Menstruation

What Is It?

Menstruation, or commonly referred to as a period, is when blood and tissue is shed from the uterus usually once every month. This monthly process is called the menstrual cycle. Basically, when a female is menstruating her body is preparing for pregnancy by releasing an egg from her ovaries. The eggs are extremely tiny and unable to be seen by the human eye. If there is no sperm to fertilize the released egg, the female uterine wall lining begins to shed blood, nutrients, and tissue otherwise used to help with fertilization, through the vagina. And boom, the period is born!

When Do Periods Happen?

There is no set age that determines when a female will get her period. Every girl is different—some girls get their periods at 10 and others 15. Most girls get their periods sometime between the ages 12 and 14. On the contrary, most women stop getting their periods between ages 45 and 55.

Period Signs & Symptoms

Many females get cramps or other symptoms before and/or during their period. Symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the person. This combination of symptoms is called Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Over 90% of females say they get PMS symptoms before or during their periods. PMS symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Moodiness
  • Cramps (pain in lower belly or lower back)
  • Acne breakouts
  • Sore breasts
  • Feeling tired

Females can control majority of these symptoms by taking pain medicine such as ibuprofen, putting a heat pad where it hurts, taking a hot bath, exercising, or stretching. It’s recommended that females with severe PMS symptoms reach out to their doctor for additional medical guidance.

How to Handle Periods
There are a many different ways a female can deal with her period such as:

  • Pads
  • Absorbent material that goes inside underwear
  • Come in different sizes for heavier and lighter periods
  • Must change every 3-4 hours even if period flow is light
  • To dispose, wrap pad in toilet paper and put in trash can or disposable box found in bathroom stalls
  • DON’T FLUSH PAD DOWN THE TOILET!
  • Tampons
  • Absorbent material pressed into a cylinder applicator that gets inserted into the vagina
  • Come in different sizes for heavier and lighter periods
  • Must change every 3-5 hours even if period flow is light to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome—a dangerous, sometimes fatal condition from leaving tampons in too long
  • To dispose of applicator and absorbent material, wrap them both in toilet paper and put in trash or disposable box
  • It’s highly encouraged NOT to flush tampons down the toilet!
  • Menstrual Cups
  • Reusable silicone, funnel-shaped cup inserted into the vagina that holds blood until emptied
  • Eco-friendly alternative to pads and tampons
  • Can be worn for up to 12 hours before needing to be emptied and rinsed
  • Brands include: The Diva Cup, Lena, Softcup and many more

Potential Problems

Majority of females don’t have any serious problems with their periods; however, below are signs of potentially serious problems which need to be addressed by a doctor:

  • Periods persists for over two years and still doesn’t come regularly (about every 4-5 weeks)
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Severe cramps that don’t get better with pain medicine
  • Very heavy bleeding (bleeding that goes through a pad or tampon faster than every 1 hour)
  • Periods that last more than a week
  • Severe PMS that gets in the way of daily activities

Sources:
Planned Parenthood

Nemours TeensHealth

Healthline