Whether you’re just joining the "period club", you’re about to join or you need a little refresher on menstruation, you’ve come to the right place for answers.
Between the ages of 8-15 (usually), all girls go through that life stage known as puberty. Basically, it starts with a rapid growth spurt - so you grow a few inches, your breasts bud, and then gasp - hair in new places! Finally you may notice a sticky white discharge on your underwear. It’s ok! This is just your body prepping for its first period. Once that happens, you’ve officially joined the club.
What is a “period” and why do we get it?
Your period or menstrual cycle is the way your body readies itself for the possibility of pregnancy. Each month you ovulate, which means an egg is released from your ovary. If sperm doesn’t fertilize your egg then it is shed from your body, and you’ll get your period.
Both of your ovaries contain all of the eggs you will produce in a lifetime. Your "cycle" is the length of time it takes for your body to go through the process of ovulation, which is when one egg matures and takes a little trip out of the ovary, through the fallopian tube and to the uterus. Your "flow" (blood and tissue) then goes from the uterus through the opening of the cervix and is released through your vagina and voila, out of your body! Your hormonal system controls the whole "flow show", which is why you may find a stray zit (or three), and you might feel crampy and emotionally irritable. But hey, it’s all totally normal.
Why do they even call it a "period", anyway?
We were scratching our heads on this one, too. Apparently the word "period" first showed up waaay back in 1822 as another way to describe menstruation. When you think of it, it kind of makes sense because it refers to an "interval of time" or a "repeated cycle of events". Of course, there are many other modern day sayings for menstruation, too, like "time of the month", "aunt flow’s in town", or "riding the crimson wave". The list goes on…
When do girls get their first period? And will it ever stop happening?
Your period can start anywhere between the ages of 9 and 16 but it often happens between ages 12 and 13. It just depends on you. The cycle continues throughout your lifetime until your reach the age of menopause, sometime in your late 40’s or your 50’s – when your body decides it’s done with preparing for a potential pregnancy. So yes, there is an end to it all.
How often does it happen and how long do periods last?
The important thing to know is that it usually takes 1 to 6 years after your very first period to settle into a regular cycle. A cycle typically lasts around 28 days, but we’re all unique snowflakes, right? This means that each of us has our own cycle, which, depending on the rhythm of our bodies can range from every 21 to 36 days. And most periods last 3 to 8 days, but the average duration is 6 days.
So to track your cycle, start with the first day of bleeding – that’s day 1 of your cycle. Count from that day onward, all the way to the day before the first day of bleeding in the next month and you’ll get the number of days of your cycle. So, let’s say your period begins on the 6th day of March, you have 6 days of bleeding, and then you don’t have another period until the 3rd day of April. That means you have a 28-day cycle. Plot it out on a calendar, count up the days and see for yourself.
How will I know if it's happening to me? What are the signs?
Oh, you'll know... :) Honestly, just listen to your body. Puberty can typically take anywhere from 2 to 5 years to unfold. In that time you'll get taller, develop breasts (yay!), grow some pubic hair 'down there' as well as in your armpits, and you'll start to have body odour, too. You may also get zits. Oh, another thing is that you'll start seeing a bit of a cream-coloured (white or yellowy) discharge in your underwear from time to time. These are all perfectly normal signs that your first period is on its way – it could be days or months, depending. You can't set your watch to it, you just have to pay attention to your body and see what happens. Before the bleeding begins, it's common to experience breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, swollen feet or hands and cramping. And this can continue throughout your period. But remember, not all of these symptoms happen to every woman. We're all different, right?
How much blood will I lose each month?
It seems like so much more but typically we only lose less than 4 tablespoons (60ml) of blood during our periods. Crazy, huh?
What do I do if I get my first period at school?
The trick is to be prepared, since you don't know exactly when aunt flow's going to arrive. First, get to know the products that'll protect you, just in case it does happen at school. Then make yourself a portable "time-of-the-month kit" with a fun pair of underwear, a re-sealable plastic bag and 1 or 2 pantiliners and pads, each. You may want to add a travel-size stain-remover stick and vial of ibuprofen, too, just in case. And don't forget the chocolate… ;)
If it does happen at school for the first time, don't sweat it. Seriously. Just push on through! Wrap a jacket or a sweater around your waist, grab your kit and head straight to the bathroom to "deal". Change your underwear, remove the lining paper and apply the liner or pad to your new underwear. Use the stain remover stick on your old underwear and clothes, let it sit and then rinse and dry as best you can. Put your clothes back on and put your old underwear in the re-sealable bag for laundering when you get back home. The good news is that your flow is pretty light on day 1.
If you don't have a kit prepared, no worries, you can always use the 'ol toilet paper trick until you can find some proper protection. Just use a bit of soap and water to clean up any stains and dry it out as best you can. Then ask a friend or a teacher if they have a pad on hand. Schools tend to stock up on feminine care products for this very situation, so don't worry, someone's gonna have your back on this.
I'm kind of dreading talking to my mom or my dad about my first period. What should I say to them?
Yup, "the talk" can seem pretty awkward, but it's not always the case. Actually, it can be a big relief to get it out in the open. Your mom (or your dad, depending on your situation) may approach you about it, but if they don't and you're feeling your period starting to come on, don't wait. Ask for what you need! Just tell them you need to talk about something important. If it isn't urgent, wait for the right moment when you can speak with them one-on-one. Or write them a note telling them what you need.
If you do decide to start a conversation with your mom, a good way to begin is to say, "Mom, I need to talk to you about my period. It's kind of awkward but I need to talk to you." or simply, "Mom, I need to buy some "that-time-of-the-month supplies"." She'll be sure to fill you in on all the details you need to know and make sure you get what you need. It's always a good idea to have all of your questions written down, so you can get all of the answers you're looking for.
A good way to bring it up with your dad is to say, "I need to buy some "that-time-of-the-month supplies"." It might be a little awkward, but he'll know exactly what you're talking about. He'll make sure you get your "supplies", and if you are both comfortable with it, he can try to answer some of your questions. If one or both of you would prefer not to talk about it, that's okay. Perhaps you can find a female family member to talk with, like an aunt or your grandmother. Or find another woman your dad trusts. Again, it's a good idea to have all of your questions written down.
I don't really have someone I feel I can talk to about my first period. What should I do?
Sometimes you may not have a parent or guardian you feel you can talk to about this. But don't only rely on advice from your friends – they're all trying to figure it out, too! You don't want to risk being told something that's not real or true. If this is the case for you, perhaps a school nurse, a guidance counselor, a coach or your teacher could step in. A good way to bring this up is to tell them you need to talk to them about something personal. When you're ready for that one-on-one conversation, say something like, "That time of the month has arrived. This is new for me. I have some questions and I'm going to need some supplies." They'll be sure to help you out.
Will everyone know I've got my period?
Let's face it, unless you're holding a big red sign that reads "it's my time of the month", or you've posted your trip to the tampon aisle on Instagram, your classmates will NOT know you have your period. As long as you feel comfortable and protected on those period days, you should only get noticed for your gorgeous locks or fun, new nail colour. But, if you're still stressing, there are a few things you can do to boost your confidence during that time of the month.
First off, you should know that no one will be able to tell that you are wearing a pad, but if you are worried, use a tampon to avoid any possibility of pad lines showing through your clothes.
Secondly, use Playtex® Sport® Fresh Balance™ tampons with OdorShield™ technology that is actually designed to help neutralize odours. And finally, toss a pack of Playtex® Personal Wipes in your purse in case you're in need of some last minute freshening up.
What about exercising or playing sports during my period? Can I still have fun?
Of course! You can take on whatever sport you love! ☺ Run, bike, dance, rock climb! These are just some of the so-called strenuous activities you can absolutely do when you have your period. Your period is not a sickness and you don't need to rest or take it easy. In fact, healthcare professionals recommend being active as a way to reduce those awful cramps. Our new Playtex® Sport® Pads
, Liners or Tampons
can help you feel comfortable while staying active! Or try our new Playtex® Sport® Combo packs
, with both tampons and pads for Sport Level Protection™ in one convenient package!
Can I swim during my period?
Yes, you can definitely go for a dip! There was a time when girls were told crazy stuff, like not to go swimming when they had their period for fear that sharks would attack or their tampon would swell with water, causing them to drown. Crazy, huh? Don't avoid a perfect beach or pool day just because you have your period. Swimming is perfectly safe, you won't bleed all over the pool, honest! And tampons are definitely the best option for great protection while swimming –because tampons expand to fit your body. Just stay on top of changing them as needed and don't forget to hide the string! There's nothing stopping you from rockin' that cute bikini! Learn more about Playtex® Sport® Tampons
Why do I feel all crampy and how do I make it go away?
You're feeling crampy because your uterus is contracting to help you shed the lining of the uterus. And while cramps aren't fun, it's pretty common for most girls and women.
Here are some ways to say bye-bye to your cramps:
- Eat healthy foods and avoid drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages
- Try doing some light exercise – it can help create endorphins that fight pain naturally
- Gently massage your stomach area to relax your muscles
- Put a hot water bottle or a heating pad on your stomach or take a hot bath
- Try switching to a pad instead of a tampon if you are feeling vaginal pain with the cramps
- Take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen tablets, according to the package directions or under doctor consultation
Remember, not all girls and women get cramps at this time of the month. But if you do get them, you can take comfort in knowing that this may become milder over the course of your reproductive years.
If your cramps are really bad, get more info below under "When Things Don't Feel Quite Right".
What is PMS all about and how do I know if I have it or not?
There's a lot of talk (and blame) about PMS and many people assume that it's something that happens to every girl or woman just before that time of the month.
But it's important to understand the difference between Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and just having a few premenstrual symptoms. PMS is an actual syndrome. To be diagnosed with it a girl or woman must experience a consistent set of pre-menstrual symptoms that are strong enough to hinder her everyday life, for at least 3 cycles in a row.1
PMS symptoms include: feeling irritable, anxious, depressed or confused; angry outbursts, headaches, bloating, sore breasts, swollen hands and feet.
If you have noticed a distinct pattern of reoccurring symptoms like this for 3 months in a row or longer, speak with your doctor about it so they can rule out all possible causes and help you find the relief you need.
Sometimes when I'm between periods, I get white stuff in my underwear. Is that normal?
Yes, it's absolutely normal to experience a white discharge. It varies throughout your cycle, but it is common to have it at the beginning and the end of your cycle.
As you approach ovulation (the release of the egg) you may notice mucous down there (it kind of looks like egg white). Your body tends to produce the greatest amount of this type of vaginal discharge on the day of ovulation so you may want to wear a liner at this time.
If the white stuff looks or smells different or 'off' what should I do?
If you are experiencing a smelly discharge along with itching, soreness and discomfort in your vagina, it may be a sign of infection and you should go see your doctor.
When Things Don't Feel Quite Right
I'm having super heavy periods with really bad cramping and nausea. Is that normal?
Really painful cramps and heavy flow are often related to having higher levels of a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin. A big word, yes, but really it just triggers the muscles of your uterus to contract more intensely, thereby increasing nerve ending sensitivity and therefore causing more pain for you.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen work by blocking the action of the certain enzymes that increase prostaglandin levels. But when the pain is really bad, regular ibuprofen just won't do the trick. If you find that your severe cramping pain is causing nausea as well, and it's interfering with your daily life, you should speak to your doctor. They will suggest better options for managing this.
Why don't I have normal periods like my friends? My periods are not on a regular schedule/cycle. What could that mean?
Periods are often irregular during the first couple of years of menstruation. That's because your body is still working towards finding a hormonal balance that will lead to a regular cycle. And remember that everyone's cycle is different. What's "normal" for you may not be "normal" for your friend.
At the same time, there are some common causes for irregular periods, like emotional stress, illness, excessive weight loss or weight gain, eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia, increased or excessive exercise, certain types of birth control and hormonal changes. Oh, and let's not forget about pregnancy and breast-feeding.
If you feel you need to better understand why your cycle is irregular, talk to your doctor.
My period is late. What could it mean and what should I do?
There are a number of possible reasons for a late period. Aside from a possible pregnancy, it could be the result of high stress, a major change in your life/routine, illness, medications, extreme weight loss or weight gain, and excessive exercise. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about this.
I've been bleeding a bit between periods. Why does that happen and what could it mean?
Any vaginal bleeding that happens after your period ends and before your next period begins is spotting. In most cases, spotting before your period is no cause for concern. However, in some situations, particularly when you have continual spotting, it could signal abnormal uterine bleeding, which can happen as a result of a number of health concerns like thyroid disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, bladder or vaginal infections, uterine polyp, complications due to certain medications, stress, certain types of contraceptive use, and more.
If you suspect this may be happening to you, set up an appointment with your doctor.
Choosing the Right Fem-Care Products
There are so many pantiliners, tampons and pads to choose from. What are they all for and where do I start?
If you've ever been overwhelmed while looking at the wall of feminine hygiene products at the drugstore you're not alone. So, where do you begin?
When it comes to choosing the right product, just remember to go with your flow. Consider how your flow changes as your period progresses over time. For most women, it tends to be light at the very beginning and you may want to start with a liner. As your flow increases, you might move onto using a tampon or a pad. You may choose an overnight pad or a long pad at bedtime during your heaviest flow or you may prefer a super or super plus absorbency tampon for overnight (per manufacturer's directions do not use a single tampon for over 8 hours). It all depends. If you're involved in activities like playing sports, you'll want a liner, pad or a tampon that will support and protect you as you move your body around. Sometimes it's just about what feels comfortable. You're the expert on your own body, so experiment and find out what's right for you.
Our new Playtex® Sport pads, Playtex® Sport liners, Playtex® Sport Combo packs and Playtex® Sport® Tampons provide the right mix of Sport Level Protection™ to support you throughout your period.
How do I insert a tampon?
It's much easier to insert a tampon when you're relaxed. It usually takes a few tries before being able to comfortably insert a tampon, so don't worry. Refer to the instructions and diagrams so you know what to do.
A tampon is actually made up of 2 parts - the tampon itself that you insert into your body, and the plastic applicator you use to insert it. The Sport® applicator has a smooth tapered barrel that contains the tampon within it, attached is a smaller tube below called a plunger.
- Wash your hands and then unwrap the tampon. The slim applicator tip should be rounded and strings should hang out the bottom of the applicator. If you notice any flaws, do not use. While holding the No-Slip Grip® applicator, gently pull on strings to make sure they are firmly attached.
- Get comfortable. Try sitting on the toilet with knees apart or standing with one foot on the toilet seat.
- Insert the applicator: hold the No-Slip Grip® applicator plunger using your thumb and middle finger. Place the applicator tip into your vagina at a 45° angle. Now, gently slide the smooth, tapered applicator all the way into your vagina until your fingers touch your body.
- Push the tampon inside: push the plunger all the way into the barrel with your pointer finger. This will release the tampon. The plunger should now be inside the barrel. Still holding the No-Slip Grip® plunger, gently pull out the two-piece applicator. The tampon should now be comfortably inside you in its precise place with the strings outside your body. After you have inserted the tampon, place the used applicator back into the discreet wrapper and throw away. DO NOT FLUSH THE PLASTIC APPLICATOR.
- Any discomfort? The tampon may not be far enough inside. If this happens, just remove the tampon and try again with a new one. You won't feel anything when the tampon is correctly in place.
- Removal: relax your muscles. Try getting into the position you used during insertion. Gently pull down on the strings. The tampon should slide out easily. Wrap the used tampon in toilet paper and place it in an appropriate waste container.
How long do I leave a tampon in for? Can I wear my Playtex® tampon in overnight?
You can wear a tampon for up to 8 hours, day or night, but keep in mind that you should change your tampon every 4 to 8 hours and use the lowest absorbency needed to reduce the risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome).
Can a tampon be pushed too far up inside my body or can it get lost inside of me?
No, it just can't physically happen. The opening at the end of the vagina – the cervix – is too small to allow a tampon to pass through. And the walls of the vagina hold the tampon in place. The tampon will stay put until you take it out.
The first time I tried using a tampon, it was totally uncomfortable. And when I tried taking it out it hurt. Am I someone who can't use tampons?
Sometimes tampons are inserted incorrectly (usually they're not in far enough) and they feel weird. The fact that it hurt when you pulled it out is because tampons are designed to expand in your body. When you pull out a dry tampon that's only been in your vagina a short time, it can be uncomfortable. Next time, give the tampon a chance to absorb some of your menstrual flow. That way it won't be dry and won't drag along your delicate vaginal lining.
Should I flush my used tampons down the toilet?
It's best to simply wrap a used tampon in toilet paper and toss it in the garbage or if you're in a public washroom, place it in the waste receptacle for feminine hygiene products. And of course, don't ever flush a plastic applicator down the toilet. Simply wrap it in its original wrap or in some toilet paper and throw it in the garbage, as well.
After all, just think of the hassle of fixing a clogged up a toilet. No one wants to deal with that, right?
How do I keep things clean and fresh 'down there' during my period?
Make sure you change your tampons and pads at regular intervals (see package instructions) and keep bathing to keep things clean down there, as it helps to minimize odour. You can also try our Playtex® Personal Wipes
for an easy way to feel fresh, clean and confident every day.
What is Toxic Shock Syndrome or TSS? Is it something that I should be worried about?
Tampons are associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but serious disease that may cause death. Please consult the product insert for further information.
WARNING SIGNS OF TSS ARE, FOR EXAMPLE, SUDDEN FEVER (USUALLY 102° F OR MORE), VOMITING, DIARRHEA, FAINTING OR NEAR FAINTING WHEN STANDING UP, DIZZINESS, OR A RASH THAT LOOKS LIKE A SUNBURN.
IF THESE SIGNS OR OTHER SIGNS OF TSS APPEAR, YOU SHOULD REMOVE THE TAMPON AT ONCE, DISCONTINUE USE, AND SEE YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT TSS:
There is risk of TSS to all women using tampons during their menstrual period. TSS is a rare but serious disease that may cause death. There are scientific studies that have concluded that tampons contribute to the cause of TSS.
The reported risks are higher to women under 30 years of age and teenage girls. The incidence of TSS is estimated to be between 1 and 17 cases of TSS per 100,000 menstruating women and girls per year.
REDUCING YOUR RISK OF TSS:
You can reduce the risk of developing TSS during your period by alternating tampons with feminine pads.
You can avoid any possible risk of getting tampon-associated TSS by not using tampons.
There are scientific studies, which have concluded that higher absorbency tampons increase the risk of TSS. You should select the minimum absorbency needed to control your flow to reduce the risk of developing TSS.
Tampons are available in a range of absorbencies: Regular Absorbency (6-9 grams), Super Absorbency (9-12 grams) and Super Plus Absorbency (12-15 grams). Each absorbency range represents the grams of fluid that can be absorbed by all manufacturers' tampons based on a standardized laboratory test. Use this information to compare the absorbency of these tampons to other brands.
If you have had warning signs of TSS in the past, you should check with your doctor before using tampons again. If you have any questions about tampon use and TSS, consult your doctor.
How do I have "the talk" with my daughter about puberty and menstruation?
Whether you are a mom or a dad – or a stepparent or guardian, initiating "the talk" about puberty and menstruation with your daughter may seem daunting for fear of blushing faces and the rolling of eyes. Although she may truly want to know what's going on with her body and learn what to expect from this change, she may likely be too shy to approach you. That's why it's important to let her know you're there for her to talk about these things. If she pushes you away, don't let it discourage you – she may just feel embarrassed and not quite ready to face it… just yet.
Test the waters with her from time to time but keep it casual and light so she'll feel more at ease. You know her best. What does she like to do for fun? Perhaps an activity she enjoys will help break the ice for "the talk".
If you're her mom or stepmom, let her know you've been there and that it wasn't so easy, but you got through it. Share some of your stories from that 'tender' time. She'll probably be amused and it could bring on some laughs and warm things up for a deeper conversation.
No matter what, it's important to re-assure her that you know what she's going through and that you're there for her. Sometimes you just have to say it out loud so she knows it for sure. And while you're at it why not share what you're appreciating about her? These are all the things that help us build intimacy and trust with one another. It may even bolster her confidence at this tricky time of life.
If you find she's just not having any of it, and she keeps shutting you down, it could mean she finds it too awkward or too personal a matter to discuss with you. Although this may hurt you, try to accept this and suggest that she find another adult she's comfortable with for this conversation. It could be a family member, stepparent, teacher, coach, nurse or guidance counselor. Let her know your feelings aren't hurt (despite how you may really be feeling) and that what's most important to you is that she gets the answers she needs.
Re-assure her that you'll buy whatever feminine hygiene products she needs each month, until she's comfortable enough to go into a store to buy her own. Perhaps you could write a note and tell her which products you use and she can write back and check off what she wants for now. You may even want to put together a "period essentials kit" for her with:
It's not an easy time, but you'll get through it. Perhaps one day she'll even look back at this time and appreciate the space and the support you gave… in your own way.