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What happens when your period starts?

The average age a girl gets her period is 12; however, they can start as young as 8 and as old as 16!1 A lot of young women find it almost impossible to talk to their parents about periods, whether it’s because they’re embarrassed, confused, have difficulty communicating with their parents, or are having issues in their homelife.

We believe that all girls have a right to support and education around this transformative time, which is why we’ve put together a candid guide for what to expect when you get your period. We’ve covered symptoms, what to do when Aunt Flow comes to town, and where to seek help if some extra support is needed.

Before it starts

You can expect your period to start around the ages of 12 – 14. For most young women, periods start two years after their breasts have begun to grow, and a year after clear, white vaginal discharge appears in their knickers (which is healthy and nothing to be worried about!) Other signs are underarm and pubic hair, which are all completely normal and supposed to grow during puberty.

If all the signs that your period is about to start are there, then it’s wise to buy some sanitary pads and a spare pair of knickers to carry around with you. This is just in case your period starts at an inconvenient time, such as school or in a public place. Another tip is to avoid wearing light coloured clothes that are more likely to show-up blood stains. Although mishaps happen, avoiding a potentially embarrassing situation will ease your anxiety in the worst-case scenario.

When it starts

Most young women notice bright red spots on their knickers when their period first starts, which can be alarming at first. Don’t worry though, it’s supposed to be that colour! We would recommend using sanitary pads to begin with, mainly because they’re quick and easy to apply, and you can always move onto tampons or menstrual cups when you have time to practise putting them in.

It may seem like you’re losing a lot of blood at first, but the actual reality is you only lose 3 – 5 tablespoons over the course of 3 – 7 days. It can also take time for your period to become ‘regular,’ with cycles varying from 28 – 30 days, so it might be worth tracking them on your phone using a period app (we like using ‘Flo’).

When using sanitary items, it’s important to remember to change them regularly. Although it’s a common myth that tampons get ‘lost’ inside you, if you don’t remove them, they can turn sideways and be harder to locate.

Managing the symptoms

There are some common symptoms that accompany getting your period, which are easy to manage once you recognise them.

PMS

As our hormone levels change throughout our menstrual cycle, so do our moods! For some women, this can cause issues such as irritability, mood swings, headaches, fatigue, bloating and tender breasts. Ways to manage these symptoms is predominantly through exercise (such as yoga), healthy eating, lots of sleep, and plenty of water! Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can also ease the more painful symptoms.

Painful, Heavy or Irregular Periods

Some women suffer with painful periods that cause cramping and nausea. Other women have such heavy periods that they have to change their sanitary protection more often than usual, and some women have irregular periods that don’t follow a natural cycle.

There is treatment for all of these issues, such as taking the contraceptive pill or anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen or mefenamic acid.

Ovulation pain

It’s actually quite common to ‘feel’ when you ovulate each month, which tends to be on one side of your lower abdomen about half-way through your cycle. The severity can vary from a dull to a sharp cramp, and can last for a minute or up to two days! The pain can be treated with painkillers or a long soak in a hot bath, but if the symptoms persist or get worse, then a visit to the GP is in order.

Endometriosis

A condition where the womb lining grows outside of it in the fallopian tubes or ovaries, endometriosis can have some painful symptoms such as pelvic pain, pain during or after sex, bleeding from the bottom, general fatigue, and stomach discomfort when going to the toilet. It’s worth seeing your GP if these symptoms persist, as they can offer various ways to help ease your symptoms.

For further information on how to manage getting your period, visit our help page here.

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References

  1. NHS Overview. Periods. Source link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/
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