Understanding Your Uterus: What The Phases Of Your Period Mean : Short Wave Every month, 1.8 billion people menstruate globally. For those people, managing periods is essential for strong reproductive and emotional health, social wellbeing and bodily autonomy. But a lot of people haven't been educated about periods or the menstrual cycle since they were kids — if at all.

This episode, a period manual in four parts: How periods work, the different stages of the menstrual cycle, how to know when something's wrong, and whether to have a period in the first place.

The Period Talk (For Adults)

The Period Talk (For Adults)

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The menstrual cycle is a multi-stage process lasting an average of 28 days. The menses phase of the cycle, when the uterine lining is shed and vaginal bleeding occurs, typically lasts about 3 to 5 days. Getty Images/Westend61 hide caption

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Getty Images/Westend61

The menstrual cycle is a multi-stage process lasting an average of 28 days. The menses phase of the cycle, when the uterine lining is shed and vaginal bleeding occurs, typically lasts about 3 to 5 days.

Getty Images/Westend61

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When and how people receive puberty education varies greatly. Some are taught according to thorough curricula; others spend hours searching for answers to their questions online.

Short Wave co-host Emily Kwong is in the first category. When 10-year-old Emily first learned about periods, she asked her mom for diagrams and procedures — because information is comforting. On the other hand, when 10-year old Short Wave producer Margaret Cirino first learned about periods, she was confused and a little scared.

Fast forward a decade or so ... and there is a lot that adult Emily and adult Marge still don't know about their periods!

That's why today Emily and Marge team up to provide a new and improved period talk. They chat with Kristyn Brandi, an OB/GYN and family planning doctor, and Mandi Tembo, a menstrual health PhD candidate, about everything they wish they knew about their periods. Consider this episode a period manual, complete with an overview of the menstrual cycle, the science of how periods work, how to know when something is abnormal — and whether to have a period in the first place.

Check out our episode on period tracking apps and data privacy here.

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This episode was reported and produced by Margaret Cirino. It was edited by Gisele Grayson and Rebecca Ramirez. Brit Hanson checked the facts. The audio engineer was Alex Drewenskus.