When a girl starts going through puberty, she will start having periods. The average age for a girl to start having periods is 12 years old. However, because everyone’s different, it’s possible to start earlier or later than this.

Once you have started puberty, about every month during your fertile years, your body goes through a natural process called the menstruation cycle. It is the body’s way of preparing your  womb for a pregnancy. Having a period (or menstruating) happens when the womb is not needed for a pregnancy.

Boys also need to learn about periods. Talk to them in the same way as girls about the practicalities, mood changes that can come with periods, and the biological reason behind periods. It will keep them informed, as well as help them to understand about periods.

When you start your periods it's a sign that your body is now able to have a baby. It's important that you also know about getting pregnant and contraception.

There can be stigma and shame connected to periods and some young people in the UK are unable to afford period products. If you can’t afford or access period products or are struggling with your period symptoms, please speak to your parent, school, GP or school nurse for some help.

Everyone needs to learn about periods to be better informed and help them understand.

How will I know when my periods are going to start?

Signs that your period is on its way are if you've grown underarm and pubic hair. Typically, you'll start your periods about 2 years after your breasts start growing and about a year after getting a white vaginal discharge. The average girl will get her first period around 12 years old, but it varies from person to person.

Why have my periods not started yet?

Your periods will start when your body is ready. This is usually between age 10 and 16, or 2 years after your first signs of puberty.

Possible reasons for delayed periods include being underweight, doing lots of exercise (including dance, gymnastics and athletics), stress and a hormone imbalance.

See a GP if your periods have not started by age 16 (or 14 if you do not have any other signs of puberty). Your GP may suggest a blood test to check your hormone levels.

You may be referred to a specialist (usually a gynaecologist – a specialist in women's health) to find out what's causing your delayed periods and discuss any treatments that might help.

How do I get ready for my first period?

Talk to your parent or another adult you trust about what you can expect before it actually happens.

It's a good idea to start carrying sanitary pads or tampons around with you in advance.

If you find yourself at school without a pad or tampon, ask a teacher or the school nurse for some.

How long will my first period last?

Your first period might not last very long, as it can take your body some months to get into a regular pattern. As a general rule, once they're settled, you'll have a period every 28 to 30 days and it will last 3 to 7 days.

How much blood will I lose?

It might seem a lot, but it's only about 3 to 5 tablespoons. It's not a sudden gush – you'll just see a reddish-brown stain on your pants or on your sheets when you wake up in the morning.

What if period blood leaks through my clothes?

There are ways of covering up stains until you're able to change your clothes, such as tying a sweatshirt around your waist. Keep a spare pair of pants and tights at school or in your bag.

Should I use pads, tampons or menstrual cups?

This is up to you. Tampons, menstrual cups and pads (towels) are safe and suitable if you’ve just started your period. You might want to use pads for your very first period as tampons and cups can take some getting used to. It might be worth experimenting until you find the product that suits you best.

Can a tampon get lost inside me?

No, it can't. When you insert a tampon, it stays in your vagina. All tampons come with a string at one end that stays outside your body. You can remove the tampon at any time using this string.

Read the full answer to Can a tampon get lost inside me?

What if I forget to remove my tampon?

If you forget to remove your tampon, it can turn sideways or become compressed at the top of your vagina. This can make it difficult for you to pull it out. If you think you've left a tampon in and you can't get it out, go to your GP or nearest sexual health clinic. They can remove it for you.

Read the full answer to What if I forget to remove my tampon?

What is TSS?

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is caused by the bacterium Stapylococcus aureus, which is commonly found in the nose and vagina of normal healthy people. Most strains of the bacteria do not cause TSS, but some do. Some women do not have the antibodies to protect themselves against these toxic strains and this can lead to TSS. 

How can I reduce the risk of TSS?

  • Use the lowest absorbency tampon to control your flow

  • Change your tampon every 4 to 6 hours

  • If you use a tampon overnight, insert a new tampon before going to bed and change it as soon as you wake up

  • Consider using a pad at night instead of a tampon

  • Read the leaflet contained in every box of tampons for up-to-date information

What are the symptoms of TSS?

Some of the symptoms of TSS are much the same as the flu. You can become very ill, very quickly.
Symptoms include:

  • High fever (>38degrees C)

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhoea

  • A rash that looks like sunburn

  • Muscle aches

  • Dizziness

  • Fainting or near fainting when standing up.

If you have any of these symptoms, remove your tampon and consult a doctor immediately, telling him/her that you have been using a tampon and are concerned about TSS.

PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is the name for the symptoms women can experience in the weeks before their period. Most women have PMS at some point. You can get help if it affects your daily life

It's not fully understood why women get PMS, but it may be because of changes in their hormone levels during the menstrual cycle.

Some women may be more affected by these changes than others.

Symptoms of PMS

Each woman's symptoms are different and can vary from month to month.
The most common symptoms of PMS include:

  • mood swings

  • feeling upset, anxious or irritable

  • tiredness or trouble sleeping

  • bloating or tummy pain

  • breast tenderness

  • headaches

  • spotty skin

  • greasy hair

  • changes in appetite and sex drive

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