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Growing up means going through many changes. Some changes happen inside your body where you can’t see them. You can see others happening outside your body. Some changes can affect how you feel.
These changes may make you feel confused about whether you are still a girl, or whether you are a young woman. This information sheet can help you to understand the changes that happen to all girls during puberty (PYUber-tee). Puberty is the word used for the time when your body is changing from the body of a child to the body of an adult.
These changes can be scary, but also exciting. Either way, you should understand what is happening to your body so that you’ll know what to expect.
During puberty, you will grow taller and gain weight. Your breasts will grow, and your hips will become rounder and wider. You may develop at a different rate from your friends. At the end of your growth spurt, you’ll be your adult height.
You may notice a change in your hair and complexion because your body is producing more oil. Many girls begin to perspire more and need to use an underarm deodorant. You will also begin to see hair under your arms and between your legs, which is called the pubic (PYU-bik) area.
Menstruation is a flow of blood and tissue from an organ in your body called the uterus
Your period usually starts when you are between 9 and 16 years old. Most girls get their first period when they are 11, 12, or 13 years old. Your period should come once a month. During the first year or two, it is perfectly normal to skip a month or to “spot” between periods.
To understand what happens inside you during your period, you need to know about your body.
At the same time, your uterus has built a tissue lining — like a nest for the egg. Sometimes the tiny egg can become a baby. This happens when sperm from a man fertilizes the egg. (Sperm is released from a man’s penis during sexual intercourse.) A fertilized egg may attach itself to this lining. The lining would feed the egg, protect it, and help it grow into a baby.
If you are not pregnant, the egg and the lining of tissue and blood aren’t needed. Then they flow out of your body through your vagina. This is called the menstrual flow, or your period.
When you have your period, it may seem like a lot of blood is flowing from your body.
It really is only a small amount (4 to 6 tablespoons). The heaviest flow is usually the first day or two. Its color will change from red to brown to tan.
Between periods you may experience a sticky, wet feeling in your panties. This is called vaginal discharge. It is a normal part of the menstrual cycle. Wearing a panty liner may help you feel more comfortable.
Remember, every girl has a period. It is very natural and normal. In time, your period will
become just another part of your life as a young woman. You should have a period every month until you are between 45 and 55 years old (except if you are pregnant).
Right before or during your period, you may notice that:
Most girls have some cramps with their periods. This can be perfectly normal. Cramps are caused by the muscle of the uterus contracting. Taking a walk, doing light exercises, using a heating pad, or taking a warm shower can help you feel more comfortable.
You also can take over-the-counter pain relievers to relieve cramps. Pain relievers you can take include:
Check with your parents or your school nurse before taking a pain reliever.
You can do all of your normal activities during your period. This includes school, gym class, swimming, and work. If your cramps interfere with your activities, talk to your doctor.
Most pads have a sticky side that makes them stick to the inside of your underwear. Pads work outside your body to absorb the menstrual flow. Tampons fit inside your vagina.
Some girls think they can’t use tampons until after they have had sex. This is not true. Using tampons does not change a girl’s vagina — whether she had sex or not. However, you may not feel comfortable using tampons until you are older.
Remember, each girl is different. There are many products you can use that will make you feel comfortable. If you need help using a pad or a tampon, ask your mother, older sister, or another woman you trust to help you.
When using either pads or tampons, change them at least every 4 hours during the day. Do not sleep at night with a tampon in place; use a pad. You may increase your risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) if you keep a tampon in too long.
Good personal hygiene is important. You may need to be especially careful during your period. Wash your hands well each time you go to the bathroom and each time you apply or change a pad or tampon. Daily baths or showers will keep you feeling fresh and eliminate any unpleasant odors.
As you learn what happens as you grow up, you will see that having a period is a normal part of every girl’s life. It is a normal part of growing up and becoming a woman.