The stigma that still exists around periods and talking about the menstrual cycle is ridiculous — but getting better. No judgment, by the way. It’s ingrained in much of our culture not to talk about this stuff which (surprise!) makes it hard to talk about.
This is a topic that’s really important to me, because I want my own two daughters to grow up in an age of women’s empowerment and gender parity. Which means it’s important we also learn to talk about all the things that make us women, including our bodies and how they function.
So I’ve put together a really simple, straight-talking, fact-based list of answers to girls’ 11 top questions about periods.
(I’m learning to say it loudly, myself.)
Often all takes is some good information and the right words at your disposal to make those difficult talks with your teen or not-quite-yet teen girls a little easier.
And I’m really grateful that this post is sponsored by our partner Knix + Knixteen, the popular period-proof underwear for women (Knix) and girls (Knixteen) that help us feel more confident every day of the month. One less thing to worry about: Yes please.
PS Dads raising girls? This list is for for you too! How awesome a dad are you, if you’re raising a daughter who knows she can come to you with any question at all and that it won’t rattle you? Very awesome, that’s the answer.
Cool Mom Picks readers can save 15% on Knix and Knixteen leak-proof underwear for a limited time.
Easy Answers to To 11 Common Questions about Periods
1. What is a period? Is it different from menstruation?
A. Your menstrual cycle is also called your period. So it’s the same thing. For about 3-5 days each month, your body will shed a little bit of blood and tissue that line the uterus out through our vaginas.
2. When will I get my period?
A: Every girl is different and every body is different. Some girls start as young as 8 or as old as 15, but the average age in the US is 12. If you get it sooner or later though — that’s normal, don’t worry!
3. What will it look like when I get my period the first time?
A: It’s probably not going to be a big gush of blood — it usually starts with “spotting” — small drips of brownish blood you may notice in your underwear. There are a lot of funny stories out there from women and teens who mistook their first periods for other problems. It’s brownish because the blood is older.
4. What does a period feel like?
A: You might feel cramps (or other effects of menstruation) but your actual period isn’t something you feel much if at all — don’t worry, you won’t be gushing blood! And because you don’t really feel it, when you’re menstruating, or getting close to the age where you might start, it’s good to carry supplies with you to keep you prepared.
5. What causes cramps?
A: Yeah, so cramps are not the best thing about periods. What you feel low in your body, below your navel, is your uterus squeezing and tightening up to shed its lining and it can be uncomfortable at best, or at worst, it could make you want to curl up in a ball in bed and not move.
Ibuprofen helps a lot! So does exercise — though you may not feel like exercising, it’s good to try. And a heating pad on your abdomen can be a relief.
ABOUT OUR SPONSOR: KNIX + KNIXTEEN
Knix + Knixteen make the popular period-proof underwear that looks and feels like regular underwear — but it’s more like super underwear that allows you to be the boss of your period and feel more confident every day of the month.
This way, girls and women can go to school, go to work, and resume our butt-kicking and general world-improvement with one less thing to worry about.
Knixteen is the leak-proof period underwear for girls that can keep you more confident during your period or in the days leading up to it. It’s quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and made with anti-microbial technology to fight odor and keep the fabric fresh.
It can even hold up to 2 tampons worth of liquid thanks to a moisture-locking fabric, so you definitely know you’re covered!
Knixteen has even got a great period talk page on their site, offering some straightforward, easy answers to some of the most common questions about menstruation and periods that girls may have.
And since women have enough to worry about too, Knix is the leak-proof period underwear for women. It offers the same technology as Knixteen, and comes in all the styles you could ask for, including thongs, bikinis and boy shorts.
6. What else can happen to my body when I have my period?
A: In the days leading up to your period (that’s called PMS, or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) and in the first few days, of your period, you may feel like your breasts are sensitive, or even larger, you may be bloated from water retention, and you may gain weight, though it’s only temporary, from the water retention.
7. Why do I get so grumpy during my period? It’s like everyone is totally annoying.
Blame it on hormones. Just before your period, Cortisol (the stress hormone) will go up, while Serotonin (which regulates your moods) dips. It’s a tough combination, combined with all the other hormones of adolescence. It can make you grumpy, testy, or “not yourself.”
You may think everyone is super annoying, and snap back more easily. You may also crave more carbs and sweets, so it’s good to be aware of your body and its cycle, so you can respond to it in a healthy way.Photo: Jeffrey F Lin via Unsplash
8. Can I still play sports when I have my period?
A: Heck yeah! We shouldn’t let our periods stop us from doing anything we want to do and that includes sports, yoga, dance, swimming, starting a business, running for office …you name it.
9. How often will I get my period?
A: Cycles last on average between 24 to 38 days. A “regular cycle” is considered 28 days, but most people aren’t exactly “regular,” so don’t worry if yours comes more or less frequently than your friends’ do. It may even feel totally random from month-to-month, and things like stress or tons of exercise (like having a pro athlete’s training schedule) can impact it too.
10. How long will I have my period?
A: Most likely you’ll be menstruating once a month for many years. It will stop when you’re pregnant — which is why a missed period is often a first sign of pregnancy. A few months after pregnancy, you’ll start your cycle again. Then, it will last generally until you’re in your 40s or 50s.
11. Cramps, bleeding…ugh! Why do we even have to go through this?
A: Menstruation is your body’s way of making it possible to have a baby. Each month, your ovaries release an egg into your uterus and when it doesn’t get fertilized, then the egg and lining of your uterus shed. Just think of how cool it is that your body can actually grow a human being inside it! That’s amazing!
Just know that there are a lot of incredible things about becoming a woman, and having a period is a healthy, normal part of that. Even if you hate it.
Thanks so much to our amazing partner, Knix and Knixteen, for helping give women and girls one less (super annoying) thing to worry about.
Top photo by Blake Barlow via Unsplash