My Period

First Period in to ask the Experts

Menstruation: What, when, why...?

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What is menstruation?  

Ready for the biological explanation? Right, ok...every month or so during a woman’s fertile years, her body goes through a natural process called the menstruation (men-stroo-AY-shun) cycle. Having a period (or menstruating) is one of the signs you’re becoming a woman. Yay! It’s preparation for a woman’s ability to have children.

Here’s what happens

The uterus (womb) is the place inside a woman’s body where a foetus (baby) develops. Every month or so, the lining of the uterus gets thicker to prepare for a fertilised egg if the woman becomes pregnant. If the egg doesn’t get fertilised, that lining is released from the body through the vagina. And that’s your period or ’menstruation.’ Make sense? 

Ok, but why learn about this stuff?

It’ll help you understand one of puberty’s biggest events: your first period. It’s useful for knowing when to carry sanitary protection, predicting the symptoms you might have during your menstruation cycle and, later, understanding your reproductive system if you ever want to use birth control or become pregnant.

When will I get it?

The menstruation cycle will begin some time during puberty. The average age is 12 or 13, but anywhere between 10 and 16 is still normal. There is no ‘right’ time. Your period will start when your body is ready. If you haven’t started by the time you’re 16, you should see your GP.

Did you know...?

The word ‘menstruation’ comes from menses, the Latin word for ‘month.’  If you've heard mates talk about ‘that time of the month’, you can probably guess that women menstruate approximately every month. 

The average woman has approximately 500 periods in her lifetime. Sounds like a lot, right? They stop when you’re about 50 years old (that’s called menopause). When a baby girl is born, she has approximately 200,000 eggs in each of her ovaries (she has two ovaries).  Whoa!

But it’s medically incorrect to say that if you have 500 periods, 500 eggs will ripen. Why? Because an egg doesn’t ripen in every menstrual cycle. There are also un-ovulatory cycles, especially in young girls and women who are peri-menopausal (close to menopause). The first menstrual cycles tend to be un-ovular (which means no egg ripens). 

By six years after menarche (that’s the technical term for your first period) occurs, 80% of the menstruation cycles are ovulatory, and over 95% of the cycles are ovulatory by 12 years after the onset of menarche.

For more info on tracking your period, check out the article ‘Figuring out your cycle’ Or you can use the BeingGirl Period Predictor in the Menstruation and Your Cycle section on this site!  []


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