Few things are more mysterious—or dreaded—than getting your period for the first time. It’s natural to have lots of questions: When will it happen? How much blood will there be? How long will it last?
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about menstruation.
What is menstruation?
Menstruation is the shedding of the uterine lining, which occurs when a pregnancy does not take place. Every month, the uterus thickens in preparation for a fertilized egg. If no egg is fertilized, the thickened lining is shed and menstruation (or your period) begins.
What are the signs that you’re getting your period?
The most common sign that your period is about to start is a change in your vaginal discharge. Just before your period starts, you may notice that your vaginal discharge is thinner and lighter in color than it is at other times of the month. Some girls also have cramps just before their period starts.
How long does a period last?
Most periods last from 2 to 7 days. The average is about 5 days.
What are menstrual cramps?
Menstrual cramps are abdominal pain that can occur before or during your period. They’re caused by your uterus contracting to help shed the uterine lining. Menstrual cramps are usually not severe and go away after a day or two.
What is PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms that some girls experience a week or two before their period starts. The symptoms, which can include mood swings, irritability, depression, bloating, and Breast tenderness, typically go away once your period begins.
How can you make your period more comfortable?
There are a few things you can do to make your period more comfortable:
- Use a heating pad or hot water bottle on your abdomen or lower back to ease cramps.
- Place a clean, dry towel between your legs when you stand up to help absorb blood.
- Try taking a hot bath.
- Exercise can help relieve cramps.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can also help relieve cramps.
When should you see a doctor about your period?
You should see a doctor if you’re having period symptoms that are causing problems with your everyday activities or if you have any concerns about your period. Some girls also see a doctor if their periods are very painful or very heavy.
Periods are a natural and necessary part of a woman’s life, but that doesn’t mean they’re always comfortable. By understanding more about your period, you can make it through these few days each month with minimal discomfort.