Most girls with deal with periods from their early teens, they can be confusing and painful and sometimes disruptive, so it’s crucial we understand exactly what’s going on, because it’s our bodies after all. We’re going back to basics on everything you need to know about that time of the month, there’s no stupid questions to ask!
What is a period?
A period is another term for your menstrual cycle. What happens is that the lining of your uterus builds up, ready to receive a fertilised egg. When the egg isn’t fertilised, the lining breaks down and is released, along with blood and mucus, through the vagina. This is called your period and is basically your body releasing tissue that it doesn’t need.
When should I start menstruation?
Periods mostly occur between the ages of 12 and 13. However, anything from the ages of 10 to 16 is also perfectly normal. If by the age of 17 you haven’t got your period yet, you should check in with your doctor.
How long does it last each time?
Your cycle is counted from day one of your period today one of your next period and has traditionally been said to be 28 days. However, the length of time can totally vary, anywhere from 21 to 35 days. When you first get your period, it can last anything from a day to 10 days. It takes time, sometimes up to two years, for your period to become ‘regular’, but once it does, you become pretty much sussed about your cycle.
What’s a heavy period?
A ‘normal’ period generally lasts four to five days. You should change your pad or tampon every two to four hours at this time otherwise it might start to smell. It’s also important to bathe or shower regularly to stay fresh and clean. Your heaviest day is generally the second day when you may have to change your pad more regularly. If your period is longer and heavier than that consistently, you may need to top up your iron levels to avoid anaemia. You should always check this with your doctor.
What are the cramps?
One of the worst things about periods has to be the killer cramps that can sometimes be so painful you find it hard to pull yourself out of bed. Well, here’s the science bit. The medical term for period pain is Dysmenorrhea and the cause of it is uncertain. However, it is thought that the pain could be due to the release of chemicals called prostaglandins, which cause the uterus to contract. There is the mild discomfort, muscle or spasm cramp…and then there’s intense pain that causes you to double up and cry. Some girls experience pain that spreads, it starts in the abdomen and travels up the back or down the legs. Other girls may experience pain so severe that they are forced to miss school. With cramps this severe make sure to talk to your mum or someone you feel comfortable with and see a doctor.