Just gotten your period for the first time? Or want to know what to expect? It’s a completely natural part of female development and nothing to be afraid of.

Everyone’s experience is different; when it first occurs, how long it lasts, how it feels, etc. The best thing to do is be prepared and to understand your body. And lots of self-care!  

So what exactly is a period?

A period is when you bleed from your vagina (the blood passing out of your uterus) in preparation for pregnancy. It happens once a month (though this can vary from person to person) and usually lasts 2-7 days. It can take a while for your period to become regular though so don’t stress if not so predictable at the start! If you want to track your period each month, so that you can monitor symptoms, when it is due and when it arrives check out these free
period-tracking apps.

The Menstrual Cycle

A period is part of the menstrual cycle and occurs once a month if you are not pregnant. It is controlled by the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Basically you have 2 ovaries, and each one holds many tiny eggs. During your menstrual cycle, hormones make the eggs in your ovaries mature — when an egg is mature, that means it’s ready to be fertilized by a sperm cell. The hormones create a
thick lining is made of tissue and blood. If the egg is not fertilised (you do not become pregnant) the lining is released through the vagina – aka your period arrives!

There are two stages of this cycle to remember: menstruation and ovulation.  


Menstruation is when you have your period – when the blood and tissue from your uterus comes out of your vagina. It usually happens every month.


Ovulation occurs about halfway through your menstrual cycle, (usually about 14 days before your period starts, but everyone’s different) when your hormones tell one of your ovaries to release a mature egg. Once the egg leaves your ovary, it travels through one of your fallopian tubes toward your uterus.

Most people don’t feel it when they ovulate, but some symptoms are:

  • Bloating
  • Spotting (specs of blood on your underwear)
  • Pain in your lower belly that you may only feel on one side

You have the highest chance of getting pregnant on the days leading up to ovulation – these are called fertile days.

You might need to see the doctor if:
  • Your periods don’t settle down to a regular monthly cycle within about a year from your first period.
  • You experience really bad pain, and especially if you also have nausea and vomiting.
  • If you bleed excessively.
  • If you haven’t had a period for more than two months.
  • If your cycle is very short, less than 24 days.
  • If you are bleeding more than 7 days out of the month.
  • If you bleed a little bit (spotting) at a time of the month other than the beginning or end of your period.
  • If you are worried about anything at all to do with your periods it is best to go and see your doctor to make sure everything is okay.

Read this post to find out more about going to the doctor on your own.

What is Menopause?

Around the age of 50-60 women start to experience what is in a way the opposite of puberty – their body starts to make less oestrogen hormones and they gradually become less fertile until their period eventually stops all together. This process is called menopause.