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Periods: Just the facts

Periods, also known as menstruation, are a normal part of growing up for all girls.
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1. What are periods?
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Periods are part of the menstrual cycle where you will bleed from your vagina for a few days.

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2. Why do I have a period?
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During puberty, your female reproductive organs start to develop. Each month, these hormones cause an egg to mature and be released from your ovaries.

In case the egg is fertilised by a sperm, the lining of your uterus becomes thick and soft with blood and tissue. If the egg isn’t fertilised, this lining of the uterus isn’t needed so comes away and is released from the body through your vagina.

This is your period.

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3. When will they start?
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Girls usually have their first period between the ages of 9 and 14. They will probably be irregular at first, but will settle into a pattern every few months.

If you haven’t started your period by the age of 16, talk to your GP.

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4. How often will I have my period?
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Most girls will have their period every 28 days or so. The menstrual cycle normally lasts about 28 days, which means there are 28 days between the start of your last period and the start of your next period. It’s very common for periods to be more or less frequent than this though.

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5. How long will it last?
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Your period can last between three and eight days, usually lasting for about five days. The bleeding will be heaviest in the first couple of days before it starts to slow down towards the end of your period.

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6. What sanitary products can I use?
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Sanitary products are used to soak up and collect the blood you release during your period. The three main types of sanitary product are:

Sanitary pads– these strips of padding have one side that is sticky that you attach to your underwear and another side that is absorbent to soak up the blood. They are available in different sizes to suit how heavy or light your period is.

Tampons– these are small tubes of cotton wool that you insert into your vagina to soak up the blood. All tampons come with instructions on how to use them as you shouldn’t be able to feel it if inserted correctly.

Menstrual cups– these are cups made from silicone which you put inside your vagina to collect the blood, rather than absorb it. After your period, you can wash a menstrual cup and use it again, unlike sanitary pads and tampons.

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If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your public health nurse.

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