Get the lowdown on what periods are, why girls get them and what to expect.
Periods are a completely normal part of growing up. Most girls will have their first period during puberty, when their bodies are maturing and going through all kinds of changes. Your first period will usually happen between the ages of 10-15 but every girl is different.
What Are Periods?
A period is when a girl or woman loses blood from her uterus through her vagina once every month. Sounds a bit icky, right? Well, let’s look at the science first…
Our uterus is a clever organ, and it starts to build a cosy lining for the egg our bodies release once a month. When that egg isn’t fertilised, our uterus disposes of the extra lining through our vagina – this is our period. It then starts the process all over again in preparation for the next egg, which takes around 3-4 weeks. This is why we have a period roughly every month.
If the egg is fertilised, then it attaches itself to that cosy wall our uterus has made and begins to develop into a baby. So, instead of disposing of the lining, our uterus hangs onto it and there is no period. This is what happens when someone is pregnant.
How Long Do Periods Last?
Usually, periods will last for around five days but don’t worry if yours are shorter or longer than this, especially at first. It can take months, even years, for a girl’s period to settle into a regular pattern.
It’s also perfectly normal for your cycle (the time between your periods) to be irregular for months. Once it settles, you will get a period roughly once a month. If you’re at all worried about your cycle or the length of your period, talk to your doctor.
How Will I Feel When I Have My Period?
Many girls will experience PMT (premenstrual tension) in the days before their period starts. This is perfectly natural and can affect every girl differently. You might have:
- Difficulty in concentrating on tasks.
- Mood swings.
- Feelings of sadness.
- Tender breasts.
- Cramps in your lower abdomen.
- Cravings or temporary weight gain.
These feelings and aches can continue while you have your period. They might be unpleasant or uncomfortable at times but they’re completely normal. There are lots of ways you can treat the discomfort at home. You can:
- Soothe cramps with a hot water bottle or bath.
- Eat healthily.
- Do some gentle exercise.
You can ask an adult for pain relief if you feel especially uncomfortable.
It’s a good idea to be prepared for your period, especially your first period or if your periods are irregular and you aren’t quite sure when you will get the next one. You can create a handy period pack to keep in your bag or school locker. Your period pack could include a clean pair of underwear, pads, tampons or other sanitary products and perhaps a pack of wet wipes.
Read our Tampons Or Towels? guide to learn more about the different sanitary products available and help you decide which one will work best for you.
If your period does start at school and you need help or sanitary products, don’t be embarrassed to ask a teacher. They will be more than happy to help you and many schools have a supply of sanitary products for students.
Got more questions? Why not have a chat with your mum, sister, friend, aunt or a female family friend?
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