Dolly Doctor

All about periods

Got your period for the first time? Need to know the basics but don't even know where to start? Get clued up on leak week, stat!

Dear DOLLY,

I'm 12 and have just started my periods. I don't like talking to my mum about it, but I don't know anything about them. Like, how do I know when I'm due, what can I do when they make me feel stressed, and how often should I change a pad? Is there any information you can give me?

Anonymous

I'm sorry to hear that you don't feel comfortable talking to your mum about this very natural and healthy aspect of your development. It's nice for all girls to have a mum, aunty, grandma, friend or someone they can talk to about these things.

When periods first start, they are often light and not too painful. They can also be very irregular, such as only coming every couple of months or so. After a year or two, most girls start having regular periods, about once a month, and they can start to become heavier and more painful.

They last about five days but can be shorter or longer. You can get pads for light, medium or heavy flow days ("mini", "regular" and "super"). Periods are usually heavier on the first day or two so you might want the regular or super pads for those days.

You need to change your pad as often as it gets soaked up & on heavy days this could be every couple of hours and on lighter days it might only be every few hours or so, but it's advisable to change them at least every four hours.

There is no brand or style of pad that is better or worse than another - it's up to you. You can also use tampons, although these take a bit of practice. Pads and tampons must be disposed of in sanitary or rubbish bins, they shouldn't be flushed down the toilet.

Some girls and women know a period is coming because they notice a bloating feeling, their breasts become tender, their skin breaks out a bit or they might become irritable and moody. These are all related to the hormone changes in the menstrual cycle just before a period.

For other women, there are no obvious premenstrual symptoms. It's useful to keep a period diary for a while and see what patterns develop in your menstrual cycle. Period pains can be effectively reduced with simple over the counter tablets or paracetamol.

There's probably a lot more information that you might find useful depending on what's important to you at the moment. Websites such as Family Planning ones have more information about periods & take a look in the Factsheet section.

But try bringing the subject up with your mum. It might feel awkward at first but you'll probably be very relieved when it's out in the open.