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Monthly Challenges: Your Period and You

Monthly Challenges:
Your Period and You

What is a period?
What happens during your period?
Will my periods always come at the same time every month?
What do I do about the bleeding?
What are the other symptoms of a period?
What can I do to feel better during a period?

What is a period?
A period is the flow of blood out of your uterus that happens every month. It's also called a menstrual period. Your period is your body's way of telling you that you're not pregnant that month. back to top

What happens during your period?
Your period comes at the end of a monthly process called the menstrual cycle. This cycle repeats every month, and it's how your body prepares for pregnancy. The only times your menstrual cycle changes are when you get pregnant or when you go through menopause. Menopause doesn't happen until much later in your life (like when you're 50 or so).

Each month, hormones in your body cause an egg to develop in one of your ovaries. Once the egg is released, the ovary sends out hormones telling your uterus to get ready to receive a possibly fertilized egg.

The egg travels down your fallopian tube, which connects the ovary to the uterus. After intercourse, sperm swim up through the uterus to this tube. If there are sperm in the fallopian tube when the egg is there, fertilization may occur, and a new pregnancy begins.

Most months, the egg doesn't get fertilized by the sperm. Because pregnancy causes the lining of the uterus to continuing growing, if you're not pregnant, the lining falls away and comes out of your body as your period. As your period is ending, another egg begins developing in your ovaries and the cycle starts all over again. back to top

Will my periods always come at the same time every month?
Most girls find that they get their periods every 28 days, and they last 3 to 7 days. The amount of blood flow each girl has during her period is different. But most girls find that the amount is the same from month to month.

In the first year or two after they get their first period, girls often have irregular periods. This means periods that don't come every month. It happens because they don't ovulate regularly. If you have irregular periods, you may also get heavy bleeding and cramping. After the first year or so, periods usually become more regular. back to top

What do I do about the bleeding?
Even though it's kind of messy, the blood from your period is completely normal. This is what you can do to take care of it all:
  • Some girls use sanitary napkins, also called pads or Kotex®. Pads are made of materials that will absorb the blood and keep your underwear clean.
  • Some girls use tampons. Tampons are small, soft sticks of tightly rolled absorbent material. You put the tampon in your vagina where it soaks up the blood from your period. Most brands provide an applicator that you can use to put it in. Tampons are easy to put in and take out and they shouldn't hurt. back to top
What are the other symptoms of a period?
Besides the monthly flow of blood, periods produce a lot of other symptoms. These might include:
  • Cramping. During your period, you might feel cramps in your lower belly. You get them because your uterus is contracting to push the blood out. If you get very painful cramps, you might have a condition called dysmenorrhea. Talk to your health professional about your cramps if they're so painful you can't do all your normal activities during your period.
  • Bloating. You might notice that your feet, hands, or belly are puffier than normal in the days just before your period. The puffiness means that your body is not getting rid of water and other fluids the way it usually does. The bloating will go away naturally during the course of your period.
  • Emotional changes. You might have mood swings, or notice that you're crankier than usual before your period. If you are severely emotional, you might have a condition called premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Midcycle pain. Some women have pain in their lower belly at the time that they ovulate, which is usually at the mid-point between two periods. This pain is called mittelschmerz. back to top
What can I do to feel better during a period?
Many girls use medications they can buy at the drugstore, especially for pain and to get rid of some of the cramps and bloating. Medicines like ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®) and naproxen (Naprosyn®) can really help stop cramps from your period. Ask your health professional which medicine is best for you.

Birth control pills can help ease the bad side effects of your periods. Girls who use birth control pills always have regular periods. Their periods are usually shorter with lighter blood flow. Birth control pills can also help get rid of period cramps. back to top

Last Modified Date: 3/28/2001
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