Common Questions about periods

When will my periods start?
The average age for girls to start their period is around 12 years of age but it can vary greatly between person and person and some may start at the age of 8 while others not until they are 18. Most girls, will start their period about 2 years after their breasts begin to grow and about a year after her first white, vaginal discharge. Growing under-arm and pubic hair is a sign that your period may start soon.

All my friends have started but I haven’t. Should I worry?
There is no need to worry if you have not started your period yet. Everybody is different and will start when their body is ready. If you are concerned, speak to your parents or someone you can trust but there is no need to seek medical advice until you are about 17 years old if your periods have still not started.

How long does a period last?
This varies between person to person and after a few monthly cycles, your body should get into a regular menstrual cycle which means you will have a period every 25-34 days and bleeding will last between three and seven days.

Can I tell when my next period will be?
When your periods first start, it is likely that they will be irregular meaning that you cannot be sure when your bleeding will start. However, if you keep a diary by marking the first day you start your period and counting through the days to the start of your next then you should see a pattern emerge over the next few months and will soon be able to work out when you are likely to have your period.

Will I have periods forever?
It is impossible to say exactly when you will stop having periods but for most women it is when they reach their mid-fifties.

Is it a lot of blood?
Although it may feel like a lot of blood, on average a girl will only lose 4 tablespoons of blood during her whole period.

What if I get blood on my clothes?
Unfortunately, there is a chance that your knickers will get blood stained and you may even find that the blood goes through onto your outer clothing. When your periods become regular you can avoid wearing light coloured trousers or skirts to avoid this and you can also keep spare underwear in your bag. If you do not have a change of clothes, you could tie a jumper around your waist and ask a friend or a teacher if anyone has spare clothes.

What if I am unprepared?
It is a good idea to carry a sanitary towel in your bag or coat pocket so that you can have protection with you in case your first period starts or in case of period is irregular and arrives early or late. You may, however find that you do not have a pad or tampon to hand when needed. Do not be afraid to ask a friend, teacher or female adult that you know as they have all been in the same situation and will want to help you.

Do periods hurt?
Some girls experience a little discomfort or stomach pain either just before or during the first few days. Usually a warm bath or a little gentle exercise helps. Some girls like to put on comfy clothes and use a hot water bottle on the stomach area. If you are in real continuous pain, you should seek medical advice.

Is it obvious that I have my period?
No. There are no signs to others that you have your period. There is no need for your period to have effect on your behaviour or actions.

Pads or Tampons?
You can use either and both are safe for girls of all ages and stages of puberty. Using tampons can take a bit of practise so most girls will begin by using sanitary pads for the early periods. It is best to use sanitary pads/towels for long periods such as if you sleep for more than eight hours overnight.

What is a tampon?
A tampon is made from a cotton type of material and is designed to be inserted into your vagina to absorb any blood from your period. There is a cord attached to the tampon which is used to remove the tampon after use. Tampons are available in a range of different absorbencies. They are also available with or without an applicator. Many girls find tampons easier to use with an applicator at first.

What is a pad?
A sanitary pad or towel is a pad which is designed to stick to the inside of your knickers to catch and absorb any blood from your period. These are also available in a range of different absorbencies and sizes. They are also available with or without ‘wings’.  Wings are adhesive strips that wrap around the edge of your knickers to keep the pad in place.

Can a tampon get lost inside me?
No. There is no need to worry. A tampon will stay in your vagina until you pull it out using the string attached to it. However, if you forget to remove it and leave it inside you for a long time, the tampon can get compressed at the top of vagina. If this happens and you cannot find the string, you will need to visit your doctor/nurse who can easily remove it for you.

How often should I change a tampon?
You should never leave a tampon in for longer than 8 hours as there is a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. If you find you have to change yours more than every four hours you may need to use a higher absorbancy. You should change it at a time where it is easy to remove and doesn’t feel dry or stuck but isn’t fully saturated. As you get used to your flow you will have a better idea of when it needs changing.

Does having my period stop me from doing things?
There is no reason at all for your period to stop you from doing anything. However, if you are swimming, you will need to use a tampon. You can carry on with all your usual daily activities as normal.

My period is due on my birthday. Can I change it?
There is no natural way of making your period arrive earlier or later to suit you. The best thing you can do is be prepared for your period. There are some medications that can be used to alter the timetable of your periods although these are not advised unless in very extreme circumstances and are only available from your doctor.

I have missed a period. What shall I do?
Although most girls find their periods settle into a routine after a few months, it can take as many as 12-18 cycles for some girls. Therefore, unless you have had sexual intercourse and think you may be pregnant, there should be no need to worry. If you have had sex, it is advisable to take a home pregnancy test in order to rule out pregnancy.

Can you get pregnant if you have your period?
Although it is unlikely, it is possible to get pregnant whilst having your period.  Therefore, if you are sexually active, you should use contraceptives at all times during your monthly cycle.

by Jenny, mum to William and James

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