If you're an average woman, you'll have your period 500 times in your life.  That's 500 cycles of ovum (egg) development, uterine lining buildup and, if you don't get pregnant, breakdown.  That's what we call a menstrual cycle.  Most girls start menstruating around age 12 and quit (menopause) around 52.  There's lots of variation though.  Your period may come like clockwork every 28 days but a range of 21-45 days is normal. Read on for 5 things you may not know about your period.

1. You don't bleed as much as you think you do. Most periods only last 3-5 days and The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) says you lose only 4-12 teaspoons of menstrual fluid. Using more than 10 pads or tampons per day or soaking through them every hour, may mean trouble. 

2. Premenstrual symptoms and Premenstrual Syndrome are different. Approximately 85 percent of women experience some symptoms before their period including breast tenderness, headache, bloating, mood swings and fatigue.  It's a normal part of your period resulting from hormonal changes. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is different. 

ACOG says, "Women with PMS experience a pattern of symptoms month after month . . . [that] interferes with some aspect of their family, social, or work lives."  These symptoms can be physical and/or emotional, mild or severe. See your doctor if PMS is affecting your period.  Oral contraceptives, diuretics, antidepressants, diet and exercise modifications can effectively treat PMS.

3. Yes, you can get pregnant during your period. It's not common but some women get pregnant when they have sex during their period.  Irregular bleeding or spotting may be mistaken for a period. Ovulation usually occurs 7-14 days your period starts but normal hormonal fluctuations can cause ovulation to occur earlier or later than usual.  Sperm lives inside women's bodies for several days.  All that adds up to quite a few unexpected pregnancies.

4. Yes, you can be pregnant and still have your period. Bleeding during pregnancy isn't the same as having your period but isn't uncommon.  The American Pregnancy Association says, "Vaginal bleeding can occur frequently in the first trimester...and may not be a sign of problems. Bleeding . . . in the second and third trimester . . . can be a sign of possible complications." Studies show 20-30% of women experience some bleeding in early pregnancy. Approximately half who bleed don't have miscarriages. 

If you have other pregnancy symptoms like nausea, fatigue or a subsequent missed period, consider a pregnancy test.

5. You don't have to have your period every month. New contraceptives make it possible to have your period only four times a year and still be healthy. Continuous or extended cycle birth control pills work like traditional birth control pills, taken for 21 days followed by 7 days off for your period.  With extended cycle pills, you keep taking hormones without a break.  Therefore, you don't get your period.

Every woman is different. Ask your health care provider about what's normal for your period.