Every month, girls have to deal with periods and it can be quite annoying and fussy. Apart from the physical issues, there’s also the emotional side of things. (Boys should read about that as well!)
Menstruation/Period – basically the breakdown of the endometrium (uterine lining) which occurs about once a month. (FSH, LH, Oestrogen & Progesterone are the 4 main hormones controlling the menstrual cycles)
The period has many different names including:
- On the rag
- Riding the crimson wave
- That time of the month
- The monthly bleed
- Just plain old boring, and vague in a way that means everyone knows what your on about really - Being On
The first period
The first period can often be quite frightening for many girls, and likely to arouse some panic. (Mine was on Father’s Day, and mom wasn’t there so my maid had to help me.)
The average age for a first period is 12, but for most people it can be any time between the ages on 9 and 16. (I didn't get mine til I was 14) An increased in amount of clear vaginal discharge is usually noticed about 6 months before the first period. The length of time that it lasts can vary from 2-3 days to 7 days or above, and menstrual flow can be very light or rather heavy, with the heaviest flow usually in the first 2 days. Although your periods might look like a lot, usually it’s merely a few spoonfuls of blood (I find it a bit hard to believe sometimes too!) There’s no need to worry about excessive blood loss. However, some girls might bleed too much and become slightly anaemic if period lasts too long, or usually heavy flow due to von Willebrand disease – an inherited medical condition which affects the blood clotting ability. Please consult a doctor when your menstrual flow is abnormally heavy.
This is quite common, especially during the first few days of the period, but many gradually grow out of it. This is believed to be caused by uterine muscle contractions. Some can be mild and just annoying, but some can be intensely painful. The pain can be relieved by drugs, e.g. acetaminophen/ibuprofen, or by a warm bath/warm heat-pad. If the pain becomes too unbearable and none of these work, please consult your doctor for advice. Mefenamic acid is commonly prescribed for incredibly severe period pains.
PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
PMS is brought about by high & fluctuating hormone levels, before or during periods.
Most people have heard of this, and some guys even use this term to an irritating level, blaming every girl’s mood swings on PMS!
PMS include mood swings, irritability or mild depression. Some have cravings for certain foods, usually sugary food. This is due to an increased responsiveness to insulin/low blood glucose level. These can be helped by a diet with complex carbohydrates, ie. whole wheat, fruits, vegetables, which can counteract the glucose level fluctuations. Girls might also feel bloated due to water retention/swollen or sore breasts/headaches. Exercise and restricting caffeine consumption can also help to relieve PMS.
Note to boys: this does NOT, however, mean that a girl is having PMS whenever she insults you, as it's more likely that you've done something wrong. And some girls do not suffer from PMS at all.
There are many products available these days, and each has its pros and cons, so don’t be afraid to try out different ones because there might just be a better one down the aisle.
Most girls start off with pads, these are very easy and hassle free to begin with, personally I'd recommend Always, for their quick and very absorbent properties - I especially like the ones with wing! Some, if not many, might gradually switch to tampons. Tampons are convenient for sporty/watersports events, and some choose to wear tampons during the day and pads at night. As stupid as this may sound, please change into a clean one regularly, especially those who choose to wear tampons.
A growing minority of girls choose to use a Mooncup, a silicone menstrual cup that collects the blood which is then tipped away and rinsed out every 8 hours. However these are best used after a girl has got used to her period rather than right away.
Tampon users please follow the guidelines below
- Use the lightest tampon possible for your flow (so don't use a Super Absorbent one on your lightest day)
- Use 100% cotton ones as synthetic fibres can cause irritation
- Change tampons regularly (every 4-8 hours)
- Never use it overnight/during TSS/between periods (risk of drying out the vagina)
NB if you have a heavy flow and feel the need to use tampons overnight, it is ok to do so, as long as it is not in for over 8 hours. OR you put it in right before you go to bed and take it out first thing when you get up.
- Try to swap between pads and tampons during each period
- Be careful when inserting a tampon (plastic applicator can increase the risk of lacerations)
- Use a water-soluble lubricant if your vagina seems dry
TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome)
TSS is an illness caused by toxins produced by a rare bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus), which occurs mostly in girls using high absorbency tampons. Bacteria are able to entire the vaginal wall through the lacerations caused by tampons, and high absorbent tampons are particularly dangerous because some might expand too much and adhere to the vaginal wall, so a layer of vaginal lining can be scraped off when the tampon is removed. TSS usually occur during/immediately after period.
- fever (over 102°F)
- drop in blood pressure
- muscle/head aches
- sore throat
- blood shot eyes
- peeling of the skin on the palms and soles
TSS can potentially be fatal. Other associated illness include kidney/liver failure. Immediate medical help is needed if these symptoms should occur. Patients are required to be hospitalised and treated with anti-staphylococcal antibiotics for 2-3 weeks. IV fluids are also needed to counteract low blood pressure/fluid loss.
However, do not be worried about TSS. It is a very rare condition and if you use tampons of the correct absorbency and do not leave them in for too long, you will be fine.
There are many other types of products, but I’ve only focused on pads and tampons here because these are the more common ones and I don’t know too much about the others.
The Mooncup is a reusable menstrual cup made from soft silicone rubber and is worn like a tampon. It is to be used more than once and, if used correctly, can last for years. So it's cost effective and helps to save the enviroment!
More information on the Mooncup can be found in the The Great Mooncup Thread / FAQ
Page originally created by eurasianfeline