If you’re starting your periods for the first time, it can bring up lots of questions. Get the information and advice you need to understand what’s happening and what to do if you’re worried.

What are periods?

Your period is when you lose a small amount of blood from your vagina. It normally lasts for about 3-8 days and will happen once a month, but it might not always be regular when they first start.

Periods are completely normal, and most girls and people who are biologically female will start their periods during puberty. Lots of people will start their periods around the age of 12, but it could be earlier or later than that.

Some people worry about getting hurt, but periods are safe and losing the blood isn’t something that will hurt you.

If you’re worried about your periods, you can always talk about it.

Things to know about periods

  • It's good to be prepared for your period in case it starts unexpectedly.
  • You might feel confused or embarrassed, but there's nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Your period will usually come once a month, but it can be irregular when you first start.
  • You can talk to a relative or another adult you trust about what's going on.

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Tips to help with your period

Sometimes you can start your period when you're not expecting to, so it can help to plan ahead.

  • Keep sanitary products and a change of underwear in a bag, drawer or locker.
  • Let a teacher you feel comfortable with know in case you need to go to the toilet to change.
  • Speak to an adult you trust for help with pain or discomfort.
  • Keep track of your periods with a diary, the mood journal or an app.

PMS, period pain and mood changes

Throughout your period you have different levels of hormones in your body. It's natural to have some side effects from this.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the name for some of the feelings you might have before your period. It’s sometimes called premenstrual tension or PMT, and lots of people will experience it at some point.

PMS can have a big effect on you, and it’s important to get support if you need it.

Symptoms of PMS

  • mood swings and getting easily annoyed
  • crying or feeling sad all of a sudden
  • not being able to concentrate
  • feeling really tired
  • your breasts feeling softer than normal
  • your stomach feeling really full or bloated
  • cramping in the stomach area
  • temporary weight gain
  • headaches.

Coping with PMS

There are lots of things you can do to cope with PMS.

  • Take part in gentle exercise, like walking, swimming or yoga.
  • Use a hot water bottle or have a hot bath.
  • Ask your parents, carers or the school nurse for advice on taking pain relief.
  • Try to eat healthily and get plenty of sleep.

If your symptoms are making it hard to live your daily life or they won’t go away, it can help to visit your doctor for advice.

Tampons and other sanitary products

When you have your period you’ll need to use something called a sanitary product to soak up the menstrual blood.

There are lots of different products you can use and you can buy them from supermarkets, pharmacies and some local shops. There’s no age limit on buying sanitary products, and anyone can get them.

If you’re feeling worried, confused or embarrassed about which products to buy, it can help to ask an adult you trust for advice. You could also ask an adult to go with you to help you buy them, especially if you don’t have money yourself.

Whatever sanitary protection you use it’s important to change it regularly throughout the day to keep clean and reduce the risk of leaking.

Here are some common types of sanitary products:

Periods, sex and pregnancy

You can have sex at any time of the month as long as it's something that you and your partner both consent to and feel comfortable with. Some people prefer not to have sex during their period, and that’s okay. It’s your decision what feels right for you.

If you do choose to have sex it’s important to use contraception. There’s still a chance you can get pregnant or catch a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Sperm can live in the body for up to 7 days so it can be possible to get pregnant at any time of the month.

If you use tampons, it's important to remove a tampon before you have sex.

Missed your period?

There are lots of reasons you might have missed your period. Lots of young people have irregular periods when they first start. If you’re sexually active, then it’s possible that you may be pregnant.

If you’ve missed your period, it can help to: