Getting your first period is hard. It's confusing and scary and sometimes it can feel totally embarrassing. But that's the thing. EVERY GIRL gets her period! We should be talking about it and asking as many questions as we want, because theres nothing to be embarrassed about!
Today Wesley (age 11) asked Suzan Hutchinson some questions regarding her first P. Suzan works for a company called Lunette, they make menstrual cups. It kind of works like a tampon, except it's more of a cup that catches fluid instead of absorbs.
The best thing about menstrual cups is that its re-usable and way more eco friendly in comparison to tampons and pads.
Here are the questions that Wesley had for Suzan!
Wesley: Does it hurt when you get your period?
Suzan: Getting your period doesn’t hurt. But, sometimes the uterus can get a little grouchy because of all the changes she’s going through when your period starts and can cramp up a little. It feels a bit like a charley horse – the kind you get in your leg muscle sometimes, only it’s in your lower abdomen and/or lower back. Not everyone’s uterus gets grouchy like this. Just know that if it does, it’s normal and doesn’t last long. And, a hot bath, water bottle or yoga can help the pain.
Wesley: Does your period stay forever? Do you always get it, till you die?
Suzan: No, your period doesn’t stay forever. Your period will come and go. At first, when you begin having periods, they will be irregular. You may not know when it’s going to start, when it will end, or how long the time will be between periods. That’s normal. It’s also normal for your period to sometimes be one day only, or to last for two weeks. As your body matures, you will find that your periods come in cycles that become regular – once a month - in the amount of time between your periods, in the number of days your periods last, and in the amount of flow that your uterus releases. And, no. Just like periods have a beginning due to the hormonal changes the body goes through with puberty, they also have an ending due to similar hormonal changes the body goes through again later in life. Usually by the time a woman is in her mid 50’s she has reached what is called menopause and her periods stop.
Wesley: Why do you get your period?
Suzan: You get your period when your body has experienced the hormonal changes that puberty brings. These changes include an increase in height and weight, breast growth, growth of hair on legs, underarms and pubic area. These are all changes that are easy for you to see. But, inside of you, changes are taking place as well. Hormones are at work to mature your insides to those of a woman. As these changes take place, you will probably notice a vaginal discharge. This is indication that your hormones are triggering your ovaries and your uterus to respond. Eventually, as you continue to mature, these hormones will trigger your ovaries to ovulate (produce an egg) and your uterus to prepare for a fertilized egg (pregnancy) by growing a lush lining. Your body will practice this over and over, refining the process and preparing for the day when you become sexually active and ready to have a baby. Along with the changes that take place within you, there are changes occurring mentally as well. You may find yourself moody at times and uninterested in things you once found fun. This is normal. Eventually, when your body is ready, hormones will trigger your uterus to shed its lining and this blood rich lining will exit your uterus through the opening (the cervix) and from your body via your vagina. That is why you get your period. In girls who are new to having periods, it doesn’t always mean that they ovulated. It just means that hormones have triggered the uterus to shed the lining. It’s good practice for the body and a way for the growing and maturing organs to stay healthy.
Wesley: Why is it blood that comes out?
Suzan: The uterus is where babies live before they are born. And, for the fertilized egg to be able to develop it needs a safe and secure place to plug into. Hormones prompt the uterus to provide that safe and secure place by having it create a plush lining within it that’s perfect for the egg. This plush lining contains many tiny blood vessels and blood rich material that a fertilized egg would settle into and plug into as the baby grows. When menstruation begins (you have your period) this lining breaks down because the hormone needed was not present to sustain it – this hormone comes from the fertilized egg. So, when the lining breaks down, all the blood that was in it, along with secretions from the uterus, cervix and vagina combine to form your period as it exits through your vagina.
Wesley: How do you feel after you get your period? Do your emotions change?
Suzan: Puberty is a time of change – physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Life is all about change. We grow and we change. And, with change comes some frustration and confusion. Hormonal changes can produce changes and swings in emotions. You may feel cranky one day and happy the next. Or, you may feel impatient, or caring, or tired, or very energized…. Just as you feel these emotions now, you will feel them after you get your period – only perhaps more so at times. Emotions don’t really change – they just feel stronger and your reactions may be stronger as well. Learning to cope with all the changes during puberty and with the hormonal changes that your menstrual cycles will bring can be frustrating at times and seem overwhelming. But, this is not something to fear, but rather to embrace. This is a time of exploration, of learning and becoming. It’s full of exciting changes in your onward journey to becoming an adult.
Wesley: Will other people know I'm on my period?
Suzan: Well, that’s hard to say. Usually other people won’t know unless you tell them. And, truly, it’s okay if you do tell them. Being on your period isn’t something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, though it may feel quite private to you.
Wesley: How will I know when I get my period?
Suzan: At first you may experience a vaginal discharge. You may also notice that instead of being white or clear, it takes on a light pink or tan color at times. This indicates it won’t be many months or weeks before your first period starts. Usually, the body will give clues that change is coming soon. Watching for those clues will help you know and be able to prepare for when your period does start. Spotting (meaning very light pink color or only a spot or two of red) sometimes happens before you actually experience your first period (also known as menarche). Before your first period starts, you may experience bloating of your abdomen, grumpiness, uterine cramps, becoming emotional and crying – or not notice any changes at all. Knowing your body and recognizing all the changes it’s going through will help you know when your period could start. Puberty is a time of hormonal change and your body will give signals concerning those changes. Your job is to watch and learn and be aware. Get to know your body inside and out. Don’t dread the start of your first period. Be informed. Be prepared. Be excited.
Wesley: Is it ok to use tampons?
Suzan: Great question! And, the answer will depend on several things:
- Is your caregiver okay with you using tampons and is he/she willing to advise you and monitor their use?
- Are you mature enough to abide by the rule of selecting only the size/absorbency tampon that truly meets your need and change them often so that the risk of developing TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) remains low?
- Are you mature enough to remember to remove the last one you insert?
- Since it’s recommended that tampons not be worn overnight, are you willing to choose an overnight option that provides less risk for TSS?
- Do you really NEED to use tampons? Most people don’t NEED to. They do so as a way to hide the fact that they are on their periods, not as a means to manage their flow. It’s usually good for girls who are new to having periods to use pads only at first, and tampons only for swimming and sports where pads simply won’t work. Using pads only at first gives you information about your period and about yourself that simply plugging your vagina with a tampon won’t.
- It’s NOT okay to use scented tampons. Doing so can cause a vaginal infection or allergic reaction – neither of which are good.