This is the first installment in our Period Series. This series aims to help teens understand the changes that they're going through without feeling ashamed. We'll try to dispel all the myths that your teen may read or hear and help them better understand that menstruation affects everyone and is a natural part of growing up.
- INFOGRAPHIC: Which menstruation product is the best for you?
- 10 myths about periods that you may still believe
- Bloody hell! That's not fair!
Dear tween me,
I’ve come from the future to discuss a few things with you.
Firstly, you’ve got to hold back on the roller-lipgloss, and dragging your equal-length hair across your forehead does not make for a side-swept fringe. You’re also going to realise that peace-signs in pictures really aren’t all that cool, and neither is TyPinG LyK dissS.
But I didn’t come here all the way from my early twenties to criticise you – I actually came here to help.
Because while I know that our teachers will bring this up much later in our schooling and mom’s not really going to discuss this with you but instead phone every aunty of ours so they can awkwardly congratulate you at family functions, it’s important for you to know exactly what’s going on with your body.
So have a seat, sweetie, let’s talk about your period.
At around 13 years old (most girls go through this between the ages of 8 and 15) you’re going to have your first period.
You’re going to feel a warm and wet sensation in your panties and when you go to the bathroom because you think you’ve peed your pants, you’re going to see a little blood.
Now I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no – you’re not dying.
And mom’s going to tell you it means you’re “becoming a lady” but what it actually means is you’re ready to have a baby.
Sweetie, don’t freak out – when I say that I mean, eventually, of course.
Because women are pretty magical, we can carry a whole other human in our bodies until they’re ready for the world.
But until that happens, we menstruate.
- Also read: Prepare for her first period
What is this "menstruation" of which you speak?
On average, your menstrual cycle will occur every 28 days (but anything between 21 and 35 days is still considered normal) and is basically your monthly bleeding or as you’ll eventually be taught in bio, the shedding of your uterine wall.
See, during the first half of your cycle, your estrogen – which is a “female hormone” – starts to rise. Which is great, because this hormone actually keeps you healthy and also makes the wall of your uterus, or rather your womb, thicken and grow.
Similarly, while this is happening, an egg, or ovum if you will, starts to mature, and at around the 14th day of your cycle the egg leaves, travels through your fallopian tube and attaches itself to your womb.
And one day, should said egg come into contact with a sperm cell, BAM – it gets fertilised and congratulations, you’re pregnant.
BUT UNTIL THEN, if the egg is not fertilised, it breaks down along with the thickened lining prepared by the rise in estrogen levels and, of course, we bleed so our body can get rid of that which we no longer need.
To stop, or rather, control this bleeding, mom will give you a choice between tampons or pads for you to wear during your period.
Now I know this sounds rather daunting and for most of your teenage years you’ll actually wish you were a boy.
But it’s also pretty cool that God’s given you the ability to carry another human being so.
- Also read: A letter to the children I’ll never have
Other changes that will get you in the butt, boobs and belly
You may have already noticed you've started growing hair in places you never really had hair before.
Well, there are a few other, even painful changes, you can expect.
Your period lasts about 2-7 days and is a literal pain in the butt, boobs and belly, and sometimes even your legs.
Dysmenorrhea is the term given to the occasional excruciating cramps you might get. Again, you’re not dying, you just have increased levels of a hormone called prostaglandin which is common in younger women.
And naturally, this will sometimes make you just a teeny-tiny bit moody.
So on that note, there is just one more thing I feel I should tell you about before I go, and don’t be bothered by the name calling because soon enough you’ll get used to “The Beast”.
1 or 2 weeks before your period you’ll get something called PMS – premenstrual syndrome – which can result in physical changes such as a bloated stomach, pimples and cramps, of course, or behavioural changes like forgetfulness, loss of mental focus and fatigue.
This might make you very very sad or angry, and what’s super scary, is that sometimes you’ll even get very very sad or angry for no reason whatsoever.
And there will come a time in your life when you feel and you’ll know it’s okay to punch someone in the face, but this is not one of those times.
Unfortunately, doctors have not found an exact cause for PMS as yet, not even in 2017, but they assume it has to do with the changes in our body chemistry.
The best thing for you to do to manage the cramps would be to get a hot water bottle. And eating and resting is likely to fix most everything else. And although I don’t really want to encourage you to eat entire slabs of chocolate or 3 quarters of a cake, research has actually proven that this can and will improve the way you feel. So go ahead, baby girl, you just do you.
- Also read: Are you an emotional eater, mom?
I hope this has helped you understand what’s going on with your body. I repeat: you are not dying, just growing.
And it might take some time for you to adjust, but you will, and one day you’ll realise just how important your period was.
Until then, you're doing amazing, sweetie!
Just do me a favour and let mom be happy you’re “becoming a lady”, she's super excited. Again, you'll understand one day.
And if anything feels like it's becoming slightly unbearable give her shout. She'll know what to do.
And don't forget to go easy on dad – the only wings he knows of are the ones on birds.
A future and still struggling, period-surviving, you
- Introducing your daughter to tampons
- Hilariously awkward 'first period' commercial
- Is your teen losing sleep? Get them to spend more time with the family
Did you have the period-talk with your daughter yet? Do you have any useful tips you'd like to share with the Parent24 readers? Tell us by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your comments.
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