As a pre-teen, every boy or girl has experienced the first signs of puberty, when your body has reaches sexual maturity. Some signs are experienced by both sexes such as growth spurts, body hair and acne; however not everything is the same. According to medical studies held by doctors at Nemours Medical, girls can identify the end of their puberty by the start of their menstrual cycles.
This is an important and often scary experience for them as their body undergoes multiple changes, especially when it comes to periods. The most important thing is to help educate and explain what exactly they can expect and experience from this new chapter in their lives.
Here is your guide to everything you need to know about periods and menstrual cycles:
What is a menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is how a woman’s body prepares for the possibility of pregnancy each month. A period is just one aspect of this cycle. A cycle’s length can be measured by counting the number of days from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period.
Why happens during a menstrual cycle?
During a menstrual cycle, an egg is released from the ovaries. While the egg is moving down the fallopian tubes and towards the uterus, the uterus is building up a lining that consists of extra blood and tissue. This lining thickens and if pregnancy occurs, the blood vessels in the lining will expand to nourish a growing fetus once it is fertilised by a sperm cell to the uterine wall.
If the egg is unfertilized, the thick lining that builds up during the menstrual cycle is not needed and thus sheds, causing your period. The unfertilized egg either dissolves or is absorbed into the body. After one period ends, a new menstrual cycle begins.
How long can a menstrual cycle last?
The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long. However it can, at times, range anywhere from 23 – 45 days.
What is a period?
A period is a part of the menstrual cycle when the thick uterine lining and extra blood are shed through the vaginal canal. Periods can be light, moderate or heavy. It is a unique experience for every girl and woman, it can also be different for each period that one woman might experience.
When can a period occur?
Most commonly, a girl over 12 years of age can expect her period. However, this does not mean that all girls start their periods at the same age. There is a possibility that a girl can menstruate between the ages of 8 – 16, once all the reproductive organs have matured. It could last anywhere between 4 – 7 days per period cycle depending on your menstrual cycle.
What is a period flow?
Period flow is the amount and rate at which the uterine lining and blood exits the vaginal canal of a girl’s body. Many experience a light flow for the first day or two, then a heavier flow, followed by another light flow. Some girls have a heavy flow on the first day, it’s different for each. For the first few years after you start menstruating, your period may be very irregular and then slowly become stable.
Does a period hurt?
Unfortunately, your period will be accompanied by pain and some premenstrual symptoms (PMS). Common signs include cramps in the lower abdomen, back or breast tenderness just before and during periods due due your menstrual cycles. Few women also experience mood swings, headaches, dizziness, nausea and diarrhea. Your discomfort can be managed by having warm baths, using our Cramp Comfort self-heating patch or over the counter medicine if prescribed by your gynaecologist.
When to change pads, tampons or menstrual cups during a period?
When you first start a menstrual cycle and have your first period, a sanitary pad is the ideal choice for soaking your flow. Each sanitary pad has its own absorption capacity but as a rule of thumb, one should change and replace it every 6 – 8 hours.
Tampons and menstrual cups are used to collect your flow internally, ie. they have to be inserted into your vagina unlike sanitary pads and thus have different usage durations. Tampons should be replaced every 4 – 8 hours and menstrual cups should be cleaned out between 8 – 10 hours.
The longer your sanitary product is left unreplaced, the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome increases. Read up on this rare but deadly disease here.
Can it affect daily activities?
Your period should not affect activities such as exercising, swimming and cycling. At times, many find exercise to help relieve stomach cramps and discomfort caused by your period. In case you have an event or a day of more activity than usual, you could track your period to know when to avoid it from coinciding on the same days.
How can you track your period?
The easiest way is to mark the first day of your period each month. Then count the days in between your two period cycles. Using a period tracking app from this list will make the task even more convenient. Once you do this for a couple of months, you will be able to calculate the days between two periods.
Can a period be missed?
Yes, you might experience a skipped period. If you have just started having your period, it might not come every month. Excessive stress might cause you to skip a period and even certain illnesses might lead to a missed period. If you miss more than a period or two (if you have been having regular periods previously), you might have to visit a gynaecologist.
Should you visit a gynaecologist?
If your period and menstrual cycles are normal, you can visit a gynaecologist for a regular check up.
How to initiate ‘The Talk’?
The earlier you begin talking to your child about periods and changes in their bodies due to puberty, the better it would be. Instead of one single discussion, break the topic down into a series of conversations while being open and honest. It is upto the adults to start talking about menstruation.
Clarify all misconceptions and share your experiences about periods, either from a female or male perspective about everything from changes in the body to hygiene and even sex education.
Your child might be hesitant to talk about periods but that does not mean they will not listen and understand what you tell or teach them. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable, scared and anxious but reassure your child that there’s nothing to be worried about and you’re always going to help, Period 🙂
Read all of the other Menstruation articles here.