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Beginner’s Guide To Periods

What’s a period? & Why do we get periods?

Let’s learn about our periods!


Luna teaches periods on the blackboard

You’ve probably heard your older sister or friends talk about “getting their periods” and using “pads and tampons”.

And you’re probably asking yourself what is a period?

Asking questions is a great place to start! The more you learn about your body, the more you will be prepared for your period!

By the end of this post, you will know what it means to start puberty, what a period is, why we get periods, why we bleed, and whether or not you’ll have your period forever.

Starting Puberty

Puberty is a phase of change your body goes through where your body reaches sexual maturity. In other words, you become capable of reproduction, or having babies. Having a period is a big part of being able to do this.

When you reach around ages 8 to 12, your body starts to change and you go through puberty.

For girls, puberty includes developing boobs (breasts), a growth spurt (increase in height, widening of hips), growing armpit and pubic hair, secreting vaginal discharge (a clear whitish fluid), and getting your period.

What’s a period & Why do we get periods?

Your body works in an amazing way. Every month, your body goes through a complex cycle called the menstrual cycle (or period cycle). This cycle happens so that you can have a baby one day if you want to.

Your period, the days that you bleed, are only one part of this cycle.

On average a menstrual cycle is about 28 days. But not every girl in the world has a 28 day cycle. Some girls will have shorter cycles, some girls will have longer cycles and this is completely normal.

Your period cycle is driven by hormonal changes in your body. You don’t have to fully understand hormonesto understand your period. Just know that there are hormonal changes happening in your body throughout the period cycle.

This cycle is complex but luckily for us, it is a self regulating cycle. You don’t really have to do anything. Your body goes through this cycle by itself month after month after month!

Why do girls bleed during their period?

Every cycle, your ovaries release an egg. This process of releasing an egg is called ovulation.

It’s not a giant egg like the chicken eggs we see in supermarkets. It’s actually called an ovum and it is super tiny, only about the size of the tip of your pencil!

Uterus

In this diagram, the endometrial lining is shown in dark red lining the uterus.
The ovum then travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. If you have sexual intercourse around this time, the ovum may be fertilized by the man’s sperm and you may become pregnant.

Every cycle your body prepares a special lining in your uterus just in case you become pregnant. This lining is called the endometrial lining and it is a soft spongy lining of tissue and blood to nourish and protect a growing baby.

If you do not become pregnant, your body sheds the endometrial lining and it leaves through your vagina. This is your period!

Your period is a mixture of the endometrial lining and blood. Remember the endometrial lining is soft tissue. That’s why sometimes your period looks clumpy and this is completely normal.

Your period doesn’t come out all at once. It leaves your body through the course of 5-7 days. Some days the period flow will be heavier and some days it will be lighter.

After your period is over, the cycle starts all over again. Your body releases and egg, your body prepares a new lining, and if you don’t become pregnant, then you shed the lining and get your period…. and this goes on and on and on every month!

Will I have my period forever?

The good news is no….but most women have their periods from puberty until they are about 50 years old. At around this age your body will go through another change called menopause. This is when your ovaries stop releasing eggs.

But don’t worry about menopause! After all, you just started your period!

Got questions? Leave a comment below!

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Understanding your menstrual cycle

Let’s learn about our periods!

In this section you’ll learn about the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle, the average 28 day cycle and periods shorter and longer than 28 days.

The Four Menstrual Phases

The period cycle is complex but it can be easy to understand when you break it down into its 4 phases. Each day of your menstrual cycle is part of one of these phases so we’ll take a look at how each day maps onto the phases afterwards.

Your menstrual cycle goes through 4 phases (in order): the menstrual phase, the preovulatory phase, and postovulatory phase.

menstrual phase
Menstrual Phase

This is when you bleed and get your period. This starts at the first day of your period cycle and for most girls this lasts anywhere between 3 to 7 days.

Your endometrial lining sheds and exits your body through your vagina.

preovulatory phase
Preovulatory Phase

Now that you’ve had your period, your cycle enters the preovulatory phase. You no longer have an endometrial lining so your body prepares a new one all over again.

Your endometrial lining starts to thicken and an ovum in your ovaries starts to mature as it gets ready to be released.

ovulation phase
Ovulation Phase

About two weeks before your period, your ovaries releases the now mature ovum and you ovulate!

In this diagram, you can see the ovum released from the right ovary where it then begins its journey down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. The ovum is actually much smaller than that. It is actually closer to the size of the tip of your pencil.

post ovulatory phase
Postovulatory Phase

Your menstrual cycle then enters the postovulatory phase where your endometrial lining continues to thicken.

When you don’t become pregnant, your uterus sheds the lining, marking the start of your period and the cycle starts all over again at the Menstrual Phase.

The average 28 day cycle

menstrual cycle

Another way we can understand the menstrual cycle is by looking at how the days of our cycle map onto the menstrual phases. The average period cycle lasts 28 days so we’ll use that in our example.

Remember, 28 days is just the average and not all girls have a 28 day cycle. Some girls may have longer cycles and some girls may have shorter cycles and this is normal.

So what’s happening during your cycle?
Days 1-5
This is the menstrual phase and this maps on to the days that you have your period and bleed.
 
Days 6-14
The days after your period map on to the preovulatory phase. This starts from the first day after your period until the day you ovulate. On these days, your uterus is starting to build a brand new endometrial lining.
 
Day 14
This day maps onto the ovulation phase. Ovulation typically happens about half way through your cycle so for a 28 day cycle, this will most likely occur on day 14. During this time, an ovum is released from your ovary and into the fallopian tube.
 
Days 15-28
The days after you ovulate, map onto the postovulatory phase. During this time, your uterus continues to build the endometrial lining and it continues to thicken.
 

Pretty easy right? Got questions? Leave a comment below!

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How to count your menstrual cycle

Keeping track of your period is easy!

Keeping track of your menstrual cycle can help you prepare for your period and better predict when your next period will be.

By the end of this post, you will have learned how to count your period cycle and other helpful tips to predict when your period is coming.

Let’s get started! All you need to get started is a calendar and a pencil.

Step 1: Write down the first day that you bleed.
The first day of my cycle was January 13.

period calendar

Step 2: Write down any PMS symptoms, how long you bled for, and what your flow was like.
By keeping track of any PMS symptoms, we can use them to predict when our next period is!

Keeping track of how long you bled and whether your flow was heavy, normal, or light. will help us prepare for our period. This way you know how many and what type of pads/tampons to bring with you.

Sometimes it may not be crystal clear how many days you bled for because maybe you bled very lightly or spotted for the last couple days and aren’t sure which days to count. This is okay. It’s not important that you know exactly how many days you bled for. Just try to get a general idea of how long you bleed for.

I bled for 5 days. The first couple days were heavy and then became lighter. Leading up to my period, I had lower back aches and some cramps. During my period, I experienced cramps again and felt moody.

What are some PMS symptoms?

What are some PMS symptoms?

Before your period begins, hormonal changes in your body may cause other symptoms known as PMS or pre-menstrual syndrome. You can use these symptoms in addition to keeping track on your calendar to help you figure out when your period is coming.

Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Feeling moody or irritable
  • Lower back ache
  • Sore breasts
  • Cramps in lower part of your tummy
  • Ache along your inner thighs
  • Breaking out in acne
  • Headache
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Feeling bloated
  • Changes in appetite

You may not experience all of these symptoms or any of these symptoms at all. Every girl experiences a different set of symptoms.

period calendar
Step 3: Write down the first day of your NEXT period
period-calendar-3
Step 4: Count the days!
How long is my period cycle? Help me count the days!

Count the days starting at first day you bled to the day before your next period.
period calendar

Click to enlarge

Did you get 28 days?

period calendar

Click to enlarge

Step 5: Predict your next period.
Now that we know how long your period cycle is, we can just use it to count the days to predict your next period.
 
My period cycle is 28 days so if I count 28 days from February 10, that’s when my next period should come.
period calendar

Click to enlarge

So I should expect my period to come on… March 10!
 

Will my period always come on time?

No, your menstrual cycle may not always come on time. The length of your menstrual cycle may vary from cycle to cycle. As you get older, the length of your menstrual cycle may even change.

Sometimes your period may be late and sometimes it maybe early. This is especially true during your first couple years of having your period. As you become older and more familiar with your body, you will develop a better understanding of when your period will come.

Starting your period is a huge step and this can take some getting used to for your body. You may find that your period is sometimes a day or two late or early or sometimes you may even miss a period all together. This is completely normal. (For those that are sexually active, keep in mind that a missed period may be an indicator that you are pregnant.)
 

Don’t worry! We can also use PMS symptoms to predict when our period will come.

As you become more familiar with your period, you will notice that you experience the same PMS symptoms leading up to your period.

For example, in step 2 I marked down that I had lower back aches and cramps.

If my period comes on time like I predicted, I should expect to feel these symptoms at around the same time again.

If I experience these symptoms earlier than I predicted, then I can predict that my period will come early

If my period is late then I may expect to feel these symptoms later and expect my period soon after.

If you keep track of your period by counting the days and keep track of your symptoms, then you can use both to better predict and prepare for your period!

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Pads, Tampons & Menstrual Cups

You can choose what to use!

In this section, we’ll compare pads, pantiliners, tampons, and menstrual cups.

Back in the day, the options for pads were very limited. Women wore bulky pads attached to belts that were strapped into place.

old pad

Aren’t you glad we don’t have to wear these anymore?

Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then! Today there are many different products for both light and heavy flows. Many of these products are easy and convenient to use and make your period as comfortable as possible.

You can check out the tutorials to learn how to use each of these products.

Some girls find it easiest to start with pads until they have become more comfortable with their periods but you can use tampons or menstrual cups from your very first period if you like.

Whatever you choose to use is completely up to you! The choice is yours :)!

What are they?
Pantiliners

pantilinersPantiliners are designed to absorb vaginal discharge and meant to keep you feeling fresh throughout the day. They are stick on to your panties in the same way that pads do. There are a variety of pantiliners available and they come in a wide range of sizes, lengths, and shapes (including thong) so you can choose one that best fits your needs and preferences.

You can also wear pantiliners for:

  • As a tampon back up to catch leaks
  • At the end of your period when your period is light or when you are unsure if your period has stopped
  • When you are expecting your period so you don’t stain your panties when you start your period
  • If you have an irregular cycle and your period may come unexpectedly
Pads

pads
Pads are worn on your panties and designed to absorb your period. They come in many different shapes, sizes, and a range of absorbencies to fit your needs and preferences.

There are two main types of pads:

  • Thin or Ultra thin pads
  • Maxi pads (which are thicker)

With today’s technology, thin or ultra thin pads offer the same great protection (if not better!) as maxi pads. Some women prefer maxi pads because they fit closer to the body but when worn with snug fit panties, thin pads offer the same close fit.

There are two main pad designs:

  • Pads with wings
  • Wingless pads

Wings wrap around the sides of your underwear to help the pad stay in place and protect the sides of your underwear when you move around. Wingless pads work best with boyshort style panties.

Tampons

Tampons are designed to be worn inside your body in the vaginal canal. The expand to fit your shape as it absorbs your period. Sometimes they leak so it’s a good idea to wear a pantiliner too.When inserted correctly, you can’t feel the tampon inside you. This is one of the reasons some girls prefer tampons especially those active in sports.

There are two types of tampons:

  • Applicator : Made of cardboard or plastic that helps guide the tampon into place
  • Non-applicator : Tampon is inserted using your hand

Tampon come in a variety of absorbencies but you should always choose the lowest absorbency to avoid risk of TSS. Tampons can only be worn for a maximum of 8 hours. If you are sleeping with a tampon, you need to make sure you wake up in time to change it.

Tampons are removed by pulling on the string and sliding the tampon out. Do not flush the used tampon.

Menstrual Cups

divacupMenstrual cups are small soft cups designed to be worn inside your body. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups collect period fluid and are reusable.

They are offered in a couple of sizes and since it is held in place by the vaginal canal, most menstrual cups are one size fits most.

They can be worn for up to 12 hours and when inserted correctly, you won’t be able to feel it. It’s long wear time and comfort are some of the many reasons athletes and busy women choose to wear a menstrual cup.

There are two types of menstrual cups:

  • Menstrual Cup that sits at the base of your vaginal canal such as the DivaCup, KeeperCup, MoonCup
  • Menstrual Cup that sits below your cervix such as the Instead SoftCup
Comparison Chart
ComparePantilinersPadsTamponsMenstrual Cups
Price*$$-$$$-$$$$-$$$
Where is it worn?On pantiesOn pantiesInside body, vaginal canalInside body, vaginal canal
Absorbs or Collects?AbsorbsAbsorbsAbsorbsCollects
At what time in your cycle can you wear it?AnytimeAnytimeOnly when you have a flow**Anytime
How long can you wear it for?Max 8 hoursMax 12 hours
Can you wear it swimming?NoNoYesYes
Can you it be worn during intercourse?NoYes, only the Instead SoftCup
Risk of TSS?NoNoYesNo
Reusable?NoNoNoYes

*Price depends on brand. Generally, pantiliners are cheaper per unit, pads and tampons are comparable, and menstrual cups cost more, however most are reusable and only a one-time cost.

**This means you cannot put in a tampon when you are expecting your period and haven’t started bleeding yet. This is because there is nothing to absorb.

What do you like to use? Share and tell us why in the comments!

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How to prepare for your first period

It’s smart to always be prepared!

In this section you’ll learn what to bring in your backpack so you’ll always be prepared for your period.

Being always prepared means carrying a couple of pads or tampons with you at all times even when you’re not expecting your period.

Things to pack for your first period
  • 2-3 pads or tampons
  • spare underwear
  • plastic bag

Bring an extra pair of panties just in case your first period soils your panties. This way you can change into a fresh pair. You can throw away the soiled panties or put them in the plastic bag and wash them at home.

When you become more comfortable with your period, you may find that you only need to carry pads and tampons. Most girls always have at least one or two pads or tampons with them at all times even when they’re not on their period.

If you don’t have pads on you, most public washrooms also have small vending machines that sell pads and tampons. They usually cost around a dime or a quarter.

Where do I carry all my supplies?
If you’re going to school, you can carry your period kit with you in your school bag, pencil case, make up case, or purse.

I like to carry mine in a small zipper pocket in my backpack. Does your school bag have a small pocket like mine?

If you don’t have a bag with you, you can always slip a pad or tampon in your pocket.

But what if I forget my supplies and I have no money?

Since most girls always have supplies with them, you can just ask another girl :)!

I know it may be a bit scary or awkward to ask another girl for a pad, especially a total stranger you don’t know! Luckily for us girls, we have the Girl Code!

The Girl Code is the unwritten rule of always helping out another girl when she needs a pad.

Girl Code

Most girls have been in this predicament before and we all know what that’s like. This is exactly why we have Girl Code.

I have used the Girl Code many times and it has never failed me. In my experience, when it comes to Girl Code, girls always go above and beyond to help one another.

I’ve even total strangers in public washrooms for pads and every single time, they have always shared their supplies with me! And when they didn’t have any, they would go out of their way to ask their friends or even offer to purchase one from the machine for me.

There have even been times when other girls saw me approaching the pad machine and offered me a pad without me even asking!

The Girl Code is no joke! So don’t be shy to ask another girl for a pad and always help another girl if she needs a pad!

Do you feel more prepared for your first period now? If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section below!

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