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Your Menstrual Period

What You'll Need

To avoid staining your clothes, you will need to use sanitary pads, pantiliners or tampons during your period. Sanitary pads and pantiliners fit inside your underwear and are kept in place with an adhesive strip on the back of the pad. There are a variety of pads with various thickness, lengths and absorbencies available for your use. Don't worry, you will find one that fits your body and absorbs your menstrual flow well. Pantiliners can be used at the beginning or end of your period when your flow is lighter.

Tampons are inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual flow. Make sure you read the manufacturers' guidelines regarding tampon insertion and use. Both pads and tampons should be changed every four to eight hours and more often if needed. On a peak flow day during your period, you could soak more than six pads or tampons in one day. But if you find yourself needing to change your pad or tampon more often, you should talk to your parent, school nurse or health care professional.

It might take a while, perhaps even a year or longer, for your periods to become regular every month. During the first year, you may have your period as often as every two or three weeks, or as infrequently as every few months. Your periods can be heavy or light and blood flow may change from month to month. Even after your periods become regular, exercise, stress or a change in diet could throw it off track. Don't feel discouraged, this may take some getting used to but the more you know about your cycle the better you will be able to deal with it. If you anticipate your period is approaching, you may want to wear a pantiliner for extra protection.

Here are some things you might want to consider keeping with you:

  • Two pads, liners and/or tampons, depending on your preference, in case your period begins unexpectedly.
  • A medication, such as Midol or Advil, which relieves cramps and perhaps other symptoms. Talk with your health care provider about how much you can take for your menstrual discomfort. Check with your school about the rules for carrying medication; you may need to leave your medication with the school nurse.

How you might feel

You may feel uncomfortable for a few days before your period each month. Your uterus may contract, causing cramps around your pelvic area (below your stomach). You may also feel "puffy" or fat. Breast swelling and tenderness, headaches, moodiness, back and leg aches, acne breakouts and nausea are also common symptoms for many young women when their periods are about to start. These symptoms usually stop or aren't as bad a day or two after your period starts. If any of these or other symptoms is too much for you to deal with, discuss them with a parent and/or your health care professional. Many of these symptoms can be relieved by lifestyle changes, such as changing certain eating habits, by exercising and with medications.

If, however, you have any of the following symptoms, discuss them with a parent and/or call your health care professional immediately:

  • severe pain
  • heavy bleeding (for example, soaking a pad or tampon every hour)
  • bleeding that lasts more than 8 days
  • bleeding between periods
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