Period problems are common in the teenage years and many girls wonder if their periods are normal.
The first period (menarche)
Puberty usually begins between 8 and 13 years of age. Breast enlargement and a growth spurt are the first signs, followed by pubic and underarm hair.
The first period usually arrives about 2-2½ years after puberty starts, at an average age of 13 years. The starting age is often about the same as your mum or sisters but can be delayed by excessive dieting or exercise. Speak to your doctor if your periods do not start by age 17.
The first 1-2 years of periods are often irregular. The cycle length (time from the start of one period to the start of the next) is 28 days on average (range 21-45 days).
Heavy periods (menorrhagia)
The amount and length of bleeding vary greatly from one girl to another. Periods last 4 days on average (range 3-7 days) and most teens change pads or tampons 3-6 times a day, with more frequent changes when the period is heaviest.
Prolonged (more than 7 days) or heavy (flooding or clots) periods are common in the first few years and may require treatment, usually with hormones or the Pill.
Period pain (primary dysmenorrhoea)
Many girls get period pain during the first 1-2 days of bleeding each month. The pain is usually crampy and is felt in the pelvis, lower back and upper thighs.
Period pain is caused by spasms of the uterus (womb) and can be very severe. Anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. mefenamic acid, naproxen) or the Pill usually give relief. TENS (electric nerve stimulation), Vitamin B1 (100mg daily), acupuncture and exercise may also help.
Periods shouldn’t get in the way of exercising, having fun and enjoying life. Speak to your parents or doctor if you are worried or visit www.kidshealth.org