When does menstruation start?
For many young girls, the prospect of starting their periods is a little daunting, and the idea of getting that first period anywhere other than home can definitely cause anxiety. But as we always say here at WUKA, your period should never hold you back from anything in life- and especially not school.
So, arm yourself with the facts and what to expect so you can deal with it head on- and that includes knowing when menstruation starts, and what actually happens during a period.
For most, menstruation starts between the ages of 12 to 16. But there are physical and emotional changes that happen first, including:
- Breast development
- Height increase
- Skin changes- spots, more oily complexion
- Pubic hair growth
In terms of puberty, your period is one of the last key changes that takes place.
What happens during menstruation?
The menstrual cycle takes place roughly once every 28 days- although we’re all different, and while this is the average cycle length, not many of us actually have a period every 28 days. In fact, when you first start your period, you might find it’s quite irregular for a while.
Day one of your cycle is the first day of your period, when blood flows from your vagina. This is called menstruation.
During this phase of your cycle, the follicular phase also takes place. This is when follicles begin to develop on the ovaries, so that eggs can be produced. One egg will develop over this time, ready to be released during ovulation.
Ovulation is a very short phase of your cycle, lasting for as long as it takes for one developed egg to travel down the fallopian tubes for fertilisation. If fertilisation doesn’t take place, the egg is then reabsorbed into the body.
The last phase of your cycle is called the luteal phase. During this time, you might feel a range of physical and emotional symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, sore breasts, acne and tummy cramps. All of these symptoms are due to fluctuating hormones.
At the end of this phase, the unfertilised egg is broken down and shed, along with other tissues, as your period. And then the whole cycle begins again.
Common questions about first periods
It completely normal to have lots of questions about periods before they start and when they’re all new to you. Speak to a parent, friend or teacher about any concerns you have, and remember that you’re not alone.
Reach out and ask questions if you have them- the chances are high that someone else will understand what you’re going through.
What if I get my first period at school?
If your first period arrives while you’re at school, don’t panic- and try not to be embarrassed. It’s important to know that you’re not the first person this has happened to, and you certainly won’t be the last. However, we do know that this prospect can be scary- so please don’t feel silly for or ashamed at how you feel. And most importantly, don’t just ignore it; take steps to make yourself feel comfortable.
Hopefully you have already been told where your school keeps their period supplies, but if not try to find a teacher you trust who can help you. If you’re not sure about this, ask a friend to help. If you have an emergency period kit with you in your bag (definitely recommend!) then now is the time to grab it!
Practically speaking, if you notice blood stains on your clothing you might want to request spare uniform, if you feel comfortable doing so. There’s no need to go home, but if you’re experiencing cramps then speak to a teacher about your options for pain relief.
Its also a good idea to prepare for next time. Make sure you have supplies ready to go in your bag, and if you think your period is on the way maybe a spare set of underwear too.
How heavy will my period be?
At first, your period will be a little erratic, and bleeding may be very light and more like spotting. But as we’re all different, you may of course experience heavier bleeding at first too. It’s important to know that it can take time to learn what is normal for you, so make sure you have enough period products to absorb your flow.
How do I deal with period cramps at school?
Period cramps can be miserable at the best of times, never mind while you’re at school. Take pain relief before you go to school and make sure you drink lots of water through the day too, as being dehydrated can make period cramps worse. Gentle exercise is also a good idea, and steer clear of fizzy drinks and processed foods.
What period products should I use at school?
Here at WUKA, we believe that period pants are the best solution for everyone- and especially for those managing a period at school.
Period pants are so easy to use- you just wear them like a normal pair of pants, eliminating the need to bring bulky supplies with you into the cubicle, or trying to hide the sound of packets opening! Period pants will absorb your flow without the risk of leaks, will stay in place during PE lessons and are super comfortable too.
Plus, because they’re designed with a super absorbent gusset with a middle layer that locks away blood, they reduce the risk of infection and odours too.
However, we do realise that you might not have access to period pants if this is your first period. Speak to your teacher about the supplies that are in school, and find the solutions that work best for you. You can be better prepared with period pants for next time.
What if I don’t have period products with me at school?
If you don’t have period products with you at school don’t panic. Lots of schools have signed up to the new government scheme to get free period products for pupils, so speak to a trusted teacher about how to get them. Some schools have them openly available in the bathrooms so you don’t need to ask for them. Don’t be embarrassed- we all get caught out now and then.
Surviving your period at school
Having your period at school is going to be part of life for a while, so it makes sense to take steps to make it as comfortable as possible. Here are our top tips for surviving your period at school:
Have a period emergency kit
A period emergency kit is basically just a small wash bag that you can put in your school bag and bring with you every day. This means you never need be caught out by your period again!
- Period protection period pants plus two spare pairs and a washbag to keep them in, or pads/ tampons if you use them. Bring enough to last you a whole day.
- Spare underwear in case of stains.
- Pain relief- keep these in a secure container.
- Biodegradable cleaning wipes.
- Chocolate- because, why not? We all get cravings now and then!
Track your cycle
Knowing what to expect and when will be really helpful when it comes to managing your period at school, helping you to understand when your period is due and what symptoms you’re likely toe experience.
You can use your phone’s calendar to track, or an app that can help you predict when your next period will arrive.
Plan bathroom breaks
Knowing when you can use the bathroom can really help to alleviate anxiety. Try to go during break time, and use this as an opportunity to change your period protection and freshen up in general. Aim for around every two to three hours, and take pain relief if you need to.
Choose adequate period protection
Make sure that the period protection you’re using is up to the job! If you know you have PE, makes sure your pad (if you use them) is secure and correctly placed. And make sure you choose the correct absorbency for your flow too. Most people find that the first couple of days is the heaviest, but until you know your cycle it could be unpredictable.
We recommend period pants for peace of mind when it comes to absorbing your flow. They’ll stay put, they’ll take whatever your period delivers, and they won’t get in the way during PE either. Plus, if you wear heavy flow, you know that your absorbency is ok.
And don’t worry- nobody will be able to tell you’re wearing them, and they definitely don’t feel bulky like pads can. As long as you’re protected from leaks and able to absorb your flow safely and hygienically, there’s no reason why your period should pose a problem at school.
Shop period pants for girls and teens
Is it ok to stay home from school because of your period?
If you’re suffering with period cramps that make it difficult to perform your usual every day tasks, make an appointment with your GP to discuss potential causes why. Your period shouldn’t stop you from going to school, but we do understand that sometimes it can be hard to face it when you feel miserable and full of period cramps.
Speak to a parent or teacher if you feel like your period is stopping you from attending school.
How can I make my period smell good at school?
Period pants can help to reduce the risk of odour during your period. Make sure you follow a good personal hygiene routine, change your period protection regularly and wear clean underwear. Staying clean during your period is vital, to keep infections at bay and odours to a minimum.
But bear in mind that your body odour will change as you get older, and your vagina is supposed to have its own, mild smell. Although it may feel like it, nobody else will be able to detect it if you wash regularly and change your period protection every two to three hours.
Should I go to school if my period is bad?
Managing a heavy period at school can be tricky, but there is no reason to stay home if you have adequate protection. If period cramps or other PMS symptoms are preventing you from going to school, make an appointment with your GP to discuss.