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A period is when the body sheds the thickened lining of the uterus after an egg hasn’t been fertilised (i.e. it hasn’t met with a sperm cell). This lining is shed from the body as period blood.
The technical term for a period is menstruation. This usually takes place once every month or so, and lasts between 3 and 7 days. You will normally lose between 4 and 12 teaspoons of blood during each period.
You will usually get your period when you go through puberty. You may experience puberty anywhere between the ages of 8 and 13 years old, but often the first changes happen around 10 or 11 years of age.
Periods in te ao Māori
There are lots of terms for this time of the month in te reo Māori. Some of these are:
Different iwi and hapū have different language, terms, and pūrākau (storytelling) relating to waiwhero. Follow the link below for some more information on periods in te ao Māori.
Period blood is thicker and darker than the blood that comes out of a cut on the skin. It may also contain lumps, or ‘clots’, and mucus.
There are several options available to manage period blood. What you choose to use comes down to personal preference. Some people may feel more comfortable using pads or period underwear over tampons or period cups. Others may prefer to only use reusable options to reduce waste. It’s important to find out what works for you and your body.
Pads are stuck or fastened in your underwear and soak up the period blood once it’s outside your body. There are disposable and reusable pads available. Disposable pads are used once and then thrown away, while reusable pads can be washed and used again. It’s important to change pads regularly when you have your period.
Tampons are inserted into the vagina. They are made of cotton and soak up period blood while inside the body. Tampons are disposable, meaning they are used once and then thrown away. It’s really important to change tampons regularly when you have your period to prevent infection.
Similar to a pad, period underwear have an absorbent layer built into the crotch that soaks up period blood once it’s outside your body. This underwear can be rinsed and put in the washing machine, to be used again.
A menstrual cup is inserted into the vagina and collects period blood. They are often made of silicone or latex rubber. Menstrual cups are reusable, meaning they can be emptied, washed and used again. It’s best to empty period cups into the toilet.
To find out more about period products, and their cost, check this out:
People experience different levels of pain and discomfort during their period.
It’s common to have things like stomach cramps, bloating, lower back pain, and diarrhoea. Some people also experience tender breasts, changes in mood, acne and fatigue.
Some ways to manage period pain and discomfort include hot water bottles and wheat/heat bags, warm baths, taking an over-the-counter painkiller (paracetamol or ibuprofen), and doing exercise.
Some people have really strong pain and heavy bleeding that lasts for a long time. If your periods are causing you distress, then it’s a good idea to talk with your GP or local sexual health clinic.
There are many reasons your period might be late or irregular. While pregnancy is one reason, your lifestyle and medical factors can also be the cause.
To find out about some of the most common reasons for late and irregular periods, click here: