Menstruation - having a period
ovaries; uterus; sperm; vagina; menstrual cycle; period; menstruation; monthly; period; periods; pads; tampons; sanitary napkins; anorexia; stress; toxic; shock; fallopian; tube; vagina; ovulation; pubic hair. ;
What is menstruation (periods)?
The word menstruation (say men-strew-ay-shun) comes from a Latin word 'mens' which means month.
Most girls and women have their periods about once a month.
Girls have two ovaries which both contain thousands of eggs.
- About once a month, one egg leaves the ovary (ovulation - say ov-u-lay-shun) and travels down the fallopian (say fal-oh-pee-an) tube towards the uterus (womb).
- While the egg is developing and travelling the uterus starts preparing for it by building up its lining with extra blood and tissue (a bit like making a 'nest').
- If the egg is fertilised by a male sperm, then your body will use that 'nest' to protect and nourish the egg as it grows into a baby.
- If the egg is not fertilised then it will keep going, passing through the vagina and taking with it the extra blood and tissue that wasn't needed. This is what is called a 'period'. A period usually lasts around 4 -7days. The egg is so tiny that you will not see it.
- About two weeks later another egg leaves the ovary and the whole thing starts again.
- This menstrual 'cycle' usually takes 28 days, but it can be longer or shorter.
- When you start your periods they may not be very regular at first. (They may not happen every month or you may have a light then a heavy period.)
- Everyone is different but over time you will get to know what your cycle is like.
can affect your periods?
- Girls who do not have very much body fat may not have regular periods or may not start periods until much later than others. Some athletes and dancers may have very little fat (and lots of muscles). Without some body fat you don't ovulate and without ovulation you can't have a baby.
- Women and girls who lose a lot of weight, or suffer from anorexia, do not menstruate (and also become very ill).
- Being worried or stressed about something in your life can cause periods to be late.
- Women or girls who smoke have more painful periods because nicotine affects the flow of blood to the muscles in the uterus so they get cramps.
- But the main thing that makes periods late or not come is when a woman is having a baby!
- Pads are made of absorbent material to soak up the blood so that you don't have an embarrassing leak.
- Pads nowadays come in all sizes and thicknesses so that there will be one which is most comfortable for you.
- Pads have a sticky strip, which will stick to your pants and stop them from sliding around.
- Some of them have 'wings' which stick to the side of your pants for extra protection.
- Remember to change pads about every 4 hours and be careful about washing your hands afterwards.
- Pads should never be put down the toilet as they could block the pipes.
- Look for a sanitary disposal unit in school and public toilets or wrap the pad in toilet paper or a paper bag and put it into the bin.
- Ask mum what she does with pads at home.
You can ask mum, an older sister, auntie or female teacher if you are worried about what kind of pads to use or about wearing tampons. All women menstruate so they will be able to help you.
- If you have just started your periods and you are not regular yet, you may want to carry a pad with you in your back-pack. Some girls wear a panty liner when they know it is nearly time. You don't have to wear panty liners or pads when you are not having a period.
Tampons are made of thick cotton that has been squashed so that it is small enough to fit inside the vagina.
- They are useful to wear when playing sport or swimming.
- They are small to carry about and because they are inside your body they are less likely to have an odour (smell) even on hot days.
- They have a string on the end so that you can get them out easily. You can't 'lose' a tampon inside you.
- Read the directions on the packet and you shouldn't have any problems, but many young women find tampons tricky to put in when they first try using them.
It is really important to change tampons very regularly during the day and it is a good idea to wear pads instead overnight because wearing a tampon for a long time can cause a serious infection called toxic shock syndrome. This is rare but very serious. Symptoms include headaches, being sick, rashes, muscle pains, high fever and diarrhoea.
Anyone can use tampons but it may be a good idea to start off with pads until you get to understand your periods, like how heavy or light they are, how long they last and what they feel like.
"Having a period is absolutely normal and at least half the world's population (the female half) has experience of it!"
There is a lot more about periods in our topic 'Menstruation - facts and questions' if you want to know more.
You might also find useful information in the Teen Health topic Periods - the facts
Starting your periods
Sounds a bit scary
May not be long now.
I'm getting more hairy.
All my friends started
A long time ago.
What's wrong with me?
Why am I so slow?
Uh, Oh, it's happened.
I'm one of the crowd
Growing into a woman
Menstruating and proud.
We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.