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What are periods?

Periods, also called menstruation, are a normal part of puberty and development for females. Periods occur when the lining of the uterus is shed through the vagina. This lining is essential if you become pregnant. If you are not pregnant, the lining is shed, and you have a period. It is a normal, healthy part of being female. 


When will I get my period?

The start of your periods occurs typically between ages 11 and 14. For some girls diagnosed with spina bifida, periods may start earlier than that. The start of your periods will occur along with other body changes that occur during puberty. This includes breast development and the growth of both pubic and underarm hair. If your period starts before age 9, it may be something that you and your parents should talk to your healthcare providers about. 


How often will I get my period?

When your periods first start, they may be irregular. It may take up to two years for your period to become more predictable. Most period cycles last about 28 days, meaning you will start to bleed every 28 days. Most periods last between 3 and 7 days. It is a good idea to keep track of your periods, particularly when they are first starting. 


What other changes may I experience during my period?

Some women’s bodies, when having their period, have a stronger odor. It is important to bathe regularly and change your pad and diaper often. Some women get mild pain in the abdomen, called cramps, during their periods. If this happens to you, talk to your healthcare provider about taking medication like Tylenol and Ibuprofen to help with the pain. Using a heating pad on your abdomen may also be helpful to manage cramps. It is normal to feel cranky before your period. If this happens to you, you’ll feel better if you get plenty of rest, limit caffeinated beverages, drink lots of water, eat healthy foods and get some exercise. 


Helpful Tips

  • If you use a catheter to urinate, continue to catheterize on your typical schedule and as you normally do. If you catheterize through your urethra, make sure that you have cleaned your private area well prior to putting the catheter in.
  • Many women use sanitary pads in their diapers during their periods to help keep the diaper clean and dry longer. Remember to pack extra pads, diapers and possibly a spare pair of underwear and pants when you have your period.
  • Some women, instead of using pads, will choose to use a tampon. A tampon is a cotton roll that inserts into the vagina to catch the period blood. Use a tampon per the instructions on the box. Do not leave a tampon in your vagina for more than 8 hours.
  • You can continue to go to school and play sports while having your period.
  • Now that you have had a period, you are able to become pregnant. Any female who may become pregnant needs folic acid in their diet. Taking a daily multivitamin and eating food with folic acid (leafy greens, beans, fortified bread and cereal) may help. If you are sexually active, it is also important to talk about protection/contraception if you do not wish to become pregnant.  

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care providers. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or others on your health care team. If you are a Gillette patient with urgent questions or concerns, please contact Telehealth Nursing at 651-229-3890.