A period is when a woman bleeds from her vagina for a few days. Although there are many myths surrounding periods, if managed correctly, they are very normal and a sign that you are healthy. They start at puberty (when girls are aged 10-14) and happen once a month. They last between 3-8 days and are heaviest on the first two days. This article will aim to help you understand how you can manage your period.
Your genital area should be washed using just water or mild, unperfumed soaps. The area should only be washed externally as the inside is self-cleaning. If you do wash inside your vagina, you may develop an infection.
There are various sanitary products you can use when having your period:
• Sanitary pads: absorbent padding that you attach to your underwear. They come in many sizes and can be changed depending on how heavy your period is. They are easier to use than tampons. Many people use these when they first start their periods.
• Tampons: tubes of cotton wool that you insert into your vagina to absorb the blood. They have a string at the end, which you use to remove them. You should follow the instructions on the packaging about how to put them in and it is important to change them every 4-8 hours. If the tampon is hurting you, it may not be in properly and you should remove it.
• Menstrual cups: small flexible cups which are put inside your vagina and collect the blood. They are good because they can be washed and used again. This makes them a cheaper option long-term, although purchasing the first one will be more expensive.
Periods can be painful or heavy (when there is a lot of blood).
Irregular periods are also common during puberty and just before the menopause (when your periods stop between the ages of 45-60).
Other reasons for missing your period can be: pregnancy, stress, sudden weight loss and being under/overweight.
If you are bleeding between periods, after sex or after the menopause you should see the doctor.
In the 2 weeks before your period it is common to get: mood swings, headaches, bloating and breast tenderness. If these symptoms or parts of your period affect you severely, you should see a doctor.
Overall a period is a normal and safe part of life if managed correctly.