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Period Symptoms and Self Care
Period Symptoms and Self Care
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Period Symptoms and Self Care

This video explains the process of getting a period (menstruation), some common period symptoms and ways to manage them, and reviews disposable and reusable period products.

Youth

One big puberty change for people with a uterus is getting your period. Periods may seem scary, but they’re completely normal. Starting your period, also called menstruation, often happens for the first time between the ages of 9 and 14, but it’s okay for it to start a bit earlier or later. Your period happens around once a month because changes from puberty tell your brain to release hormones into your body. During this time, your uterus creates a thick, lush layer of blood and nutrients in case you have sex and a fetus, (or baby-to-be) starts to grow in there. If there is no pregnancy, the uterus pushes out this layer of blood and tissue, which comes out of the vagina as your period. Your uterus then begins to create a new layer with a fresh lining and it starts over again- around every 28 days. Period symptoms can be different for each person. Some people have heavy cramping, mood swings, and a heavy flow of blood, and some people only have some, or none, of those symptoms. 

 

It’s normal to feel nervous, anxious, or excited about getting your period.  But, there are lots of things you can do to feel prepared and take care of yourself while on your period. First, you can track your period on a calendar or phone app so you can notice if there is a pattern and plan for when your period may start again.  It’s also important to figure out which period product is a good fit for you. You can choose from tampons, maxi pads, period underwear or menstrual cups. And finally, there are lots of ways to lessen any discomfort that comes with having a period, such as a warm bath, heating pad, or exercise.  If you have questions about periods, just ask!  Other people with periods, especially adults, can help answer your questions. 

FAQs

What are the first changes I might notice?

There are no set changes that happen for everyone. Some girls begin with growth spurts during which they grow taller. For others, the first sign may be that their breasts begin to grow or hair starts to grow under their arms and in their pubic area.

What is menstruation and why do girls get periods?

During puberty, girls begin to get their menstrual periods. Menstrual periods are when a small amount of blood and tissue leave the body through the vagina over the course of a few days. It happens about once every month and can last from a couple of days to a week. Some girls have cramps during their periods while others don’t. Girls commonly use a maxi pad, tampon or feminine hygiene cup to manage the blood that leaves their body during a period.

When a girl gets her first period, it signals that her body has begun ovulating. Ovulation happens once a month when a hormone or chemical in the body signals a girl’s ovaries to release an egg or ovum. This means that if a girl has unprotected sex she could become pregnant. The hormone estrogen is also released to signal to the girl’s uterus to build up its lining. If after sex an egg is fertilized by a sperm, the fertilized egg will implant in the lining and cause a pregnancy. If an egg is not fertilized within 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, the egg dies and disintegrates. Two weeks later, when the uterus realizes there is no fertilized egg, the built-up lining of the uterus is released, or shed, during a girl’s menstrual period.

What changes do boys go through during puberty?

Boys often begin puberty a little later than girls. Below are some common changes boys go through during puberty:

  • Growing hair on the face, under the arms and in the genital area
  • Growing taller
  • Broadening shoulders
  • Deepening voice
  • Having frequent and at times spontaneous erections

Possibly experiencing wet dreams, meaning ejaculating semen while sleeping. (This is normal if it happens and normal if it does not.)

Parents

All kids go through a process called puberty. During puberty, the release of hormones signals the body to start many changes that allow it to physically reproduce and grow from a child to an adult. 

 

One change is that people with a uterus begin their menstrual periods. Menstrual periods usually occur once a month and can last from a few days to a week. When people first start menstruating, it’s common for their cycles to be irregular. Puberty symptoms also vary widely among people.  Some people have cramping, mood swings, and a heavy menstrual flow during their periods while some, or none, of these symptoms. 

 

Young people are often nervous or excited about getting their period for the first time. Help them through this change by making sure they understand that getting a period is normal, what they can expect, and that they can come to you if they have questions. Talk with your child before they experience their first period so they are prepared, rather than surprised. You can talk about the variety of period products available, how to use them, and how they can get them (for example, where are they stored in the house, or how might they let you know they’ve run out?). These conversations will help youth feel confident and prepared before and during their menstrual periods. 

 

It’s also important for people to understand that their first period signals the beginning of ovulation and that their body is now able to get pregnant if they were to have unprotected sex. Once a month, a hormone in the brain signals a person with ovaries to release an egg or ovum (a process called ovulation). If an egg is not fertilized by sperm within 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, the egg dies and disintegrates while still in the fallopian tube. Two weeks later, when the uterus realizes there is no fertilized egg to nurture, the built-up lining of the uterus is released during the menstrual period.

 

Conversation Starters 

It’s essential that you have conversations about topics like menstruation. And, since getting a period is such a big change, it is important to talk with your child about menstruation before it occurs for the first time.  This way, your child knows they can come to you with questions. The easiest way to start these conversations is to talk about issues as they come up in everyday life. Consider asking how a book or TV character handled it when they got their period, or walk through the hygiene aisle at your local store together and ask what questions they may have about period products.

Have dinner together and talk about what is going on in your tween’s life

When she mentions a friend you know, you can say, “Wow, Amber has really developed this year.” You can then use this time to talk about how different people go through puberty at different ages.

Buy menstrual pads or tampons for your child

When you get home and unpack the groceries, tell your daughter that you bought these for her. Explain that you know that she hasn’t gotten her period yet and that it may still be awhile, but you want her to know that these things are here for her when she needs them. You can go on to talk more about how to use them and/or tell her you are always there for her, whenever she wants to talk more about these things.

Related Videos

Educators

All kids go through a process called puberty. During puberty, the release of hormones signals the body to start many changes that allow it to physically reproduce and grow from a child to an adult. 

 

One change is that people with a uterus begin their menstrual periods. Menstrual periods usually occur once a month and can last from a few days to a week. When people first start menstruating, it’s common for their cycles to be irregular. Puberty symptoms also vary widely among people.  Some people have cramping, mood swings, and a heavy menstrual flow during their periods while some, or none, of these symptoms. 

 

Young people are often nervous about getting their period for the first time.  When teaching about menstruation, here are a few tips to support an inclusive classroom environment in which youth feel prepared for their first menstrual cycle: 

  • Use “person with a uterus” instead of “girls” to separate body parts from gender and create an inclusive learning space. 
  • Emphasize that getting a period is normal, that each person starts their period in their own time, and address any misconceptions that it’s dirty or gross.
  • Show examples of various puberty products and encourage youth to talk with their families about which products to use and when.  There may be cultural differences as it relates to the use of certain period products. Remember that each person, family, and culture has different norms around pe
  • Explain that you’re a trusted adult they can come to with questions. Name the trusted adults that can support them if they start their period at school, for example, a school nurse or counselor. 

 

Teaching class in this way will help youth feel confident and prepared before and during their menstrual periods. 

 

As you teach, make sure to link menstruation with pregnancy and reproduction. Students should understand that their first period signals the beginning of ovulation and that their body is now able to get pregnant if they were to have unprotected sex. Once a month, a hormone in the brain signals a person with ovaries to release an egg or ovum (a process called ovulation). If an egg is not fertilized by sperm within 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, the egg dies and disintegrates while still in the fallopian tube. Two weeks later, when the uterus realizes there is no fertilized egg to nurture, the built-up lining of the uterus is released during the menstrual period. When a person gets pregnant, one of the first indicators is a missed period. This is because the built up uterine lining is now being used to provide nutrients to the fertilized egg. In other words, it’s doing its job and has no reason to shed.

National Sex Education Standards

PD.5.CC.2 - How Puberty Prepares Human Bodies for Potential Reproduction

Describe how puberty prepares human bodies for the potential to reproduce and that some healthy people have conditions that impact the ability to reproduce

View all PD.5.CC.2 Videos

PD.5.CC.3 - Human Sexual Development and the Role of Hormones

Explain common human sexual development and the role of hormones (e.g., romantic and sexual feelings, masturbation, mood swings, timing of pubertal onset)

View all PD.5.CC.3 Videos

PD.5.GS.1 - A Plan for Maintaining Personal Hygiene

Make a plan for maintaining personal hygiene during puberty

View all PD.5.GS.1 Videos

Discussion Questions

After watching the video with your class, process it using the following discussion questions:
  • What are some of the changes girls experience during puberty?
  • Why do you think some girls go through puberty earlier than others?
  • Why might some girls become anxious if their bodies aren’t developing as quickly as their friends’ bodies
  • Why might some girls feel anxious if their bodies are developing more quickly than their friend’s bodies?
  • Who are some trusted adults you can talk to if you have questions or concerns about puberty?

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