What is menstruation?
Menstruation is a woman’s monthly bleeding, also known as your ‘period’. During a period, your body discards the monthly buildup of the lining of your uterus. Blood flows from your uterus through the small opening in your cervix and exits your body through your vagina.
What causes a period?
A period is caused by hormone changes in a woman’s body. The ovaries release the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones cause the lining of the uterus to build up each month to prepare for pregnancy. The lining builds up so that it is ready for a fertilized egg to attach and begin developing. If there is no fertilized egg, then the lining breaks down and bleeds. This bleeding is a period.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovaries. An egg travels through a thin tube called a fallopian tube into the uterus. If the egg is fertilized by a sperm, it attaches to the wall of the uterus and begins developing into a baby. If the egg is not fertilized, the uterus lining breaks down and bleeds in the form of a period.
When do most girls start their period?
The average age for a girl in the United States to start her first period is 12 years old. It is normal to start your period anytime between ages 8 and 15. Your period usually starts about 2 years after your breasts start to develop and pubic hair begins to grow.
How often will I have my period?
Your period should come every 3-5 weeks (21-35 days).
Your periods may not be regular for the first couple years after you start your period, but they should start to regulate after 2-3 years.
Can I become pregnant as soon as my period starts?
Yes, you can become pregnant as soon as your period starts. If you are planning to become sexually active, you should schedule an appointment to talk with your doctor about birth control options.
How long does period bleeding last?
Bleeding usually last between 3-7 days.
What options are out there for dealing with period blood?
There are multiple options; you can use whichever option is most comfortable for you.
  • Pads sit in your underwear outside the body and absorb blood. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can try a few different types to find out which is most comfortable for you. It is recommended to change a pad every 3-4 hours during the day.
  • Tampons are inserted in the vagina and absorb period blood inside the body. Tampons are a great option especially when you are exercising or swimming. Remember to change a tampon every 4-6 hours. A tampon should not be worn for more than 8 hours because of the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
  • A menstrual cup is a small cup made of silicone that is inserted into the vagina to hold the period blood. You should empty the cup 2-4 times per day.
Women can use different products on different days of their period depending on how heavy or light their bleeding is.
How much blood comes out?
It can look like a lot of blood, but a woman typically only loses a few tablespoons of blood with each period.
Will I have periods my whole life?
No, periods should permanently stop when you reach menopause around age 45-55. In addition, women do not have a period during pregnancy and periods may not come back right away if you are breastfeeding.
What is PMS?
PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is a group of symptoms that happen before and during your period. These can include acne, headaches, bloating, moodiness, and breast tenderness. These symptoms usually resolve a couple days after starting your period.
What can I do for my period cramps?
Period cramps are very common, especially on the first few days of your period. If cramps bother you, use a warm heating pad on your belly and take ibuprofen or naproxen as needed.
What should alert me to schedule an appointment with my doctor?
You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you:
  • Have not had your first period by age 15
  • Have had your period for more than 3 years and it still does not come regularly
  • Have bleeding between your periods
  • Have severe cramps that do not get better with ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Have very heavy bleeding (bleeding that goes through 1 pad or tampon in 1 hour)
  • Have periods that last more than 8 days
  • Have postmenopausal bleeding
  • Or have severe PMS symptoms that get in the way of your day to day life
Periods are a normal and healthy part of a woman’s life. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to talk with your doctor.