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MENSTRUATION (MENARCHE) UNPLUGGED

Introduction

Every girl goes through puberty. It is a time in your life when your body changes from that of a child to that of an adult. Sometimes, with all the changes that are happening, it may feel like your body is out of control! Your breasts start to develop, soft curly hair grows in your pubic area, your hips get wider and your waist gets smaller, and you begin to have acne (pimples).

And then you get your first menstruation (which is also called menarche). It is also more commonly known as a period among girls so we shall use these two words interchangeably. During this whole period, you feel a little different – many things that were not important then seem important to you now. And this is a totally normal process because your whole body system has been making changes, making you blossom from a girl into a new woman!

A better understanding of menstruation will help prepare you to face it better when it happens to you. So let’s get started.

What is Menstruation?

Menstruation is the monthly discharge of blood and tissue from your uterus that goes out of your body through the vaginal opening. In each interval between your periods, eggs from your ovaries grow. Only one egg will get fully developed and when it does, it breaks out (we call this process “ovulation”) and travels towards the uterus through the fallopian tubes. While this egg was developing, a thick layer of tissue and blood cells builds up in your uterus to prepare for the egg’s arrival. If this egg happens to join up with a sperm in the fallopian tubes (the technical term is “fertilization”). The fertilized egg would then grow inside your uterus and develop into a baby. The thick lining aids in nourishing and protecting the growing baby. If the egg does not meet with a sperm, the body does not need the tissues and cells and it turns into a blood-like fluid and flows out of the vagina – this is your menstrual period.

Only girls get periods. And it is something to be proud of because it makes you truly unique! However be aware that this is the time when you are able to get pregnant and have kids of your own! Most girls begin to menstruate between the ages of 9 and 12 years, in some girls as late as 16 years!

Sanitary Pads or Tampons?

When you have your period, you would wear some kind of sanitary pad or tampon to absorb this fluid to keep it from staining your clothes. Let’s discuss some pros and cons of each method. Pads are worn inside the panties and have adhesive strips to set it in place. Newer pads have more absorption capacity and even have “wings” to prevent overflow and staining. “Night” pads are thicker for this same reason. Tampons are small and cylindrical and placed inside the vagina. If your flow is not heavy, this method is ideal, no “bulges” or the smell of stale blood. You can choose whichever one you are more comfortable with. Some girls prefer tampons because they do not like the feeling of wetness. Some girls prefer pads because they are not comfortable inserting tampons into their vaginas.

All used sanitary pads should be wrapped up properly and disposed into the rubbish bins. Do not flush the used pad into the toilet bowl as such actions will cause blockage of the toilet!

How Long Do Periods Last?

Your period should last from 3 to 7 days. After your period you may have a day or two of light bleeding. This is called spotting and is quite normal. However, if you start bleeding regularly between periods see a doctor.

How Far Apart are Periods?

The average time between periods is 28 days. But 21 days are normal, and in rare cases even 42 days can be normal.

Many girls experiencing their first period expect their menstrual cycles to happen right on schedule but that rarely happens. Some girls have periods that seem to have no schedule during the first year (and sometimes longer). It may take a while for your periods to become regular (every 3 to 5 weeks). Do not be surprised though if after your period becomes regular, you end up missing a period. This can happen if you are sick, under a lot of stress, exercising a lot, have a poor diet, or are nervous about something. Of course, more than any other reason, pregnancy can cause a girl's period to stop!

Discomfort During Menstruation

You may feel some discomfort before, during, or after your period. Discomforts can be categorized into two – physical discomforts and emotional discomforts.

Physical discomforts that you may experience:
· Cramps
· Headaches
· Back pain
· Bloating
· Tenderness in the breasts
· Headaches
· Tiredness

Emotional discomforts that you may experience:
· Sudden mood changes, such as sadness or irritability
· Depressed
· Mood swings
· Anger
· Anxiety
· Crying
· Loss of self-esteem
· Tension
· Withdrawal

You should note down in a diary all the discomforts that you experience to help you understand your body better so that you can find out more about yourself.

Most of the time, your cramps and other discomforts should be mild and easy to control. Some girls do need to take “pain-killer” tablets occasionally. However, if you feel that your discomforts are just too much to handle, talk to your doctor. Also talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following discomforts:
· Your menstrual bleeding causes you to use up more than 6 to 8 pads or tampons in a single day or it lasts more than 7 to 10 days
· Bleeding between periods
· A sudden change in your period that does not have an obvious cause (like an illness)
· It is still early in your period but you have severe abdominal pain that lasts for more than 2 days
· You think you might be pregnant
· Any other concern you may have that something is wrong with your menstrual cycle

Your Lifestyle and Menstruation

Having your period does not mean you have to stop doing all the things that you normally do. You should take steps to make yourself as comfortable as you can and this can include exercising, watching what you eat, having enough sleep, and thinking positive thoughts!

Exercise

Exercise can help get rid of cramps and other discomforts that you may feel during your period.

You should start an exercise program when you are not premenstrual. This is to get familiar with the routine so that you stick to it. Keep an exercise journal so that you know what you have done (or have not done!).

The exercises that you do during menstruation should be pleasurable and on a daily basis. Each workout should be at least 30 minutes long. You can play tennis or badminton, cycle, swim and even dance to break that sweat!

You may want to try out the following stretch exercise, which can help curb minor cramps, about a half-hour a day. If you are really such a busy bee, a few minutes can also help.
· Step 1: Lie on the floor and stretch your hands and legs
· Step 2: Make sure your waist is firmly touching the floor
· Step 3: Bend your knees, then separate them, making sure you keep your feet near you buttocks and firmly on the floor
· Step 4: Lift the lower end of your lower back off the floor as high as you can and maintain this posture as long as you comfortably can
· Step 5: Relax and start over again, doing at least 20 repetitions

Watch What You Eat


You should eat sensibly where your food is well-balanced and sufficient all year round. Eating fish or meat, vegetables (including nuts and beans), fresh fruits, bread and eggs will help your digestive system so that you can avoid constipation during your period (which can cause cramps). Eating poorly can make your headaches and fatigue worse during PMS.

In general, you should try to cut down on the following foods before and during your period:

· Salt, as it retains water in your body
· Sugar, artificial sweetener, honey, and any other “sugary” products
· Coffee, decaf tea and coffee, carbonated drinks (including the diet variety), chocolate, and any other caffeine products
· White flour products
· Consume fewer sweet fruits like mangoes, papayas and pineapples to about 1 serving a day.

In addition to foods, you should also try to avoid taking alcohol (syabas if you don’t drink!), since it contains sugar and is a central nervous system depressant, and refrain from smoking (syabas again if you don’t smoke!).

Menstrual periods are a completely natural part of being a woman. It is a period in time that you begin to understand more about your body and doing so makes you feel more comfortable about growing up.

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