Why do periods happen?
Each month during puberty, chemicals inside of you, cause the body to release an egg from one of the two egg sacks, called ovaries. This is where all of your eggs are stored. The egg then travels to the womb. Only if the egg meets sperm released from a boy during sex will it slowly develop over 9 months into a baby.
Usually, the egg just passes right through without being fertilised and just dissolves. Since the womb no longer needs to be ready to grow the egg, it sheds the extra blood and tissue it made out through the vagina. This loss of tissue is called menstruation or the period.
This cycle will happen nearly every month except when being pregnant or until there are no more eggs to release, usually between the ages of 45 and 55.
When will I get my period?
Periods are a sign that you have reached puberty. The first period usually happens between the ages of 10 or 13, but could begin as early as aged 8 or as late as aged 17.
How will I know that my period is coming?
There may be signs such as the breasts becoming tender and the abdomen (tummy) may swell and feel uncomfortable. You might even feel tired and a bit moody and get a crampy feeling in the lower back, legs or tummy. Some girls get a bit grumpy and can get a little spotty a few days before their period is due to start. Gradually you will get to know your own signs and be prepared. It takes between 4 to 6 years for your menstrual pattern to become well established.
How long will my period last for?
About 3 to 7 days. There is a small amount of blood at first and getting heavier for the first few days and then less blood until it stops. Sometimes the blood is a rusty colour and quite watery and sometimes it can be dark red and thicker.
Only a small amount of blood, barely an eggcup full, is lost and the rest is tissue cells from the lining of the uterus totalling between one half and one whole cupful of liquid over the whole period.
How often will I have my period?
About once a month. The days between the first days of your bleed to the first day of the next month are known as the Menstrual Cycle. It can be as little as 26 days or as long as 35 days between bleeding and it can change month to month.
What should I use when I’m on my period?
You will need to use either sanitary pads (disposable or reusable) or tampons to protect your underwear. Or you can use a menstrual cup.
- Sanitary pads fit inside your pants by means of a sticky strip, which keeps the pad in place. There are different types of pad and it is a matter of choice, which style you use. There are pads with and without wings. Some are for the earlier days of your period when the blood loss is heavier, and others for less heavy days towards the end of your period.
- Tampons are also available in different sizes to suit the amount of blood lost during a period. Some tampons you insert using only your index finger, and other tampons have a cardboard or plastic applicator to help you to insert it into the vagina.
- Menstrual cups are small, flexible cup made of silicone or latex rubber. Instead of absorbing your flow, like a tampon or pad, it catches and collects it.
How will I feel during my periods?
You may feel tired and a bit grumpy if your periods are very heavy. Make sure that you take time to relax and do make sure that you take care of your diet to avoid becoming over tired by eating sensibly.
Will my period hurt?
The bleeding does not hurt at all. Some girls do get cramps that can be felt in the legs, lower back and tummy. This cramping is usually caused by your body’s response to a hormone called prostaglandin, which cause the muscles in the uterus to contract. The same hormone can also cause you to get a headache before your period.
Over the counter pain relievers will help if the pain prevents you from doing your usual activities. Putting a hot water bottle or wheat bag on your tummy may help to ease the cramps.
It may only last a few days, but if it is so painful that it stops you from doing the things you would normally do, go and speak to your parents or teacher about it.
Will other people know that I have my period?
Definitely not. If you enjoy exercise, swimming and sport, you will still be able to take part and using the most comfortable pad or tampon will help you to feel more confident during these activities. Remember to change your pad or tampon often to stay comfortable.
As your period gets closer, it is possible to feel very emotional, moody or even angry. You may even prefer to eat only certain foods, and most likely, crave chocolate.This is called Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS for short. The hormones changing during your cycle cause it, which affects you both physically and mentally.
Feeling bloated is due to water retention, but when your period starts, all these symptoms will go away. Certain foods can make the PMS worse, so if you think you are suffering; keep a check on your calendar what foods you think make you feel worse.
Supplements such as B6, essential fatty acids and Vitamin E can help to alleviate the symptoms of PMS. If you are badly affected, speak to your doctor about it.
What do I do if my period starts in school?
Carry a few pads and/or tampons in your school bag all the time – You can bet that if you don’t need them, a friend will! If you forget, or your period starts earlier than you expected, ask the school nurse for supplies.
Some schools have dispensing machines in the toilets, so check them out and keep the correct coins with you if you can. Best to carry some spare pants if you think that your period may be due.
Will I still be a virgin if I use a tampon?
Yes, but if you are worried then you may prefer to use a sanitary pad.
My friend says that her breasts hurt before her period. Will this happen to me?
Breast swelling and tenderness in the breasts are caused by the changes in the hormone levels just before a period.
It is important to be sensible about the foods you eat and what you drink to help to manage the symptoms. Avoid salty foods and drinks that contain caffeine such as coffee, cola and fizzy drinks. Evening Primrose oil, Borage or flaxseed oil has been shown to be very helpful as are Vitamins B6 and E, also being careful about the types of foods you eat.
Avoid junk foods and try to eat healthy foods based on grains, fish, beans, chicken and fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. Eat organically grown foods if you can and make sure you drink plenty of water too.
I have underarm hair as do some of my friends. A few of them really hate it and I am not sure what I should do?
Everyone gets body hair. It is part of the changes your body goes through during puberty. Some girls choose to remove the hair by shaving or waxing. If you are happy with the way you look, there is no need to do anything other than wash carefully each day.
If the hair makes you feel unhappy, you can use a special lady’s shaver, a hair removal cream or have them removed by waxing.