low down.
Changes to your vaginal pH
Did you know that throughout most of your cycle, your vaginal pH levels are slightly acidic? However, these levels decrease during menstruation.
‘This change in pH affects the balance of healthy vaginal bacteria in a way that may make you more prone to conditions like bacterial vaginosis and thrush (especially if your period tends to last longer than average),’ Anna explains.
Anna also warns that this means you could be more at risk of catching an STI.
‘This in combination with other factors may also mean you’re more likely to contract an STI after unprotected sex during menstruation,’ she says. So, make sure you’re extra careful!
The position of your cervix changes during your period
Yep, you read that correctly.
‘On most days, including on the days of menstruation, your cervix is likely to be positioned relatively low in your abdomen,’ explains Anna.
‘As you near ovulation, the cervix tends to rise in the abdomen. Because of these changes, some people may find deeper-entry sex positions less comfortable outside their fertile window, when the cervix is more likely to be bumped.’
‘Keep in mind that vaginal shape also changes in relation to arousal – the vagina typically becomes longer and wider when you’re turned on,’ Anna says.
Why is it easier to get pregnant after ovulation?
‘A period releases the tissue that grew to support a possible pregnancy,’ explains Anna. ‘It happens after each menstrual cycle in which a pregnancy doesn’t occur – ie. when an egg hasn’t been fertilised and/or attached itself to the uterine wall. The uterus then sheds the lining which had grown to receive a fertilised egg.’
How your cervical fluid changes during your period
‘It’s important to remember that your period is just one part of a large cycle’ Anna reminds us. ‘A key way that the vagina changes throughout the cycle, is the amount of cervical fluid that is produced.’
The quality, consistency and volume of the fluid that your cervical glands produces changes as your cycle does. Although the patterns of these changes will be different for everyone, the change in cervical fluid does tend to stick to one consistent cyclical pattern due to the change in your hormones.
Anna breaks down how your cervical fluid changes depending on the stage of your cycle.
Changes during the start of your menstruation cycle
‘On day one of the cycle, both oestrogen and progesterone are low, so the cervix is not likely producing much fluid,’ says Anna. Don’t worry though, you won’t be able to tell this as the fluid is mixed in with your period blood.
Changes during early-to-mid menstruation
During this stage, your oestrogen levels start to rise. ‘This rising oestrogen leads to increased production of fluid. Though you probably won’t notice much of it in the days after your period – known as ‘dry’ fluid days for many people.’ Anna explains.
Changes during mid-to-late menstruation
During this stage ‘oestrogen and water content rises and fluid tends to become ‘creamy’ cloudy (not clear) and whitish or yellowish,’ says Anna. ‘Research has shown sperm can start to swim through cervical fluid on about day 9 of a 28-day cycle.’
Changes during the late stage of your menstruation cycle
More fluid is produced during the late stage of your cycle. ‘Fluid becomes stretchier, clearer and more wet and slippery,’ Anna explains.
‘This fluid tends to “peak” about 1-2 days before ovulation, when oestrogen is at its highest,’ says Anna. ‘If you’re having sex and using lube, you may notice you need less around this time.’
Changes after ovulation
‘As soon as ovulation is over, the fluid changes. Even before you notice a visual change’ says Anna.
‘Fluid will already have become more fibrous and less penetrable for sperm. In the day or two after ovulation, cervical fluid lessens and becomes much thicker,’ explains Anna.
Of course, it’s worth remembering that every body is different and changes may show up differently for you.