Periods 101

Experts answer your burning questions, like ‘What is a menstrual cup, anyway?’ or ‘Why did I just pee a little then?’

When will I get my period?

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Periods are very individual and vary from one person to another. On average they begin between the ages of 10 and 13. However they can begin as young as 8 or as late as 17. Periods are another sign you are going through puberty and are the most natural thing in the world. Some of the signs your period (or menstrual cycle) is about to begin are: you may have noticed your body shape changing, some weight gain, height increase, pubic hair, breast development and a clear, white or yellowy discharge from your vagina (not necessarily in that order).

Will I know if my period is coming?

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For subsequent periods, some of you will experience signs just before each period such as tender breasts and some tummy swelling. But others don’t feel anything at all. You may feel a bit moody or may have lower back pain. Feeling grumpy or even tearful is very normal and nothing to worry about. It’s also quite common to have some early stage ‘spotting’ a few days before your period but you will find that your period becomes more regular as you begin to understand what your ‘normal’ is. It can take on average 4 to 6 years for your menstrual patterns to become well established.

How long will my period last?

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Periods usually last between 3 and 7 days and are often lighter in the beginning, getting heavier in the first few days and then lighter again towards the end until it stops. You typically will lose a very small amount of blood during your period, approximately 6 to 9 tablespoons (half a cup) although it can often feel and look like much more.

How often will I get my period?

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Periods most often occur on a 28 day cycle but 21 days to 35 days is within the normal range. When your periods start, they are often irregular before they settle down to a regular pattern. A Menstrual Cycle is calculated by marking the first day of bleeding (also known as Last Menstrual period, LMP) and then counting until the day before the next menstrual period starts. So if you start bleeding on the 1st of November and then you start the first day of your next period on the 29th November that will be a 28 day cycle. We recommend that you keep a diary, calendar or an app so you can keep track of your periods and what ‘normal’ is for you.

What should I use when I get my period?

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Most women and girls prefer to use either period pads (disposable or washable), tampons, menstrual cups or period underwear. These protect your clothing and help keep you feeling fresh, comfortable and clean. Oi pads fit inside your underpants and are secured by an adhesive backing strip, which keeps them in place. Period underwear has absorbency sewn into the gusset and are washable and reusable. Tampons are available with or without applicators and come in different sizes designed to suit your individual flow. You can use a combination of tampons and pads, as a tampon should not be worn for more than 8 hours at a time and never overnight. Using a tampon in no way means your body has changed or you are viewed in a different way. It is simply a way to absorb the blood flow internally. A menstrual cup sits inside the vaginal canal like tampons and are emptied regularly and reused.

How will I feel during my period?

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It’s not uncommon to feel a bit tired; you may even feel grumpy, tearful or hungry. It’s important to rest as much as you feel like you need to and take some quiet time if you choose. Make sure to eat lots of nutritious foods and drink plenty of water. It can also be helpful to gently exercise, stretch, and apply a gentle heat (wheat bag / hot water bottle) to relieve stress and minimize tummy aches.

What is PMS?

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PMS is an acronym for Premenstrual Syndrome. Some people with periods really notice this whilst others are hardly effected. PMS is the result of changing hormones in your body that can make you feel grumpy, emotional, and even angry. You may crave sugary foods like chocolate which can actually make the symptoms worse. These symptoms disappear once you have your period but if you are affected badly it is a good idea to see your doctor. Supplements, such as Vitamin B6 and essential fatty acids can help bring you relief.

Can I go swimming when I have my period?

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The answer is yes! You can go swimming but you will need to use a tampon or menstrual cup, not a pad. Tampons and menstrual cups are also better if you play sports, as they are less bulky and more comfortable during exercise. If you are using pads, just write a note or tell your coach you are unable to swim while you have your period.

What healthy things can I do when I have my period?

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It's not uncommon to feel a bit tired when you have your period so rest is very important. It's also a good idea to have some gentle exercise such as walking, riding a bike, yoga, dancing or swimming which can help with low energy levels and tummy cramps. A good diet is also essential and we recommend that you have lots of whole whole foods including fresh vegetables, good qualtiy meats such as chicken, fish and lamb or beef, nutrient dense grains and fruit. It's also important to avoid junk foods as these can make you feel tured and deplete your body. Remember to drink lots of fresh water and herbal teas are great too.

What should I do if my period starts in school?

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It's a good idea to start carrying some pads, liners and/or tampons in your school bag at the time. Put your sanitary product in the small or medium Oi bags provided and pop this in your school bag. It is sometimes difficult to know exactly when your period will start especially in the early days of having your period. Use a panyu liner daily for freshness and to catch spotting if getting close to your period. It can take a while for you periods to get into a regular monthly cycle.

If you forget to put tampons or pads in your school bag or your period starts earlier than expected, speak to the school nurse or a trusted friend, you will find that the school office or nurse will have a supply onf tampons and pads that you can use. These will fit in the medium Oi purse.

If you period starts during a lesson, wrap a jumper or jacket around your waist and ask to be excused from class. Find the school nurse, female teacher or go to the school office for help. It's often a good idea to pack a clean pair of knickers in your schoolbag too just incase.