Periods

During puberty, girls start having periods. This is an important part of puberty. If you're worried about your period, this page will help you to know what they are and how they will affect you.

What you need to know

Periods are a natural part of growing up. And your periods are a sign that your body is now able to have a baby. Each month one of your ovaries (you have 2) releases an egg. The egg travels down 1 of 2 tubes called fallopian tubes and into your womb.

The lining of your womb thickens for a short while during this time. If the egg is fertilised by sperm from a boy's body, it will stick in this soft lining and grow. This is how you get pregnant. If the egg is not fertilised, then the lining of the womb breaks down and passes out of your body through your vagina as a small amount of blood — this is called a period.

Try not to feel embarrassed — half the population has to go through this, so you shouldn't feel like it is a negative or dirty thing. It's part of the cycle of life!

Things to know about periods:

  • periods are an important part of growing up
  • it's good to plan your periods in case they start unexpectedly
  • it can feel confusing or embarrassing but there's nothing to be ashamed of
  • you can talk to your mum, aunt or another adult you trust about what's going on.

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tips to manage your period

Sometimes you can start your period when you're not expecting to, so it's always a good idea to plan ahead. You could try to:

  • keep sanitary products in a bag, drawer or locker
  • have a plan in case you do start your period - for example, a change of underwear, leggings, skirt or something that's easy to carry around if you're at school or on a trip
  • find things that help you with any pain or discomfort - hot water bottles or wheat bags. You could also ask your parent, carer or school nurse about pain relief tablets
  • try to eat fresh fruit and vegetables during your period and avoid too much sugar and caffeine - this can sometimes make pain worse
  • try gentle exercise to help relieve pain and bloating - yoga, stretching or walking are good for this
  • keep a diary, calendar or notes to help keep track of what is normal for you so you can notice any changes or unusual things.

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 tension (or PMT, Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS) is the name for the feeling you might get a few days before a period. Around 90% of women and girls get PMT and the symptoms can be mild or severe.

Common symptoms of PMT:

  • 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.

Tips to soothe the pain

Gentle exercise, using a hot water bottle, having a bath or taking some pain relief tablets can help. Always ask your parent, carer or school nurse about pain relief tablets before you take them.

If the pains get too much, you can talk to your doctor about other options or to see if there's another reason for the pain.

Tampons and sanitary pads

When you have your period you will need to use something called a sanitary product to soak up the blood. There are different products which you can use and you can buy these from supermarkets, pharmacies and some newsagents. You could ask your mum or someone else who you trust to buy these for you.

The most common products to use for periods:

5 tips to help you use tampons:

  • try to relax — if your muscles tense up it can be harder to insert
  • see which style of tampon works best for you - some brands do a range for teenagers, these are smaller in size but have the same absorbency, so you may want to start with these
  • if you're struggling you may want to use a handheld mirror to help you see what you're doing
  • you should change your tampon every 3 to 6 hours
  • never use a tampon when you're not on your period as it can cause an infection or damage your vagina.

Staying active when you have your period

Exercise - like playing sports - doesn't usually affect your period but if you feel uncomfortable or in pain, you could take pain relief tablets or have a break if you can. You can still play sports while you have your period. You can wear a sanitary pad or tampon as you would normally do.

If you decide to swim while on your period, you can use a tampon. A tampon will absorb the blood and won't show through your swimwear. It's important to remember to change the tampon when you have finished swimming. Using a pad will not be as effective because it will absorb water.

Sex during periods

You can have sex at any time of the month as long as it's something that you and your partner both feel comfortable with. Some people prefer not to have sex during their period due to personal choice or finding it is more painful at this time.

If you do choose to have sex it is important to use protection as there is still a chance you can get pregnant and catch or pass on sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 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 is important to remove a tampon before you have sex. You can damage your vagina if you have sex while a tampon is inside of you.

TALKING ABOUT YOUR PERIOD

Talking about periods can sometimes feel embarrassing. Remember that almost all women will have had periods. They might remember what it's like to experience it for the first time.

You could try talking to your mum, aunt or another family member. Talking to friends can sometimes be helpful too.

If the only person you can talk to is a male relative it might seem hard. Some men will have an understanding of what a period is and how it affects women.

You don't have to explain everything, you could just talk about what you feel comfortable saying. Sometimes writing a letter to someone you trust can be a way of letting them know.

Remember that you can always talk to us. Our counsellors are there to listen to you and support you.