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October 15, 2019

Period Hacks: What to Expect Before, During and After Your First Period

Time of the month. Aunt Flo. Shark week. Period. Menstruation. Whether you are a seasoned professional or anxiously awaiting your first period, these period hacks will help you navigate it. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect before, during and after starting your period!

BEFORE…

Your body is suddenly changing and you aren’t sure what’s going on. Your sports bras can’t support your bust anymore, your pants are too tight around the hips, you have hair in places you didn’t before and liquid appears in your underwear. (1) Puberty is coming at you full force. What’s next on the puberty checklist.. your period.

Everyone’s period has a different arrival time. Some women may get it as young as 10 years old and others get it when they are 15 or older. With most girls experiencing their first period between 12 and 13 years of age.(2) You may be the first of your friends to get it or the last, everyone’s body is different and your time will come. Check out When does menstruation begin? by Clue to learn more about why everyone doesn’t get their period at the same age.

Period Hack: Keep an emergency period kit in your backpack in case Aunt Flo pays you a visit during an unexpected time. Some items to include are pads, extra pair of underwear and feminine wipes.

Aunt Flo may give you a couple clues before making her grand appearance. Some clues are breast tenderness, bloating, muscle aches, joint pains, headaches, acne, spotting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and lower back pain.(3) You may have only a few of the symptoms from the list, all of them or none. If some of the symptoms you are experiencing are uncomfortable, test the waters to see what helps alleviate the pain. Maybe a nice warm bath or a heating pad on your belly? Everyone’s body is different and reacts differently so find what works for you!

Pro Tip: don’t be worried if it’s uncomfortable to insert a tampon the first few times you use one, it’ll begin to feel more natural the more you do it.

DURING….

Aunt Flo is here (and yes it happened in gym class and on the day you wore your new cute white jean skirt…ugh!). Not to worry, you are prepared and ready for this! You’ve practiced what to do, you have your supplies in hand and you are a pro. But you wonder what’s really going on with your body?

Menstruation (a fancy word for period) is a topic we could talk about for hours, but we’ll save you the trouble and break down the most important information. Every month the lining of a woman’s uterus builds up and is then shed again at the end of the menstrual cycle, when she has her period — unless she is pregnant, then the lining of the uterus secretes hormones to fuel the baby’s growth. To shed the lining during the monthly period, the muscles of the uterus tighten (contract) and relax in an irregular rhythm. This helps the tissue lining the uterus to detach and flow out of the body, together with blood, through the cervix and the vagina.(4) This process occurs due to the interactions of hormones produced by the hypothalamus, pituitary and ovaries.(5)

Flow. No, we aren’t talking about Bieber’s 2009 hair, we are talking about period flow. Period flow can be light, heavy or in between. The total amount of blood lost during one period is usually about 60 milliliters which is equivalent to about one-and-a-half shot glasses full.(6) This statistic is just an average number because some days your bleeding is heavier than others. Many women paying attention to the pattern of their period know which day is their heaviest. Whether it be the first day or somewhere in the middle, be aware of which days you may need extra pads or tampons.

Tampons and pads are the two items that help get you through your period. It doesn’t matter which you use so long as you are changing them at the appropriate time. Tampons should be changed every 4–8 hours to avoid toxic shock syndrome. Pads should be changed every 4–8 hours or whenever it seems full or feels wet and uncomfortable.(7) If you have a heavier flow, it may be more comfortable to change your pad or tampon earlier than the suggested time or wear both together. Do what works for you.

Period pain can be awful. For some people they may feel pain before their period, but it can also occur during your period. In 10 out of 100 women the pain is so bad that they are unable to carry out their usual daily activities one to three days every month.(4) Try different techniques to help make your period pains more bearable. Exercising may sound like death, but sometimes it can help alleviate cramping or pain. Ibuprofen and birth control can also be an effective way to control pain due to the lower production of prostaglandin (aka the cause of muscle contractions in the uterus).(8) It’s only a few days so try your best to cope with the pain and find what works for you. If your pain is intolerable speak with your doctor about how you can make your period pains more manageable.

AFTER…

Shark week is over and back to white jeans here you come. You’ve tackled your first period but there are many more to come in the future. The more periods you have, the more consistent and regular your cycle will become.

Ladies, track your cycles! Use an app, a calendar or planner. Tracking your cycle will help you understand your body better and allow you to see patterns within your period. If you are sexually active it can also be helpful to track your cycle so you know if Aunt Flo is late and if you should take a pregnancy test.

Now that you know what to expect for your first period, you are ready for anything Aunt Flo throws at you! If your period is still sporadic after a few years of your first period, or if your periods are usually regular but then become irregular for several months, talk to your doctor. You also should see your doctor if your period comes more often than every 21 days or less often than every 45 days. (7)

Fed up with your period? Learn how to safely skip your period using the pill with our blog post, Skipping My Period on the Pill: Is It Safe?

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Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279024/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26595586
  3. https://www.yourperiod.ca/normal-periods/symptoms-of-menstruation/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279324/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279054/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279294/
  7. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Your-First-Period-Especially-for-Teens?IsMobileSet=false
  8. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/painful-menstrual-periods-dysmenorrhea-beyond-the-basics