Seeing menstrual blood for the first time can make you freak out, get excited and sometimes panic. It's even worse if you don't know anything about menstrual periods. You may be shy about asking your parents or guardian about it. So here’s a guide on how to prepare for your period and how to deal with it when it's time.
When do periods begin
Most girls see their first period when they are 10-15 years, but on average, about 12 years. Some get it early, others late, so don’t worry too much about it. You can even consult your mum about when she got her first period if you can. Chances are you’ll get yours around the same age she got hers.
Signs to look out for
Before you get your first period, there’ll be tell-tale signs that you’re about to. Look for these signs to know if you’re ready.
Developing boobs - Your nipple becomes larger and you'll notice your boob becomes bumpy. Sometimes the boob may be a little painful. In most cases, your period starts 2-3 years after your boobs start developing.
Growth of pubic hair - You'll see bits of hair around your pubic area. They increase with time. The more the pubic hair, the higher the likelihood that it's about time.
Vaginal discharge - You'll start seeing a white mucus-like discharge in your underwear. It's a bit yellowish. It is odorless. This starts when you are 6-12 months away from your first period. You can start using panty liners to protect your pants from staining.
Body changes - At this time, your hormones are rapidly changing. So you’ll see more changes in your body such as hips broadening, changes in height , etc. Your vagina, uterus and ovaries will also grow.
Your periods will start as little brownish red spots and may increase as days go by. Most periods last for 2-7 days. The blood will turn bright red as it gets heavier.
Products to use for your periods
Common products used during menstrual periods are sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups and panty liners. Before and after using any of these products, always remember to wash your hands.
A sanitary pad is made using an absorbent material that absorbs fluids. It is put inside an underwear to absorb menstrual blood.
How to use a pad.
- Remove the wrapper. Do not throw it away, you'll need it later.
- Peel off the back paper to leave a sticky surface. Use this side to stick the pad on your underwear. The middle part of the pad should be on the middle section of your underwear. This is to make sure the pad doesn't go too far.
- Remove the paper on the wings and flip them on the underside of your underwear. This is to help the pad stick on your underwear. The average time to stay with it is 4 hours. If your period is light, you can stay with it for a bit longer.
- Once your pad is wet, remove it and roll it up then wrap it in its wrapper. Discard it in a bin. Do not flush it!
Remember that pads come in different sizes depending on your flow. There are long and short pads as well as ultra thin, regular and maxi.
Tampons are menstrual products designed to absorb fluids and are inserted into the vagina. There are 5 different sizes. Light, regular, super, super plus and ultra absorbency.
How to insert a tampon
- Place yourself in a comfortable position. You may stand, sit on the closed toilet lid or put one leg on the toilet. You can listen to some music to relax yourself.
- Remove the wrapper. If your tampon has an applicator, hold it between your thumb and middle finger and place the tampon at the entrance of your vagina.
- Push the applicator inside your vagina using your index finger. Push it until you can’t feel it then pull out the applicator and discard it. Make sure you leave the string on the tampon hanging out for easy removal.
- If your tampon doesn't have an applicator, remove the wrapper, hold the tampon at the entrance of your vagina using your thumb and your index finger then push the tampon inside using your index finger. Make sure you can’t feel it anymore. This may be a bit painful and uncomfortable at first, but you'll get used to it eventually.
A tampon should not stay longer than 8 hours. The longer it stays, the higher the chances of bacteria build up which might lead totoxic shock syndrome. To remove your tampon, stay in a comfortable position and pull it out using the string gently. If it's resistant, leave it for some more time. Discard the tampon in a bin.
A menstrual cup is a small, flexible funnel-shaped cup inserted into the vagina to hold blood. It is made of silicone and sometimes rubber. You can wear a menstrual cup up to 12 hours. Visit your doctor to get advice on the right cup size.
How to use a menstrual cup
- Wet the rim of the cup using water or a water-based lube.
- Fold it vertically and insert the same way you insert a tampon. Push it till it reaches a few inches below your cervix.
- Once it's in place, rotate it. It will spring open and create an airtight seal that prevents any blood from leaking.
- When the cup is full, remove it, dump the blood in a toilet and clean it.
Panty liners are like small less-absorbent pads only without the wings. They are placed the same way as a pad. They are mostly used before the beginning of menstrual periods and at the end of your periods.. Panty liners should not be worn longer than 3-5 hours. They are used at the beginning to prevent vaginal discharge from staining your pants and at the end in case you spot.
They're discarded the same way as a pad. Remember that they are not to be worn everyday since they may lead to yeast infection due to the dampness.
Tracking your periods
You can download a tracker from your phone or keep a calendar to track your cycle to avoid being caught by surprise or unprepared.