Periods (menstruation)

About every month during a woman’s fertile years, her body goes through a natural process called the menstruation cycle.


It is the body’s way of preparing the womb for a pregnancy. Having a period (or menstruating) happens when the womb is not needed for a pregnancy.


When will I have my first period?

Some girls get their first period at 8 or 9, and some don’t get it until they’re 15 or 16. The average age is 12 or 13. There is no ‘right’ time and your period will start when your body is ready. If you haven’t started by the time you’re 16, you should see your GP or school nurse. Typically, you’ll start your periods about two years after your breasts start growing and about a year after getting a white, vaginal discharge.


How long does a period last?

It’s different for everybody. Some girls menstruate for only 3 days, and some for as long as 7 or 8. The average is about 4–5 days.


How do I know when my period will arrive each month?

It should come every 26-32 days – write down the date it arrives each month in a diary/in your phone and this will help you to be prepared. You could wear panty liners/towels in the run up to your period if you are worried about when it might start.


What if a girl never gets her period?

Girls who reach the age 16 without starting her period will need to see the doctor for investigations, diagnosis and treatment.


When does a woman stop menstruating?

Women get periods until the menopause, which is when menstruation and the ability to have children stops. In most women, it usually happens in their late 40s or early 50s. But menopause can happen earlier or later than that. Some women may stop menstruation by the time they’re 35, and others not until the late 50s.


How much blood will I use?

It might seem a lot, but it’s only about 3-5 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.


Do periods hurt?

Some girls find their periods can be quite painful but taking some painkillers should help – if it is really bad you can see your doctor or pharmacist to advise and he/she will suggest other over the-counter remedies.


Ways to manage pain include:

  • Massage the stomach
  • Taking some exercise
  • Warm drinks
  • Having a warm bath
  • Hugging a heat pad or hot water bottle (warm)
  • Relaxation
  • Stopping smoking (smoking is thought to increase your risk of period pains)


How do I stop the smell?

  • Change your towel/tampon regularly
  • Wash/Shower/Bathe more frequently during your period
  • Daily change of underwear