A period is the part of the menstrual cycle when a person with a vagina bleeds from here for a few days.
For most people this happens every 28 days or so, but it’s common for periods to be more or less frequent than this. They can range from around 21 to 40 days between bleeding. It’s likely that periods might be irregular when they first start with longer times between them.
Your period can last between 3 and 8 days, but it will usually last for about 5 days. The bleeding tends to be heaviest in the first 2 days.
When your period is at its heaviest, the blood will be red. On lighter days, it may be pink, brown or black.
Sometimes you might see clots, these are a thick, lumpy substance made up of blood and tissue. They’re totally normal, but if they are very big and happening often it would be a good idea to speak to a doctor.
You’ll lose about 30 to 72ml (5 to 12 teaspoons) of blood during your period, although some people bleed more heavily than this.
When do periods start?
Periods usually begin at around the age of 12, although some people will start them earlier or later.
A delay in starting periods isn’t usually a cause for concern. Most people with a vagina will be having regular periods by age 16 to 18. CLICK HERE to read more about delayed periods and when you should seek advice.
Sanitary pads are strips of padding that have a sticky side you attach to your underwear to hold them in place. One side of the pad is made of an absorbent material that soaks up the blood.
Pads come in many sizes, so you can choose one to suit how heavy or light your period is.
Pantyliners are a smaller and thinner type of sanitary pad that can be used on days when your period is very light.
You can get these in skin and environment friendly material like bamboo.
You can also get reusable sanitary pads and panty liners. These are made with a few layers of material to make sure they’re just as absorbent as disposable ones. They can be washed and used again and again, making them better for the environment and cheaper long-term.
Pads and liners should be changed at least every 3 to 4 hours. Some people might need to change them more depending on their flow.
Tampons are small tubes of cotton wool that you insert into your vagina to soak up the blood before it comes out of your body.
There are 2 types of tampon – ones that come with an applicator and others without an applicator that you insert with your fingers. In both cases, there’s a string at one end of the tampon, which you pull to remove it. CLICK HERE to read more about inserting a tampon. If the tampon is inserted correctly, you should not be able to feel it inside you. If you can feel it or it hurts, it might not be in properly.
It is not possible for a tampon to get stuck or lost inside you. Your vagina holds it firmly in place and it expands inside you as it soaks up the blood. It’s important to change them regularly.
Can a tampon get lost inside me CLICK HERE to read more.
What if I forget to remove my Tampon? CLICK HERE to read more.
Menstrual cups are an alternative to sanitary pads and tampons. The cup is made from silicone and you put it inside your vagina.
Menstrual cups collect the blood rather than absorb it. Unlike sanitary pads and tampons, which are thrown away after they’ve been used, you can wash menstrual cups and use them again.
These are pants that use layers of material to hold your period blood. There are lots of options available and they can be washed and re-used.
No-one who needs sanitary products should have to go without. They are available free to young people in places like schools, colleges and youth centres. If they’re not in the toilets just ask! There is lots of work being done to raise awareness of period poverty and to encourage people to talk more openly about periods in general. CLICK HERE to find out more about the Period Positive work Dundee and Angus College are involved in
Evidence shows that more than one in three people in the UK have experienced period shaming (where they have been made to feel uncomfortable about having their period) through bullying, isolation or ‘time of the month’ jokes and nearly half said they felt embarrassed the first time they got their period, 35% said they felt scared and 24% felt confused. Remember it is a natural bodily function experienced by more than 50% of the population, not something to be embarrassed about.
PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
Changes in your body’s hormone levels before your period can cause physical and emotional changes.
This is known as PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or PMT (premenstrual tension). CLICK HERE to read more about this.
Your periods can change – for example, they may last longer or get lighter. This does not necessarily mean there’s a problem, but it may need to be investigated
You can see your GP, or visit your nearest sexual health clinic if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- Bleeding or regular spotting between periods
- Bleeding after having sex
- Bleeding after the menopause
- No periods for 3 months
- Periods suddenly becoming irregular
- You bleed for more than 7 days
- You have to change your tampon every 1 to 2 hours
- Severe pain
These things might be signs of an infection, abnormalities in the neck of the womb (the cervix) or, in rare cases, it could be cancer. Doctors and sexual health clinics are totally used to discussing all parts of people’s bodies and won’t be phased in the slightest if you need to talk about your periods.
There are Period Tracker apps that you can download to keep track of YOUR cycle and get to know what’s normal for YOU. This can be helpful day to day but also if you’re asked to monitor your periods for any medical reason.
Stopped or missed your period?
It’s really common to miss a period and most people will experience this at some point in their lives. It could be a sign of pregnancy, particularly if you’ve had unprotected sex. But periods can stop for other reasons too, CLICK HERE to read more.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Many people don’t realise they have this until they start trying for a family or have experienced problems in this area for a long time with diagnosis in Scotland taking an average of 8.5 years.
Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 of those born female of any age and the earlier that it is diagnosed the better the outcome. Most people have some pain and discomfort leading up to, during and after their period. This is normal. The pain should not be so intense that you cannot get up and carry on with your normal life. If it is you should speak to a family member, school nurse or doctor.
You may get told your periods will settle down, but for some people they won’t. Keep speaking about it and keep a pain and symptoms diary, including how this is impacting on your life, to show to a nurse or doctor.
Common symptoms to look out for include:
- Painful, heavy or irregular periods
- Pelvic pain
- Pain when urinating
- Painful bowel movements
- Pain during or after sex
- Difficulty getting pregnant
Endometriosis is a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on your life, but there are treatments that can help you manage it. Local support is available for you and your support network via Endometriosis UK’s website or you can contact the local Dundee group HERE or HERE.
CLICK HERE to read more about this condition and if you have any worries speak to your doctor to discuss.