In This Section
- What is PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)?
- How do I know if my menstrual cycle is normal?
- How do I use tampons, pads, period underwear, and menstrual cups?
- What is premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)?
What is menstruation?
Menstruation — aka having your period — is when blood and tissue from your uterus comes out of your vagina. It usually happens every month.
Problems with your period?Find a Health Center A right arrow in a circle
What’s the menstrual cycle?
Your menstrual cycle helps your body prepare for pregnancy every month. It also makes you have a period if you’re not pregnant. Your menstrual cycle and period are controlled by hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Here’s how it all goes down:
You have 2 ovaries, and each one holds a bunch of eggs. The eggs are super tiny — too small to see with the naked eye.
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. These hormones also make the lining of your uterus thick and spongy. So if your egg does get fertilized, it has a nice cushy place to land and start a pregnancy. This lining is made of tissue and blood, like almost everything else inside our bodies. It has lots of nutrients to help a pregnancy grow.
About halfway through your menstrual cycle, your hormones tell one of your ovaries to release a mature egg — this is called ovulation. Most people don’t feel it when they ovulate, but some ovulation symptoms are bloating, spotting, or a little pain in your lower belly that you may only feel on one side.
Once the egg leaves your ovary, it travels through one of your fallopian tubes toward your uterus.
If pregnancy doesn’t happen, your body doesn’t need the thick lining in your uterus. Your lining breaks down, and the blood, nutrients, and tissue flow out of your body through your vagina. Voilà, it’s your period!
If you do get pregnant, your body needs the lining — that’s why your period stops during pregnancy. Your period comes back when you’re not pregnant anymore.
When in life do periods start and stop?
At some point during puberty, blood comes out of your vagina, and that's your first period. Most people get their first period between ages 12 and 14, but some people get them earlier or later than that. There's no way to know exactly when you’ll get it, but you may feel some PMS symptoms (link to PMS section) a few days before it happens.
If you don't get your period by the time you're 16, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor or nurse. Read more about getting your first period.
Most people stop getting their period when they’re between 45 and 55 years old — this is called menopause. Menopause can take a few years, and periods usually change gradually during this time. After menopause is totally complete, you can’t get pregnant anymore. Read more about menopause.
Your period may start and stop around the time it did for other people you’re related to, like your mom or sisters.
When can I get pregnant during my menstrual cycle?
You have the highest chance of getting pregnant on the days leading up to ovulation (when your ovary releases a mature egg) — these are called fertile days.
Ovulation usually happens about 14 days before your period starts — but everyone’s body is different. You may ovulate earlier or later, depending on the length of your menstrual cycle.
Your egg lives for about 1 day after it’s released from your ovary, and sperm can live in your uterus and fallopian tubes for about 6 days after sex. So you can usually get pregnant for around 6 days of every menstrual cycle: the 5 days before you ovulate, and the day you ovulate. You can also get pregnant a day or so after ovulation, but it's less likely.
Many people track their menstrual cycles and other fertility signs to help them figure out when they’re ovulating. This is called fertility awareness — some people use it to prevent pregnancy, and others use it to try to get pregnant. Check out our app, which makes it easy to chart your cycle and figure out your fertile days.
Some people have very regular cycles, and other people’s cycles vary from month to month. It’s really common for young people to have irregular periods. Since your period can be unpredictable, it’s hard to know for sure when you’ll ovulate (even if you’re carefully tracking your menstrual cycle). So if you don’t want to get pregnant, use birth control every time you have vaginal sex.
Do transgender guys get a period?
Not everybody who gets a period identifies as a girl or woman. Transgender men and genderqueer people who have uteruses, vaginas, fallopian tubes, and ovaries also get their periods.
Having a period can be a stressful experience for some trans folks because it's a reminder that their bodies don’t match their true gender identity— this discomfort and anxiety is sometimes called gender dysphoria. Other trans people might not be too bothered by their periods. Either reaction is normal and okay.
Sometimes trans people who haven’t reached puberty yet take hormones (called puberty blockers) to prevent all of the gendered body changes that happen during puberty, including periods. And people who already get periods can use certain types of birth control (like the implant or hormonal IUD) that help lighten or stop their periods. Hormone replacement therapy, like taking testosterone, may also stop your period.
If you start taking testosterone, your period will go away. But this is reversible — if you stop taking testosterone, your period will come back. There can be some changes in your menstrual cycle before it stops for good. Periods get lighter and shorter over time, or come when you don’t expect it. You may have spotting or cramping every once in a while until you stop getting your period, and sometimes even after it seems to have stopped — this is normal. Testosterone injections make your periods go away faster than testosterone cream.
If you experience gender dysphoria when you get your period, know that you're not alone. It may be helpful to check out our resourcesand find a trans-friendly doctor in your area that you can talk to.
More questions from patients:
What are the menstrual cycle phases?
Your menstrual cycleis your body’s way of preparing for pregnancy every month. It also makes you have a period if you’re not pregnant. Your menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
These are the menstrual cycle phases:
The 1st day of your menstrual cycle starts on the 1st day of your period (AKA menstruation). During your period, blood and tissue from the lining of your uterus flows out of your vagina. If you get your period, it means you didn’t get pregnant during your last cycle. Your uterus doesn’t need the lining to grow a pregnancy, so it sheds the lining.
This is when your body starts getting ready for the release of an egg. You have 2 ovaries, and each one holds a bunch of eggs. During your period, follicles (pockets) in your ovaries are stimulated to grow — there’s 1 egg in each of these follicles. During the week or so after your period ends, 1 of the eggs becomes totally mature each month. When an egg is mature, it means it’s ready to be fertilized by a sperm cell.
During this week after your period ends, the lining of your uterus starts getting thick and spongy again — which would either support a pregnancy, or get released through your vagina at the beginning of your next cycle (AKA your period).
During ovulation, the most mature egg is released from the follicle, out of the ovary. Once the egg leaves your ovary, it moves through one of your fallopian tubes towards your uterus. This takes several days. The egg waits for a sperm cell in the uterus for about 24 hours before it dissolves. Because sperm can hang out in the fallopian tubes for several days, pregnancy is most likely from sex that happens in the 6 days leading up to, and including, ovulation.
If your regular menstrual cycle is 28 days long, ovulation usually happens around day 14 — the halfway point in your cycle, about 2 weeks before your period. But everyone’s cycle is different, so it can be really hard to predict when you’ll be ovulating.
In the luteal phase, the empty follicle in your ovary (where the egg leaves) makes hormones that tell the lining of your uterus to get ready for a fertilized egg.
If pregnancy doesn’t happen, your body releases hormones that cause the uterine lining to break down. Eventually it flows out of the body, at which point you get your next period — and a new menstrual cycle starts.
Your menstrual cycle lasts from the first day of your period to the first day of your next period. A normal cycle can be as short as 21 days or longer than 35. This makes the average 28 days, but tons of people don’t have a 28 day cycle. The number of days in your cycle can vary from month to month too.
What are basic facts about periods? ›
The average menstrual cycle is 24 to 38 days . The typical period lasts 4 to 8 days . Monthly, or regular, periods are a sign your cycle is normal. Your body is working to prepare for a possible pregnancy.What happens to a girl during periods? ›
The ovaries release the female hormones estrogen and progesterone . These hormones cause the lining of the uterus (or womb) to build up. The built-up lining is ready for a fertilized egg to attach to and start developing. If there is no fertilized egg, the lining breaks down and bleeds.How long does your period last? ›
For most women this happens every 28 days or so, but it's common for periods to be more or less frequent than this, ranging from every 23 days to every 35 days. Your period can last between 2 and 7 days, but it will usually last for about 5 days. The bleeding tends to be heaviest in the first 2 days.Do girls periods hurt? ›
Period pain is common and a normal part of your menstrual cycle. Most women get it at some point in their lives. It's usually felt as painful muscle cramps in the tummy, which can spread to the back and thighs. The pain sometimes comes in intense spasms, while at other times it may be dull but more constant.How much blood is lost during a period? ›
Usually, menstrual bleeding lasts about 4 to 5 days and the amount of blood lost is small (2 to 3 tablespoons). However, women who have menorrhagia usually bleed for more than 7 days and lose twice as much blood.Can I get pregnant on my period? ›
If you have sex without using contraception, you can conceive (get pregnant) at any time during your menstrual cycle, even during or just after your period. You can also get pregnant if you have never had a period before, during your first period, or after the first time you have sex.How does a period feel? ›
Throbbing or cramping pain in your lower abdomen that can be intense. Pain that starts 1 to 3 days before your period, peaks 24 hours after the onset of your period and subsides in 2 to 3 days. Dull, continuous ache. Pain that radiates to your lower back and thighs.What is the first period called? ›
Your first menstrual period is called menarche. It usually happens around age 12. But it may start earlier or later. Your period is a part of your menstrual cycle. This cycle is a series of changes your body goes through to prepare for a possible pregnancy.Can I swim with a pad on? ›
When you get out of the water your period will flow again normally, so it's a good idea to use a tampon or menstrual cup while swimming. Pads and pantyliners aren't a good option because they will absorb water and become ineffective.What day is your period the heaviest? ›
The bleeding tends to be heaviest in the first 2 days – but everyone is different. When your period is at its heaviest, the blood will be red. On lighter days, it may be pink, brown or black. You'll lose about 5 to 12 teaspoons of blood during your period although some women bleed more heavily than this.
Can a period last 1 day? ›
A typical menstrual flow lasts 3–5 days, but cycles as short as 1 day and as long as 8 days are considered normal. Sometimes, an individual may have brief spotting, or light bleeding, at a time of the month when they do not normally bleed.Do boys have periods? ›
Men experience similar symptoms to women when they go through hormonal imbalances. Many of them are similar to the female menstrual cycle including tiredness, cramps, increase sensitivity and cravings. According to one study, around 26 % of men experience these regular “man periods.” Men have hormonal cycles.Why do periods exist? ›
As a woman, your period is your body's way of releasing tissue that it no longer needs. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. The lining of your uterus gets thicker as preparation for nurturing a fertilized egg. An egg is released and is ready to be fertilized and settle in the lining of your uterus.What is a very painful period? ›
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful menstrual periods which are caused by uterine contractions. Primary dysmenorrhea refers to recurrent pain, while secondary dysmenorrhea results from reproductive system disorders.How many pads per day is normal? ›
Changing your pad every 3 or 4 hours (more if your period is heavy) is good hygiene and helps prevent bad odors. This is especially true if you'll be playing sports or rushing around from class to class. Changing pads often also helps prevent accidental leaks.How much blood can a pad hold? ›
A fully saturated regular daytime pad may hold around 5 milliliters of fluid. A fully soaked overnight pad may hold 10 to 15 milliliters of fluid.Do pads make you bleed more? ›
Disposable sanitary pads contain certain stuff that you definitely don't want near your vagina. They cause undesirable side effects and are detrimental to your health. Many report heavier periods and worsened period cramps.How to have a girl? ›
- have sex 2.5-4 days before you ovulate.
- keep an ovulation chart so you know when you are ovulating.
- have sex every day from the day when you finish your period.
- avoid having sex which involves deep penetration – missionary position is best.
Women can't conceive after their menstrual cycles stop, usually sometime in your 40s or 50s. Men produce sperm throughout their lives, but women are born with a set number of eggs that decreases as you age.How easy is it to get pregnant? ›
Women in their early 20s to early 30s have a one in four chance of becoming pregnant each month. However, the likelihood of becoming pregnant decreases as women continue to age past 30. In fact, women have only a 1 in 10 chance of becoming pregnant each month by the time they're 40.
What color is your first period? ›
Your first few periods may be very light. You may only see a few spots of reddish brown blood. Anywhere from 2 to 7 days is normal.How to stop periods? ›
Combination birth control pills are often the most common way to stop periods. That's because the schedule you use to take them can result in fewer periods or no periods at all. For example, you may continually take a pill containing estrogen and progestin every day until you decide not to.How do you tell if a girl is on her period? ›
- Abdominal cramps. Abdominal, or menstrual, cramps are also called primary dysmenorrhea. ...
- Breakouts. Menstruation-related breakouts are fairly common. ...
- Tender breasts. ...
- Fatigue. ...
- Bloating. ...
- Bowel issues. ...
- Headache. ...
- Mood swings.
Girls usually stop growing taller about 2 years after starting their menstrual period. Your genes (the code of information you inherited from your parents) will decide many things during this time, including: your height, your weight, the size of your breasts and even how much hair you have on your body.How should I sleep on my period? ›
According to experts, the best position to sleep in when you're on your period is the fetal position. Sleeping on your side with your legs squeezed together is optimal for avoiding period leaks because it decreases the chance of blood leaking out. The only position to avoid is sleeping on your stomach.How old is the first period? ›
Most girls get their first period when they're between 10 and 15 years old. The average age is 12, but every girl's body has its own schedule.Does your period stop when you go in a hot tub? ›
The bottom line: No, your period doesn't magically stop in the water, but water pressure can prevent your flow from coming out. It's still wise to use a tampon or menstrual cup to avoid leaks as you come out of the water.How can my 12 year old swim with her period? ›
Swimming during your period isn't a problem. However, you will want to use a tampon when swimming so you don't bleed on your swimsuit. Pads won't work and will just fill with water. The tampon won't fall out if it is inserted correctly, so go ahead and make a splash!Do tampons stop blood flow? ›
Tampons soak up menstrual blood, but they may also block some menstrual flow from the vagina, which could extend the duration of bleeding. Sanitary pads should not hinder the menstrual flow, so some people feel that using them can help their period to end sooner.What happens on 2nd day of period? ›
Day 2: The period continues. The second day of your cycle is generally a heavy one. And while your PMS symptoms have (probably) cleared, you might have some cramps that accompany the bleeding. This may be a day for super tampons that you'll have to change regularly.
What part of period is heaviest? ›
While many people don't notice any bloating or weight gain at all, others might gain as much as 5 pounds. Usually, this gain happens during the premenstrual, or luteal phase, and the person loses the weight again once the next period begins.What causes heavy periods? ›
Causes of heavy periods
Sometimes, they can be caused by: conditions affecting your womb, ovaries or hormones, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, fibroids, endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease. some medicines and treatments, including some anticoagulant medicines and chemotherapy medicines. stress and ...
Healthy period blood typically varies from bright red to dark brown or black. Blood or discharge that is orange or grey may indicate an infection. Women who experience bleeding during pregnancy should see a doctor or obstetrician for an evaluation.Why is my period blood brown? ›
“The primary reason that period blood could be brown is because it's old blood,” said Dr. Cummings. It usually happens at the beginning or the end of your period, when your flow is lighter. Because the longer blood takes to leave the body, the longer it has to oxidize (read: get exposed to oxygen), which makes it dark.Why did my period stop? ›
This is because oestrogen levels start to decrease, and ovulation becomes less regular. After the menopause, your periods stop completely. The menopause is a natural part of ageing in women, which usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55. The average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51 in the UK.What is a period for boys? ›
Lastly, the term male period or man-struation is used colloquially to refer to blood found in urine or feces. However, Brito says, bleeding from the male genitals is often the result of parasites or an infection.How many periods can a girl have? ›
Girls can start their periods anywhere from age 8 upwards, but the average is around 12 years. The average age for the menopause (when periods stop) in this country is 51. Between the ages of 12 and 52, a woman will have around 480 periods, or fewer if she has any pregnancies.How do periods feel? ›
During PMS and your period, expect to feel everything from crabbiness and anger to feeling more anxious or down than normal. You can't avoid the mood swings that come with your period, but it does help to get good sleep, stay active, and steer clear of caffeine and unhealthy foods to keep the lows from feeling too low.Why do girls have periods for boys? ›
Boys will not get periods as they do not have a uterus and ovaries to ovulate. Periods are a physiological process in women during reproductive age. It is the shedding of the uterine lining due to hormonal changes in the body if the ovum released from the ovaries is not fertilized.What age do periods come? ›
Most girls start their periods when they're about 12, but they can start as early as 8, so it's important to talk to girls from an early age to make sure they're prepared. Respond to questions or opportunities as they arise and do not be embarrassed.
What colors of period blood mean? ›
Healthy period blood typically varies from bright red to dark brown or black. Blood or discharge that is orange or grey may indicate an infection. Women who experience bleeding during pregnancy should see a doctor or obstetrician for an evaluation.Can a girl be without periods? ›
Absence of a woman's monthly menstrual period is called amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea is when a girl has not yet started her monthly periods, and she: Has gone through other normal changes that occur during puberty. Is older than 15.What happens on first day of period? ›
Day one of your cycle is the first day of your period. This is when your uterus starts shedding the lining it has built up over the last 28 days. After your period is over, the lining of your uterus starts to build up again to become a thick and spongy 'nest' in preparation for a possible pregnancy.What happens after period ends? ›
During your period, follicles (pockets) in your ovaries are stimulated to grow — there's 1 egg in each of these follicles. During the week or so after your period ends, 1 of the eggs becomes totally mature each month. When an egg is mature, it means it's ready to be fertilized by a sperm cell.Can your period make you sick? ›
Many girls throw up — or feel like they might throw up — just before or during their periods. Hormone changes are probably the cause, and these feelings usually go away in a day or two. Treating menstrual cramps (with over-the-counter pain relief medicines, heating pads, etc.) can help some girls get rid of the nausea.Why is it called a period? ›
“Period” is rooted in the Greek words “peri” and “hodos” (periodos) meaning “around” and “way/path.” This eventually turned into the Latin “periodus” meaning “recurring cycle.” Use of the English term “period” to describe menstruation began in the early 1800s (1).Do animals have periods? ›
Some non-human animal species do menstruate – for example apes, old-world monkeys, elephant shrews (above), many bats and a single rodent: the spiny mouse. Many others have menstrual cycles, but reabsorb the old womb-lining rather than bleed it out.What is the youngest girl to get period? ›
Little Emily Dover was still a toddler when she developed breast buds, strong body odour and cystic acne - to her parents' shock. She started menstruating at just four years old and, within the past 12 months, has grown hair on her forehead, back and vagina.