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Everything You Need To Know About Getting Your Period

Everything You Need To Know About Getting Your Period

You may feel excited or nervous about getting your first period and that's completely normal when you don't know what to expect. We're here to help walk you through everything you need to know about your first period.


What is a Period and Menstrual Cycle?

A period is when the uterus lining (made up of blood and tissue) sheds through the vagina. This happens because the body is no longer preparing for pregnancy. This process is called menstruation.

For a more detailed explanation of the menstrual cycle read our Comprehensive Guide to the Menstrual Cycle.


What Does Having a Period Mean?

Periods play an important role in infertility - they are a sign that your body’s reproductive organs are healthy and it means that you're not pregnant.


Is It Normal to Worry About My First Period?

Yes, it's perfectly normal for you to have some apprehension about getting your period and most people have felt this way. You might be afraid that the menstrual cramps will be painful or that it will happen at school or during sports and you will feel embarrassed.

Over time you’ll find the right combination of period products that work for you and things that make you feel better. You'll also get better at reading what signs your body gives you before your period starts and find ways to track your cycle& so you can predict when your period is going to start.

If you have any questions or are worried about your period, talk to a trusted adult, such as a parent, doctor, or school nurse. They can help you better understand what to expect. Talking to older siblings or friends who have had their period can also be helpful but bear in mind that their experience may be completely different to yours and some people may make it sound more "dramatic" than it is.


When Should I Expect The First Period?

The average age for people to get their first period is around 12, but you can expect to get your first period anywhere from age 9 to 16.

Everyone experiences their first period differently. Some people may have very little bleeding or light spotting, while others may have heavy bleeding.


How Long Do Periods Usually Last?

Periods usually last from 3 to 5 days. The blood flow is usually heaviest on the first day or two; it gradually slows down. Some people have periods that last only a couple of days and are very light. Other people have periods that last 7 days with heavy flow. It's also normal for your first period to last longer or be shorter in subsequent periods. A menstrual cycle is 28 days, but it can vary from person to person. Your first period is also known as menarche.


What are the Signs That Your First Period Is Coming?

Lots of people experience some physiological symptoms like cramping or backache before or during their period. Other signs your period might be coming are caused by hormones and can include symptoms like pimples, mood swings, bloating, headaches and breast tenderness.
  • Cramps & Backache: You may experience cramping as your uterus contracts to shed its lining. The pain can range from mild to severe and is usually worse on the first day or two of your period.
  • Bloating: You may feel bloated or notice that your clothes are fitting more snugly around the waistline. This is caused by the hormonal changes in your body and should subside after a few days.
  • Headaches: Some people get headaches during their period, especially on the first day. If you do get a headache, try to rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Mood Swings: It's common to feel moody or irritable before your period. Again, this is due to the hormonal changes in your body. If you're feeling particularly down, talk to a trusted adult about what you're going through.
  • Breakouts: Hormone changes can cause the glands in your skin to secrete more sebum, a type of oil, which can clog pores and cause pimples. Menstrual-related acne usually occurs as a flair-up before your period and is not hygiene related.


Period Essentials: What Products to Use to Manage Your Periods?

There are lots of period products that can help you stay comfortable during your period! You can start researching them now.

  • Period Panties: Period underwear is specially designed underwear that can help absorb your menstrual blood and prevent leaks.
  • Tampons: Tampons are small, cylindrical pieces of absorbent material (usually cotton) that are inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual blood.
  • Pads: Pads are rectangular pieces of absorbent material that are attached to the inside of your underwear to absorb menstrual blood. They usually have a plastic backing to prevent leaking and are available as disposable pads or reusable cloth pads that can be washed and worn again!
  • Menstrual Cups: Menstrual cups are small, bell-shaped devices that are inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood. They are emptied, washed and reused.
  • Menstrual Disc: Like menstrual cups, menstrual discs collect menstrual flow and are reusable but are shallower in design and are tucked up behind your cervix and pubic bone.
  • Period Sponges: Sponges are similar to tampons. They are inserted into the vagina and absorb menstrual blood and are available in disposable or reusable varieties. 

    All period care products should come with instructions for use including how to use them and how often to change them. Follow these instructions carefully to ensure good menstrual hygiene and you prevent infections such Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). 


    How to Manage Your Period?

    Here are a few things that you can do to manage your period:

    • Use a heating pad on your lower abdomen or back if you have period pain.
    • Take pain medication such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can ease pain. Check with your parents or guardian if it is OK before taking any medication.
    • Exercise regularly as it can help to relieve period pain and improve your mood. You may want to adjust the intensity of your exercise on heavier days.
    • Get enough sleep - this helps regulate your mood and helps your body deal with the changes it is going through. 
    • Eat a healthy dieteating lots of fruits and vegetables can help to reduce cramps and bloat. See our article of Foods to Relieve PMS
    • Drink plenty of water - this will help to prevent cramps and bloat.
    • Wear comfortable clothes and dark-coloured bottoms in case you have any leaks.
    • Tack your cycle - use a period tracker app or mark your cycle in your calendar so you can start to predict when your period will come. Your period is likely to be irregular when you first start menstruation but become more regular as you get older.
    • Carry an emergency period pack with essential period care products in your school bag or leave one in your school locker. Including a spare pair of underwear, wipes and a zip-lock bag to pop used cloth pads or period underwear in.
    • Don't feel pressured to use period care products you aren't ready for. Most people start with pads and period underwear and then gradually introduce internal period care products like tampons, menstrual cups or discs as they become more comfortable with them. 
    • Stick to your routine - try not to skip school and other activities because you're on your period unless you are really unwell.
    • Take care of yourself. Try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation or writing in a journal. If you're feeling overwhelmed, talk to a trusted adult or your doctor.


    When to Consult a Doctor?

    If you are struggling with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) pain or if your periods are preventing you from doing your normal activities is worth talking to a doctor. It is helpful to track your symptoms in a journal for a few months. Write down the symptoms you are experiencing each day and rate the severity. This will help you remember what you experienced and help your doctor understand how you a feeling and see if there is a pattern.


    We hope this article has helped you feel more comfortable and confident about your first period. Remember, it's normal to feel apprehensive about getting your period but it is a natural and normal part of life and the sign of a healthy body! Also, remember everybody is unique and our bodies are all different, so what works for your friends might not work for you.


    If you are a parent, you may find our Guide to Talking to your Child About Periods helpful.