What's a period?
So, what exactly is a period?
You’d be surprised to know not many girls (and even some women) don’t fully understand what a period is and why we get them.
Luna believes knowledge is power and the more informed you are, the better your period experiences will be.
We get a lot of messages from young girls who are alarmed by very natural and normal processes within the menstrual cycle. We live in the age of information, so there’s no need anyone should be in the dark.
Let’s unpack periods for you now.
However, it is important to note that if you’re ever worried, go see your school nurse or GP.
Why do girls get periods?
When you start your period it means your body is ready to make a baby – that’s an intense thought, so let’s just focus on the physical.
You have a pear-shaped organ inside your body called a uterus, this is where a baby grows. The wall of the uterus is covered in layers of tissue and blood called the uterine lining.
This lining is for a fertilised egg (that grows into a baby), it helps the foetus implant into the uterus and supports growth.
Your body works on a 28-day cycle, so each month your body releases an egg (a very small egg) from one of your ovaries. If that egg is not fertilised by sperm, then your body knows you’re not pregnant and don’t need the lining. It then breaks away and exits your vagina as period blood.
Once your body gets used to this new function, your period should be fairly regular, meaning you should get your period every four weeks.
How long does it last for?
Your first period is often light and may only last a day or two. Generally periods last anywhere from 2 – 7 days.
Bleeding will be the heaviest at the start of your period, with it becoming lighter towards the end. It’s normal for bleeding patterns to change from period to period for the first few years.
It’s common to have a brownish discharge before your period and towards the end of your period. This is normal and not to be alarmed by.
Blood is bright red when it’s fresh and full of oxygen (when your flow is heavy it will be bright red), when it’s older and dried it turns brownish. All normal.
Why does it hurt?
At the beginning of your period, your uterus may spasm randomly causing a dull ache around the tummy area. These spasms are commonly known as period cramps.
This is caused by a chemical called prostaglandin, which breaks down the lining from the uterine wall.
Heat does wonders for period pain - use hot water bottles and wheat packs and place them on the lower part of your abdomen.
Sometimes you might need something a bit stronger, try panadol and remember to have something to eat with it such as a banana (also a great food to eat during your period, read more here).
Why is it heavier on some days?
For many girls, the first three days are the heaviest, this is also often when girls experience cramps as the majority of the lining is coming away.
This is because the flow of blood is at its highest and the lining is coming away faster than on other days.
The last few days are ‘left-over’ blood, which is why your flow is lighter (your period is finishing up) and why the blood might be slightly darker in colour.