Starting your period can be exciting as it means that you are developing into a young woman. Yet it can also be a little bit scary and confusing as your body goes through several changes. But don’t worry! You’re not alone!
A period is just a normal part of the menstrual cycle when you bleed from your vagina for a few days – but it’s OK – it’s not like a heavy haemorrhage. You will usually lose around a tablespoon a day, and about an egg cup full during your whole period. This usually happens every 28 days or so.
Common Age for First Periods:
The most common age for the first menstrual period (menarche) is between the age of 11 and 13, however starting your period anywhere between 10 and 16 is can still be normal as long as your health status is evaluated by the paediatrician or gynaecologist as good.
How long will the period last for (menstrual cycle duration)?
A period can last between three and eight days, but usually lasts for about five days, with the heaviest bleeding usually in the first couple of days. When your period is at its heaviest, the blood will be red. On lighter days, it can be pink, brown, or black, so don’t worry about the colour too much.
Some of us have may experience pain and discomfort just before or during the menses. This is (unfortunately) completely normal. But it should not be so bad that you cannot get up, go to school and carry on with your normal day to day life. If it impairs your daily activities, then you should speak to your doctor. If you do not have a gynaecologist, you can search for one and establish a long-term relationship.
Periods usually continue until you reach the menopause, which usually occurs in your late 40s to mid-50s. During this time, your periods start to become less frequent over a few months or years before stopping altogether, but in some cases they can stop suddenly.
Can you get pregnant during periods?
A common misconception is that you can’t get pregnant on your period. Although the most fertile time is when you are ovulating (around the 14th day of a regular, 28 days cycle), sperm can survive inside the body for approximately 3 days and especially in women with irregular menstrual cycle there is a small chance of getting a pregnancy. So, don’t risk it and always use contraception until you are ready to start a family! You could be pregnant if you miss a period and you have had sex, so go and see your GP.
Changes in the body during Periods:
Changes in your body’s hormone levels before your period can also determine physical and emotional changes, also known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Some women may feel bloated, have tender breasts, mood swings, feel irritable or lose interest in sex. These are all unpleasant symptoms of PMS, but they usually disappear when your period starts or after a few days of menses.
Over time, your periods can change, such as lasting longer or becoming lighter. This does not necessarily mean there’s a problem. Irregular periods such as bleeding between periods, bleeding after having sex, or bleeding after the menopause need to be checked by a healthcare professional. They can be as a result of an infection, abnormalities in the neck of the womb (the cervix) or, in rare cases, it could be cancer.
Which Sanitary Product should I use?
Sanitary products absorb or collect the blood released during your period, such as sanitary pads, tampons and more recently, menstrual cups.
Sanitary pads – are made of an absorbent material (worn in your underwear) that soaks up the blood. They come in several different sizes, including ones you can wear overnight, and you can change them depending on the heaviness of your period flow. Most girls use sanitary pads when they first start their period because they are so easy to use.
Tampons – are small tubes of cotton wool that you insert into your vagina to absorb the blood before it leaves your body. There’s a string at the end of the tampon which you pull on when you need to remove it. A lot of girls don’t tend to use tampons when they first start their period as sometimes it can take a little while to get comfortable using them, but they do come with instructions to explain how. Another common misconception is that tampons can get stuck or lost inside you, but don’t worry, this isn’t true. Your vagina holds it firmly in place and it expands inside you as it soaks up the blood.
Menstrual cups – are an alternative to sanitary pads and tampons which collects blood rather than absorbing it. They are made from medical-grade silicone and worn inside your vagina. Unlike disposable tampons and sanitary pads, menstrual cups can be washed and reused.
Noticed an odd smell when you change your sanitary pad after a few hours? Again, completely normal! This slightly unpleasant odour is the smell of the dying red blood cells that nourish the growth of bacteria. You can also develop bad odour during period because some pads block the flow of air to your genital area.
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