Have you just started your first period? Or, maybe you want to know what to expect when your period arrives? Getting your period for the first time can be exciting and empowering, but it also comes along with a lot questions.
One of the biggest questions a lot of young period havers have is - what is a period and how do I understand the ins and outs of my period?
It can be a lot to take in, so that’s why we’ve pulled together some facts for you about getting your period and what to expect. Sit back and relax, we’ve got you covered - promise.
What is a period?
First things first, what is a period and why does almost every woman* get one? Getting your period is a natural part of being a woman (and can actually be super beautiful). It also means that your body is ready to create and carry a baby, if you want to!
Your period cycle helps your body prepare for pregnancy. Now, if you aren’t planning on bringing a little baby into the world anytime soon, you’ll have a period instead. Your period and cycle are controlled by hormones in your body like estrogen and progesterone.
Your hormones make the lining of your uterus thick and spongy so a fertilized egg has a soft place to land, if you get pregnant. The lining of your uterus is made of tissue and blood and is filled with nutrients to help a fetus grow.
If you don’t get pregnant, your body doesn’t need the thick, nutrient-rich lining in your uterus and so the lining breaks down and the blood, nutrients, and tissue flow out of the body through your vagina each month.
On average most people get their first period between 9-13 years old, however there’s many factors that affect the age you get your period, like genetics, weight, level of activity and habits. It’s normal to get your period as early as 8 and as late as 17.
If you are unsure when your period will arrive, or you think that you’re starting to experience symptoms of getting your period, then it might be helpful to speak with someone you trust, like a parent, sibling, teacher or doctor and ask any questions. Your period isn’t something you have to go through alone!
It’s important to remember that a period is different for every girl and woman. What might be ‘normal’ for your friend, may be very different from your normal. Some women experience a short, light period that arrives every 28 days on the dot, while other women can experience heavy periods that show up sporadically.
Scrap a ‘normal’ period. Instead, we are going to teach you what a ‘healthy’ period looks like.
For the first two years of your cycle, it’s completely healthy to see a range of colors in your period, from bright red to dark brown. You may also experience clotting mixed in with your blood, and if you do then don’t be alarmed - almost all women get them! Your flow can also vary, some weeks might be lighter and some might be heavier. Your period also changes as your body changes. After the first two yours, you might start experiencing a more predictable cycle or, your period might not!
How long can I expect my period to last?
Now that you know what a period is, you’re probably wondering how long you can expect your period to last? Remember, a period can be different for everyone.
However, on average, a period usually happens every month and it is the shedding of tissue, fluid and blood from your uterine lining and eventually vagina. Interesting fact - on average women lose approximately 6 to 8 teaspoons of blood (35ml) per month!
You can usually expect your period to come once every 21-30 days and can last anywhere between 1-7 days.
If this is your first period, or you are waiting for yours to arrive still, then you can typically expect your first period to range up to 40 days between cycles. You will also discover, over the course of two or so years, that your symptoms might change. If you find that your period isn’t following a schedule right away, don’t be alarmed.
Ok, will I have my period forever?
While the process of getting a period repeats itself every month unless you get pregnant, most people get 12 periods a year until they are between 45-55 years old.
Let’s break that down a little further - on average, women have 450 periods in their lifetime and have their period for 80,000 hours.
Whoa! That’s a lot of time bleeding, am I right? Since we spend so much time bleeding, it’s important that we stay on top of our reproductive health and are comfortable with our monthly periods.
Should I be worried if I skip a period?
It is absolutely possible that you might skip a month of getting your period, but it’s nothing to be alarmed about if it only happens once. Factors that can contribute to you missing a period can include being sick, traveling or if you’ve been under stress (and pregnancy, of course). If you notice that you're missing a month frequently or more than one month at a time, it’s probably a good idea to chat with a doctor.
Anything else I should know?
We’ve covered all the basic of what a period is, why you get them, and what to expect. So, what else could there possibly be to know?
You might! Remember, all women are different and experience their periods differently as well. It is common to experience some symptoms before or during your period, such as:
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Breakouts on the skin
- Sudden changes in mood
- Random food cravings (chocolate anyone?)
How do I know if I need to see a doctor?
General rule of thumb? If something feels wrong, see a doctor! It’s important to understand what feels right for you and your period, and catch changes early on. Your period health can be a big factor in indicating what’s going on in the rest of your body. You should speak to your doctor if you’re experiencing:
- Severe period cramps that are intervening with your daily routine
- Excessive bleeding lasting longer than 7 days
- Multiple months of skipped periods, or multiple periods in one month
- If you’re feeling feverish or sick after tampon use
And that pretty much sums it up! We've provided you with all the basic information you need to know about what a period is, why you get one each month, what to expect each, and what to keep an eye out for.
*women does not refer to a specific gender but to people who get periods
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