Anatomy, Puberty & Periods

What are periods?

Periods (AKA “menstruation”) are days when blood trickles out of the vagina a little bit at a time. The amount people bleed varies, but it is usually about 1-3 tablespoons over the next few days.

 

How do periods work? 

Periods happen when hormones from the brain tell ovaries to release an egg. The inside of the uterus builds up a layer of tissue where a fertilized egg attaches to grow. If the egg is not fertilized, the uterus will shed its lining of blood and tissue. This is a period.

 

A period happens about once every 21 to 45 days and it lasts between 3 and 7 days each time. How often they happen and how long they last is different between people. At first, a period may happen every couple of weeks or suddenly take many weeks to show up. This is normal and, as you get older, your periods will become more regular. 

Keeping track of periods is key to staying healthy! Some people use a calendar, a journal, or an app. If your periods are coming more often than every 21 days, take longer than 45 days to show up, or last longer than 7 days, you may want to talk to your doctor.

If you haven’t checked out our pages on anatomy and pregnancy yet, take a look. 

 

How does it feel to have a period?

People can feel pretty uncomfortable during their period and it is different for each person.

 

Some common symptoms are​

  • Acne

  • Cramps, which can feel like an ache in your lower stomach, back, or thighs

  • Feeling sad, crabby, angry, or anxious

  • Headaches

  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).

  • Sore feeling breasts

  • Tiredness

 

How to take care of yourself and others during a period?

Periods and the bleeding it produces has to be absorbed by menstrual products. Many people try different types of products to decide what works best for them.

 

Some products are

  • Pads and panty liners: These are small, thin pieces of material that have a sticky back so they can be stuck to the underwear and stay in place. They absorb the blood. There are different pads for different amounts of bleeding or flow. Pads can be one-time use or reusable where they are washed after each use.

  • Tampons: These are small rolls of cotton that are put into the vagina. They come in different sizes for different amounts of bleeding and they can be used for a maximum of 8 hours to avoid infections like Toxic Shock Syndrome.

  • Menstrual cups: These are flexible cups that are put into the vagina. They collect blood in the cup, which the person removes after a period of time and dumps out into the toilet. Most menstrual cups can stay in for up to 12 hours before being emptied and rinsed.

  • Period underwear: Is like normal underwear, but it absorbs the bleeding. It is worn when having a period and then washed in cold water.

 

More tips

  • Different products might be better for different activities. For example, for swimming, tampons and period underwear are better than pads.

  • When someone has their period, it is important to bathe frequently.

  • Do not use scented pads or tampons, vaginal deodorants, or douches to wash out the vagina. They can cause irritation or infections.

 

To lessen the pain

  • A heating pad or medication can help lessen the pain from cramps or headaches.

  • The emotions that come with periods can be tough. Getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthful diet and exercising can help with these feelings.

  • If someone is having really bad symptoms with their periods, they should talk to a medical provider.

 

Talking with a health provider is a great place to start. It can also be helpful to talk with friends or trusted adults in your life. Everyone is different, what works best for one person might not be what works best for you.