Getting Your Period
Girls can start their periods (also referred to as menstruation) any time between 8 and 18 years old, but most girls start their menstrual cycle between the ages of 11 and 14. You might have mixed emotions about getting your period. Some girls can’t wait to start their periods and feel left out if they haven’t got theirs, especially if all their friends have, whereas other girls would be perfectly happy to get theirs at an older age. There is no way to make your period come sooner or delay it from happening. Don’t panic if you haven’t started your period yet – you will start menstruation when your body is ready.
When you get your first period you’ll notice that a small amount of blood will leak from your vagina. This bleeding is perfectly normal, will last for a few days and usually happens every month. On average, the bleeding lasts for about five days, but can be as short as two days or as long as seven. Your period flow can be light, heavy, or somewhere in between. There is a great range in how much menstrual fluid each girl loses during menstruation. Your flow may start out light, then get heavier, and then get lighter again. Depending on the heaviness of your flow, you’ll lose between 2 to 6 tablespoons of blood each period. Don’t worry if it takes a bit of getting used to, once your period has started you will continue to have it until you’re about 50 – so you’ve got plenty of time!
What Are Periods?
Many girls are a bit unsure when it comes to understanding what menstruation is all about. There’s nothing wrong with that – and that’s why we’re here! Well, it all has to do with the female reproductive system and ultimately having children. Although having babies is probably the last thing on your mind right now, that’s exactly what your body is preparing for! When you begin menstruation it’s possible for you to fall pregnant.
Girls are born with thousands of tiny ova (eggs) inside their ovaries. When puberty starts and your body begins releasing a hormone called oestrogen (which controls menstruation), your ovaries ripen the eggs and one egg is released each month – this is called ovulation. The egg travels from the ovaries, down the fallopian tubes, and into the uterus (womb).
While this is all going on, the lining of the uterus is thickening so that if the egg is fertilised by sperm (during sex), the egg can attach itself to the uterine lining and develop into a baby. The lining thickens so that it can provide nutrients for a fertilised egg. If the egg is not fertilised, the extra lining of the uterus is no longer needed, so it breaks down and comes out through the vagina. This is your period.
Periods and Pain
Menstruation can cause discomfort and pain. Cramping of the abdomen when you have your period is fairly common. For some girls, the pain is not that severe and doesn’t last very long (if this is you, count yourself lucky!). But for other girls the period cramps can be unbearable (if this is you, talk to your mum, a female family member or chat to your doctor). There are many things that can be done to help, so don’t suffer in silence! You can also read up on treatments for period pain on this site.
Periods can affect different people differently; sometimes your mood, sometimes you may have period pain. It's important to always remember that menstruation is a normal part of growing up and becoming a woman. Think about all the amazing women you know, they have or have had periods too, so remember you're never alone! Remember, getting your period is a sign of being healthy. In time, your body will adjust to it and you’ll get the hang of it.
The advice provided in this material is general in nature and is not intended as medical advice. If you need medical advice, please consult your health care professional.