FAQs about periods and the menstrual cycle

FAQs about periods and the menstrual cycle

It’s useful for your daughter to get the facts about periods straight, so here are some useful answers to any questions she might have about menstruation.

By the time your daughter’s puberty arrives she might well have pieced together some knowledge about periods and what to expect from noticing your own monthly habits and talking to her friends, but getting the right clear information is important. This is where you can help, by sharing the facts and your own experience.

Common questions your daughter may have about the menstrual cycle:

How old will I be when my periods start?

The age varies a lot but tends to be around 11 to 13. However it can be earlier or later.

What signs should I look for that my periods are starting?

Other changes will happen first. About two years or so before your periods begin your breasts start to develop and soon after you’ll have some hair under your arms and in your pubic area. Vaginal discharge is also a sign you could begin to menstruate soon.

What will a period feel like?

When you first begin your period, you may feel moisture in your underwear. After you’ve been sitting or lying down for a while, when you stand up it may feel like a gush because the fluid has been collecting while you weren’t moving.

How often will I have my period?

An average cycle is about 28 days – that’s 28 days between when one period starts and the next starts. Anything between 22 and 43 days is perfectly normal for a cycle, and it might vary the first two years or so.

How long does a period last?

It tends to last about five days but this can vary greatly. You will find that some days the flow of blood is heavier than on other days. You pattern is personal to you, but you might find that the first and last days of your period are lighter than those inbetween.

Can anyone tell when I have my period?

No. When you first start wearing feminine protection products it will be a new feeling but while you may be very aware of it, other people won’t be able to see it. You can wear pads like Whisper Ultra Thin pads and feel confident even in tight-fitting clothing.

What if I start my period at school or some place else?

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Carry a sanitary towel or two and a clean pair of knickers in your bag or in your school locker. Many female public toilets have vending machines containing sanitary products and at school, you can check with the school nurse or main office.

Can I still play sports and participate in other activities during my period?

Certainly. You can participate in your normal activities. Do what you feel like. If you think about it, you’ll realise that many of the girls around you all the time probably have their periods.

Can I use tampons?

Yes. Tampons are an effective form of internal protection. They are especially convenient because they allow you to continue all your normal activities, including swimming. They come in several sizes and absorbencies, depending on your body size and menstrual flow.

How do I know what products are right for me?

Talk to your mum, the school nurse or another adult you feel comfortable talking with (eg an older female cousin) to help you choose whether tampons or sanitary towels are best for you. A mix of the two depending on heavy days to light days during your period might be best. 

Will having my period hurt?

For most girls, no. Sometimes some girls will have discomfort – a dull ache or tightening in the lower abdomen.

Can I take painkillers for period pain? 

Some girls find that non-prescription pain relievers help relieve their menstrual cramps. Painkillers should always be taken with the knowledge and permission of a parent, school nurse or your doctor.

I’ve heard about ‘cramps’, what are they? 

Menstrual cramps are like cramps elsewhere in your body. A muscle contracts too hard or too fast, constricting the blood flow and producing pain.

I haven’t had any period pain yet, what is it like? 

Period pain can vary in severity: either sharp stabs that make you double up, or a nagging pain that spreads through your belly and lower back. Some girls also experience dizziness, nausea, diarrhoea or even vomiting, but this is quite extreme and unusual.

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