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Most commonly asked period questions

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.


Māori attitudes to periods | On the Rag: Periods

Periods in te ao Māori

There are lots of terms for this time of the month in te reo Māori. Some of these are: 

  • Ikura
  • Waiwhero
  • Mate marama
  • Māui
  • Mate wāhine

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, and how to manage it

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.

To find out more about period products, and their cost, check this out:

Period pain, and how to manage it

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. 

Did you know? Masturbation, or solo sex, can also help to relieve period cramps.

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.


Late and irregular periods

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: