What are periods, really?
Chances are, you’ve started to feel your body going through lots of changes. This is called puberty.
That’s when your body is changing from a child’s to an adult’s. One of the biggest changes you’ll experience is your period, when you start to bleed. If you’re feeling anxious about it, remember you’re not on your own. It’s something that every girl goes through. After a few months, we’re sure you’ll be taking your periods in your stride. But until then, we want to help you feel calmer and more prepared by answering some of the most commonly asked questions.
Did you know?
What is a period?
It’s what happens when your body is mature enough to have a baby. Every month, the lining of your uterus (womb) gets thicker with tissue and your ovaries release an egg (called an ovum). If a sperm fertilizes the egg, the tissue stays where it is to help with pregnancy. But if the egg isn’t fertilized, your body sheds the tissue through the vagina. That tissue is the blood you see and this monthly process is called menstruation.
When will you get your first period?
Most girls start getting signs of their first period and start menstruating between 11 and 14 years old, but it could happen any time between age eight and 16. Remember that everyone is different, so a normal age for your friends might not be the same for you. You’ll have periods until you’re around 50 years old when you start something called the menopause. That’s when your body stops menstruating and can’t have children any more.
What are the signs of your first period?
You know those changes we were talking about? If you’ve felt your breasts growing larger, if you’ve started growing pubic hair and if you’ve noticed a white discharge in your underwear, then it won’t be long before your body experiences its first period. When it starts, you might also experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This causes symptoms like period pain (cramps in your tummy), moodiness, bloating, backache, weight gain and skin break outs.
How long does your first period last?
The average time to bleed is between four or five days, but your period could last from three to eight days. Again, everyone’s different. Your period is part of your menstrual cycle, which starts on day one of bleeding and ends the day before your next period begins. The average cycle is 28 days but it may be shorter or longer.
How much blood is normal?
It might seem like there’s a lot of blood, but it’s probably no more than two to three tablespoons. It’s normal to bleed more heavily in the first few days of your period.
The 4 phases of your cycle
Menstrual phase (days 1 - 5)
The uterus sheds its inner lining of soft tissue and blood vessels which exits the body from the vagina in the form of menstrual fluid.
Follicular phase (days 1 - 13)
The pituitary gland secretes a hormone that stimulates the egg cells in the ovaries to form a follicle. While the egg cell matures, its follicle releases a hormone that stimulates the uterus to develop soft tissue called endometrium.
Ovulation phase (day 14)
The pituitary gland then secretes a hormone that causes the ovary to release the matured egg cell. If a sperm cell doesn’t impreganat it in 24 hours, the egg cell disintegrates.
Luteal phase (day 15 - 28)
The hormone that causes the uterus to retain its endometrium gets used up by the end of the menstrual cycle. This causes the menstrual phase of the next cycle to begin.