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Tips & Advice

Bella Flor / Tips & Advice

Frequently Asked Questions

When does a girl usually get her first period?

In the United States, the average age is 12. This does not mean that all girls start at the same age. A girl can start her period anytime between the ages of 8 and 15. Usually, the first period starts about two years after breasts first start to grow. If a girl has not had her first period by age 15, or if it has been more than two to three years since breast growth started, she should see a doctor.

What is menstruation?

Menstruation is a woman’s monthly bleeding, also called a period. When you menstruate, your body is shedding the lining of the uterus (womb). Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix, and passes out of the body through the vagina. Most menstrual periods last from three to five days.

What is a menstrual cycle?

Menstruation is part of the menstrual cycle, which prepares your body for pregnancy each month. A cycle is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long. Cycles can range anywhere from 21 to 35 days in adults and from 21 to 45 days in young teens.
Body chemicals called hormones rise and fall during the month to make the menstrual cycle happen.

What happens during the menstrual cycle?

In the first half of the cycle, levels of estrogen (the “female hormone”) start to rise and make the lining of the uterus (womb) grow and thicken. At the same time, an egg (ovum) in one of the ovaries starts to mature. At about day 14 of a typical 28-day cycle, the egg leaves the ovary. This is called ovulation.
After the egg has left the ovary it travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. Hormone levels rise and help prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy. A woman is most likely to get pregnant during the three days before ovulation or on the day of ovulation. Keep in mind, women with cycles that are shorter or longer than average may ovulate earlier or later than day 14.
If the egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm cell and attaches to the uterine wall, the woman becomes pregnant. If the egg is not fertilized, it will break apart. If pregnancy does not occur, hormone levels drop, and the thickened lining of the uterus is shed during the menstrual period.
In the picture below, the egg has left the ovary and is on its way through the fallopian tube to the uterus.

What is a typical menstrual period like?

During your period, the thickened uterine lining and extra blood are shed through the vaginal canal. Your period may not be the same every month and it may not be the same as other women’s periods. Periods can be light, moderate, or heavy, and the length of the period also varies. While most periods last from three to five days, anywhere from two to seven days is normal. For the first few years after menstruation begins, longer cycles are common. A woman’s cycle tends to shorten and become more regular with age. Most of the time, periods will be in the range of 21 to 45 days apart.

What kinds of problems do girls have on their period?

• Women can have a range of problems with their periods, including pain, heavy bleeding, and skipped periods.

• Amenorrhea – the lack of a menstrual period. This term is used to describe the absence of a period in:

• Young women who haven’t started menstruating by age 15.

• Women who used to have regular periods, but haven’t had one for 90 days.

• Young women who haven’t had a period for 90 days, even if they haven’t been menstruating for. long

Causes can include pregnancy, breastfeeding, and extreme weight loss caused by serious illness, eating disorders, excessive exercising, or stress. Hormonal problems, such as those caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or problems with the reproductive organs, may be involved. It is important to talk to a doctor.

• Dysmenorrhea – painful periods, including severe cramps. When menstrual cramps occur in teens, the cause is too much of a chemical called prostaglandin. Most teens with dysmenorrhea do not have a serious disease even though the cramps can be severe. In older women, a disease or condition, such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis, sometimes causes the pain. For some women, using a heating pad or taking a warm bath helps ease their cramps. Treatment depends on what is causing the problem and how severe it is.

• Abnormal uterine bleeding – vaginal bleeding that is different from normal menstrual periods. It includes very heavy bleeding or unusually long periods, periods too close together, and bleeding between periods. In both teens and women nearing menopause, hormonal changes can cause long periods along with irregular cycles. Even if the cause is hormonal changes, treatment is available. These changes can also go along with other serious medical problems such as uterine fibroids, polyps, or even cancer. You should see a doctor if these changes occur. Treatment for abnormal bleeding depends on the cause.

How long does a woman have periods?

Women usually have periods until menopause. Menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, usually around age 50. Menopause means that a woman is no longer ovulating (producing eggs) and can no longer get pregnant. Like menstruation, menopause can vary from woman to woman and these changes may take several years to occur. The time when your body begins its move into menopause is called the menopausal transition. This can last anywhere from two to eight years. Some women have early menopause because of surgery or other treatment, illness, or other reasons. If a woman doesn’t have a period for 90 days, she should see her doctor to check for pregnancy, early menopause, or other medical problems that can cause periods to stop or become irregular.

When should a girl see a doctor about her period?

You should see your doctor if:

• You have not started menstruating by the age of 15, or by three years after breast growth began, or if breasts haven’t started to grow by age 13.

• Your period suddenly stops for more than 90 days.

• Your periods become very irregular after having had regular, monthly cycles.

• Your period occurs more often than every 21 days or less often than every 45 days.

• You are bleeding for more than seven days.

• You are bleeding more heavily than usual or using more than one pad or tampon every one to two hours.

• You bleed between periods.

• You have severe pain during your period.

• You suddenly get a fever and feel sick after using tampons.

How often should I change my pad/tampon?

Pads should be changed as often as needed, before the pad is soaked with blood. Each woman decides for herself what works best. Tampons should be changed at least every four to eight hours. Make sure that you use the lowest absorbency tampon needed for your flow. For example, use junior or regular absorbency on the lightest day of your period. If you use a super absorbency tampon on your lightest days, you may have a higher risk for toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but sometimes deadly disease. Young women may be more likely to get TSS. Using any kind of tampon, at any absorbency, puts you at greater risk for TSS than using pads. The risk of TSS can be lessened or avoided by not using tampons, or by alternating between tampons and pads during your period.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following tips to help avoid tampon problems:

• Follow package directions for insertion.

• Choose the lowest absorbency for your flow.

• Change your tampon at least every four to eight hours.

• Consider alternating pads with tampons.

• Know the warning signs of TSS (see below).

• Don’t use tampons between periods.

If you have any of these symptoms of TSS while using tampons, take the tampon out, and contact your doctor right away:

• sudden high fever (over 102 degrees).

• muscle aches.

• diarrhea.

• vomiting.

• dizziness and/or fainting.

• sunburn-like rash.

• sore throat.

• bloodshot eyes.

How to calculate my Period?

Your date of ovulation is calculated by subtracting 14 to 16 days from the date of your next period. This is an approximation and may not be exact for every woman. These calculations may not be accurate if your cycle is less than 21 days long or more than 35 days long, or if your menstrual cycle is irregular from month to month. Please consult your doctor for more detailed information. You are most likely to become pregnant if sexual activity occurs right before or after ovulation.

Your due date is estimated by adding 40 weeks (280 days) to the approximate first day of your last menstrual period. Only 5 percent of women deliver their babies on their due date, so this date should be used as an estimate. It is not an exact calculation.

What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms linked to the menstrual cycle. PMS symptoms occur in the week or two weeks before your period (menstruation or monthly bleeding). The symptoms usually go away after your period starts. PMS can affect menstruating women of any age. It is also different for each woman. PMS may be just a monthly bother or it may be so severe that it makes it hard to even get through the day. Monthly periods stop during menopause, bringing an end to PMS.

What causes PMS?

The causes of PMS are not clear. It is linked to the changing hormones during the menstrual cycle. Some women may be affected more than others by changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. Stress and emotional problems do not seem to cause PMS, but they may make it worse.

Diagnosis of PMS is usually based on your symptoms, when they occur, and how much they affect your life.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

PMS often includes both physical and emotional symptoms. Common symptoms are:

• acne.

• breast swelling and tenderness.

• feeling tired.

• having trouble sleeping.

• upset stomach, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.

• headache or backache.

• appetite changes or food cravings.

• joint or muscle pain.

• trouble concentrating or remembering.

• tension, irritability, mood swings, or crying spells.

• anxiety or depression

Symptoms vary from one woman to another. If you think you have PMS, keep track of which symptoms you have and how severe they are for a few months. You can use a calendar to write down the symptoms you have each day or you can use a form to track your symptoms. If you go to the doctor for your PMS, take the list with you.

How common is PMS?

Estimates of the percentage of women affected by PMS vary widely. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, at least 85 percent of menstruating women have at least one PMS symptom as part of their monthly cycle. Most of these women have symptoms that are fairly mild and do not need treatment. Some women (about three to eight percent of menstruating women) have a more severe form of PMS, called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). See the question, “What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)?” below for more information.

PMS occurs more often in women who:

• are between their late 20s and early 40s.

• have at least one child.

• have a family history of depression.

• have a past medical history of either postpartum depression or a mood disorder.

What is the treatment for PMS?

Many things have been tried to ease the symptoms of PMS. No treatment works for every woman, so you may need to try different ones to see what works. If your PMS is not so bad that you need to see a doctor, some lifestyle changes may help you feel better. Below are some lifestyle changes that may help ease your symptoms.

• Exercise regularly.

• Eat healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

• Avoid salt, sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol, especially when you are having PMS symptoms.

• Get enough sleep. Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.

• Find healthy ways to cope with stress. Talk to your friends, exercise, or write in a journal.

• Don’t smoke.

In more severe cases of PMS, prescription medicines may be used to ease symptoms. Consult your doctor.

What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)?

There is evidence that a brain chemical called serotonin plays a role in a severe form of PMS, called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). The main symptoms, which can be disabling, include:

• Feelings of sadness or despair, or possibly suicidal thoughts.

• Feelings of tension or anxiety.

• Panic attacks.

• Mood swings, crying.

• Lasting irritability or anger that affects other people.

• Disinterest in daily activities and relationships.

• Trouble thinking or focusing.

• Tiredness or low energy.

• Food cravings or binge eating.

• Having trouble sleeping.

• Feeling out of control.

• Physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain

You must have five or more of these symptoms to be diagnosed with PMDD. Symptoms occur during the week before your period and go away after bleeding starts.