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Your period at a glance:
Menstruation is what most people call "having your period." The menstrual cycle is the time from the first day of one period to the first day of the next. A normal menstrual cycle can be as short as 21 days or longer than 35 days. For most women, it lasts 25 - 30 days. But it's common for your cycle to vary from month to month.
Here are the basics:
Periods usually last about 3-7 days, but may be slightly shorter or longer. During your period, a bloody fluid comes out of your vagina. The heaviness and color (more red or more brown) of the menstrual flow changes from the beginning to the end of your period.
You may have a brownish discharge at the beginning or end of your period, and even sometimes in the middle of your cycle. This is called "spotting," and it's pretty common.
Many women mark the days they bleed on a calendar or on an app on their phones. Keeping a calendar will help you predict when you'll get your next period. Also, you'll be able to tell if your period is late or early. And you'll have a record if you need to see your nurse or doctor about any problems.
There may be signs you're about to get your period, or there may not be. For some, the signs that their periods are going to start are: tender or swollen breasts, feeling tense, and bloating in your belly (feeling puffy or full). Sometimes there's a crampy feeling in your back, legs, or stomach. Some girls get pimples a few days before. These symptoms are called PMS. As you get older, you'll get better at figuring out when your period is coming.
You can carry pads or tampons in your bag when you think your period is coming. Ask your school nurse for them if you forget. Don't be shy — remember, all women get periods. Some schools and other public places have machines in the bathroom that sell tampons or pads. If your clothes accidently get stained, you can wrap a sweater around your waist or ask to go home. You can also keep a change of clothes in your locker.
No one can tell by looking at you that you have your period. You don't look or smell any different or act any differently. People will only know you're having your period if you tell them. You can still swim, play sports, bathe, and do all the things you usually do.
There's no way to know exactly when you'll get your first period. One day, you'll begin to bleed from your vagina, and that's your period. It means that your body is healthy and normal.
Most girls have their first period when they're between 9 and 16 years old. Your period may start around the time it started for other people in your family, like your mom or sisters. If you don't get your period by the time you're 16, you may want to talk with a doctor or nurse.
There may be signs you're about to get your period (like cramping, bloating, or pimples), or there may not be. As you get older, it will be easier to tell when your period is coming.
If you start your period and don't have a tampon or pad, you can ask a parent, friend, teacher, or the school nurse for one.
PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. PMS causes emotional and physical symptoms that may show up a few days before and during your period. PMS can include sadness, mood swings, feeling bloated, swollen or tender breasts, pimples, feeling tired, and cramping. PMS is caused by hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle.
Some people get PMS every time they have their periods. Others only get PMS every once in a while. You may have all, some, or none of the symptoms. For example, you might get tender breasts and bloating, but not mood swings or pimples. And some people don't get PMS at all.
Many people get cramps before and during their periods as well. You can use a heating pad or take pain medicine to help with cramps. Using hormonal birth control can help with cramps and make your period lighter and more regular.
Talk with a parent or doctor if heating pads and medicine don't help your cramps, or you have other PMS symptoms that are hard to deal with.
You're different from every other person in the world. Your periods and menstrual cycles will be different, too. What will be normal for you may not be normal for someone else. Your first few periods may not all be the same either.
You may go between having a light flow and a heavy flow. You might even skip some months. Your period may be late when you get sick, when you're worried or stressed out about something, or for no reason at all. Most likely your periods and cycles will become more regular as you grow older.
Even though it's normal to skip a period every once in a while, if you've had unprotected sex (sex without a condom or birth control) and missed your period, take a pregnancy test.
If your period is so heavy that you have to change maxi pads or super tampons every hour, see a doctor.
Most women use pads, tampons, or menstrual cups to collect their period flow and protect their clothes from stains. You can buy pads and tampons in most drugstores or supermarkets. Menstrual cups are most easily bought online. Every package has instructions in it. Pads and tampons come in different sizes. Some are for lighter flows (usually called light or slim), and some are for heavier flows (usually called heavy or super).
Using a tampon, cup, or pad takes a little practice. Try different kinds until you figure out what you like best.
Tampons are little plugs of cotton that fit inside your vagina and absorb menstrual blood. Tampons can’t get lost inside your vagina or move to another part of your body. They stay inside until you remove them. Most people can’t feel tampons if they’re placed in the vagina correctly.
How to use tampons:
Unlike tampons or cups, pads are worn outside of your body. Pads stay in place with a strip of adhesive that sticks to the inside of your underwear. Some have “wings” or flaps that fold over the sides of your underwear to protect against leaks and stains. Like tampons, pads have different sizes. Pads can be very thin (for light flows) or cushy (for heavier flows).
How to use pads:
Menstrual cups are shaped like little bells or bowls, and they’re made of rubber, silicone, or soft plastic. They’re held inside your body by the walls of your vagina, where they collect menstrual fluid.
Most menstrual cups are reusable, which means that you use the same cup over and over again. Some people like this because it’s better for the environment and costs less than using disposable products like tampons or pads.
Cups may look kind of big, but most people can’t feel them once they’re placed into the vagina. Cups can’t fall out, get stuck inside your vagina, or move to another part of your body. They stay inside until you remove them.
How to use menstrual cups: