In a typical household in India, the subject of menstruation is rarely discussed. As significant as it may be for a woman and her reproductive health, any conversation that features the word ‘periods’ is still spoken about in hush-hush tones even between a mother and daughter. No wonder, most girls get alarmed or paranoid when they get their first period, commonly called menarche. It is time to educate them well, not by having a one-time formal conversation, but making them aware of what menstruation is, and how to tackle it every month.
First signs of menstruation
Girls start to menstruate a few years after they hit puberty, with the average age being 12 years. Typically, a girl attains puberty when her breasts start to develop, and she grows armpit and pubic hair. There is also secretion of some vaginal discharge in the lead up to your period. Once these signs are visible, it could take a few months to about two years for her menstrual cycle to begin. Most girls have their periods anywhere between the age of 12 and 14, but it could vary from person to person. The youngest age for a girl to get her period is eight years. There are umpteen factors that influence the age a girl gets her first period, including genetics and body structure, amongst others.
Menstrual bleeding occurs when the woman sheds the uterine lining every month. This happens on a regular basis until she becomes pregnant, when it stops until she delivers a child. The shedding of the lining, also known as menstruation, takes place due to hormonal changes that are associated with ovulation. The uterine lining builds up and thickens to protect a possible pregnancy. In case the woman does not become pregnant, the thickened lining sheds that results in a period. This cycle continues until a woman enters the menopausal stage, in her early 50s.
Sanitary care for your first period
The menstrual cycle is four weeks long – it begins on the first day of bleeding and ends when the next period starts. During the initial phase, it could occur once before recurring after a few months, or come several times in a month. The first period generally does not see heavy blood flow and is light brown in colour. For a woman, her periods can range anywhere between 2 and 7 days.
There are several ways to deal with menstruation or prepare yourself before your first period. First of all, you need to experiment with sanitary products to understand what works best for you. Most girls prefer to use sanitary pads, since they are easily available and are comfortable to use. They easily stick to your underwear and absorb period blood, making you feel at ease all day. While there are tons of options available at the supermarket, it is best to use natural sanitary pads like Carmesi, that are have no harmful synthetics.
Many girls find tampons more convenient than pads, especially while playing sports or exercising. Make sure not to leave the tampon in your vagina for more than eight hours to prevent a high risk of infection. There are also menstrual cups that are made of silicone and are inserted into the vagina. These cups hold blood until you empty it.
While you may feel you are losing a lot of blood, it actually isn’t more than a few tablespoons.
Body changes in girls
When a girl hits puberty, her body undergoes a transformation due to surging hormones. This results in several changes in her physical appearance as well as emotionally in the form of mood swings. There may be times when it feels that the body is out of control!
Several girls gain weight and even grow taller during this stage. This is because women need a certain percentage of body fat for reproduction as well as a healthy menstrual cycle. So, don’t get depressed and panic about having curvier hips!
Apart from gaining weight, your breasts will also start to grow, and this will continue till you are about 17 to 18 years old. Sometimes, one breast grows more than the other, but that’s not a cause of concern. Your nipples also start to show some change; they could become pink or dark brown or even turn inwards or out.
You may also notice some white, sticky secretion in your underwear – that’s vaginal discharge. This is your body’s mechanism to keep your vagina moist and clean. In case there’s a foul odour or the discharge is too thick, make sure you see a doctor.
With puberty hitting, body hair is a common phenomenon – be it in your underarms, genital area, or even upper lips. As time passes, even the hair on your arms and legs might get darker and thicker. Besides, you start to sweat more, especially under your arms. To control odour, take a shower regularly or use a deodorant.
Lastly, acne is also common, be it in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples. Make sure you use natural or oil-free products, and clean your skin properly.
Your body does go through a lot of changes, but there’s nothing to worry about. Periods are absolutely natural and a healthy part of a woman’s life, and that’s how they must be treated. Here’s to a new milestone in your life!