What is a period?
Aunt Flo… Time of the month… On the rag… Code Red… Monthly visitor…. Lady time… Crimson wave… Bloody Mary… Shark week… The Blob… The Painters are in…
We have so many names for periods, but what actually are they? And how long does a period last? Why do they happen? What’s it all about?! All totally valid questions – and ones that we’ll answer for you in this blog.
Menstruation (or having a period) is just one part of the human reproductive system. Roughly once a month the female body prepares to have a baby. The ovaries release an egg (ovulation) and the womb prepares a lining of tissue and blood for the potential baby. Most of the time the egg is not fertilized by sperm, so the egg, the tissue, and the blood are not needed and flow out through the vagina – your period.
Why do periods happen?
Every month from when your body hits puberty, the chemicals inside of you known as hormones 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. It’s at this point that pregnancy can begin if the egg meets a sperm and becomes fertilized (slowly developing over the next 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 pregnant or until there are no more eggs to release). This latter part usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55 when a woman reaches the menopause.
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 long will my period last for?
About 3 to 7 days. There’s a small amount of blood which gets heavier over the first few days. The flow eventually lessens until it stops entirely. The colour of your menstrual blood can vary; sometimes it’s a rusty colour and quite watery. Other times it can be dark red and thicker.
Only a small amount of blood (about an eggcup’s worth) is lost and the rest is tissue cells from the lining of the uterus. This totals somewhere 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 25 days or as long as 35 days between bleeding. This number can also change from month to month. For the first few years of having your period, your cycle can vary quite a bit before you settle into a regular rhythm so don’t worry too much if things are a little off. You can always consult your GP if you’re not 100% sure.
What should I use when I’m on my period?
There are a range of period products that you can use during your periods. Some are internal (i.e. they go inside you) and others are external (they fit into your underwear). Some are reusable and some are disposable (you throw them away after one use). Everyone has different preferences about what they like best, so we’d highly recommend shopping around a bit to see what suits you.
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’s entirely up to you which style you use. There are pads with and without wings. Some are designed 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. Many companies make night pads which are often bigger and a bit longer for that extra reassurance.
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.
Reusable Pads are just like disposable pads except that you can wash them and reuse them making them much more environmentally friendly.
Same goes for menstrual cups. A great sustainable option, they’re small, flexible cups made of silicone or latex rubber. Instead of absorbing your flow, like a tampon or pad, it catches and collects it. Not only are they greener, but they can last years if taken care of properly.
Find out more about Hey Girls products and how to use them: LINK TO BLOG
How will I feel during my period?
You may feel tired and a bit grumpy if your periods are very heavy. Make sure that you take time to relax and generally take care of yourself. Do make sure that you eat sensibly too – this will keep you from becoming overtired.
Will my period hurt?
The actual bleeding does not hurt at all. Many people 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. One tried and tested tip is to put a hot water bottle or wheat bag on your tummy – this may help to ease the cramps.
Remember – everyone experiences pain differently. Some folk have very easy periods, for others it can be very sore. If your period is so painful that it stops you from doing the things you would normally do, please see a doctor.
Read more about period health conditions: LINK TO BLOG
We hope this guide has cleared up any missing info you might have had about periods. If there’s anything else that you’re not sure about it’s always better to ask about it though. If you’re reading in the UK, that’s what the good old NHS is here for. They supply a wealth of information on their website – or better yet, you could always make an appointment with your GP. They’ll be happy to help as best they can. When it comes to understanding your body, there are no stupid questions!