Periods are a part of a woman’s monthly cycle where the menstrual lining of the uterus usually sheds every 28 days, but a normal cycle can range from 24 to 35 days.
Periods normally last between 3 and 8 days, but it is most common for them to last for 5.
Crucial: Some things can change how often you have periods, like being ill, or using some kinds of contraception.
Starting your periods
About a year after your body starts puberty, your periods will start. The normal range for starting your period is anywhere between the age of 8 and 14, and the average age is 11. If it hasn’t started by the time you turn 16, it’s time to see your GP and they can help figure out why.
Coming on unexpectedly
If your period comes on and you’re not prepared, don’t panic! Ask your friends if they have sanitary protection to lend you. If you’re at school, you may have vending machines, or you could ask a female member of staff or the school health nurse for supplies. They’ll be glad to help you out.
Crucial: Lots of women use a period app to track when their period is due. This provides reminders so you won't be caught out!
Tampons, pads, and …cups?
There are different ways to collect menstrual blood.
Most girls start with pads, which have absorbent material and adhesive to stick onto your pants. They come in different sizes and shapes, including smaller sizes for teenagers.
You can start using tampons as soon as you like, though you have to learn how to use them properly. They can be helpful if you have a heavy period, or if you are doing sport like swimming. Make sure to change a tampon every four hours or sooner.
There is another option called a menstrual cup, which is a small silicone cup which is placed into the vagina to collect blood during your period.
I had regular periods and then they stopped!
If your periods have started and suddenly stopped, it’s important to talk to a health professional.
There are different reasons why your period can stop:
- If you are having sex, you could be pregnant
- You have lost too much weight
- You are exercising too much
Crucial: You can get pregnant at any point in your cycle, even when you have your period. Always use contraception.
Instant Expert: For more answers to frequently asked questions, about periods, sanitary protection and more, you can read this leaflet online: Periods – What You Need to Know