WASHINGTON-Some 564 people have been into space - 65 of them women. That’s despite the fact that the first woman in space, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, went into orbit as early as 1963.

It took Nasa 20 years to catch up and in 1983 Sally Ride became the third woman, and first American woman to go into space. Before her voyage she was asked by the media if she was taking any makeup on her trip and whether she cried when there were malfunctions in the flight simulator.

On Friday 18 October, Nasa conducted its first ever all-female spacewalk, after plans earlier this year were scrapped because of a lack of medium-sized spacesuits to fit one of the astronauts.

For the last decade, Dr Varsha Jain has been working part-time as a space gynaecologist. She combines her PhD work at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh with research alongside Nasa into women’s health in space.

She’s been speaking to Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Six of Nasa’s first female astronauts in January 1978, Sally Ride is second from the right

Does space affect men and women differently?

VJ: Overall adaptation to the space environment is roughly the same for men and women but there are some differences.

Women are more likely to feel sick when they go into space, men are more likely to get re-entry sickness when they come back to Earth.

Men have more problems with their vision and hearing when they get back from space which women don’t get. When women return they do have problems managing their blood pressure so they feel quite faint.

So there are some subtle differences and we don’t know if that’s to do with hormonal differences or more physiological changes that are occurring. And long-term, understanding those differences will help us understand more about human health on Earth.

Jessica Meir (L) and Christina Koch carried out the first all-female spacewalk on 18 October

What about periods in space?

VJ: When the Americans sent Sally Ride up into space, the questions that Nasa had were about what would happen to women’s periods and how do we account for this.

Female astronauts said at the time, ‘let’s consider it non-problem until it becomes a problem’. But space travel is a bit like a camping trip and the engineers had to plan things like how many sanitary products were needed.

Because it was a very male dominated world, the figures that they thought they needed were 100 or 200 tampons for a week! They shortly came to the conclusion that that many weren’t needed.

Most female astronauts now use the contraceptive pill to stop their periods and it is safe for them to do so because they are healthy women.