Puberty and Your Menstration Cycle
Women's Specialists of NM
With this information sheet, you will learn about the changes now happening to your body and what developments you can expect as you mature. As you grow to adulthood you will probably have many unanswered questions about these changes.
This sheet will help you to learn more about yourself so that you can be ready for these changes. Now that you are entering adolescence, it is a time of life when puberty begins. During this time, both boys and girls experience many changes. Your body will go through gradual and wonderful stages. So will your mind and your spirit. At times, it’s exciting … at other times, confusing.
In girls, puberty generally occurs between the ages of 9 and 16. During this time, the body grows taller and takes on a roundness that appears more female. The breasts develop, hair appears in the pubic area and under the arms. A normal whitish secretion from the vagina will be noticed and several months later menstruation will begin. This means that the female reproductive organs have matured. You are becoming a woman.
In boys, these body changes will usually occur between the ages of 10 and 17. The body grows taller and weight increases. The shoulders broaden, the voice deepens, and hair begins to grow on the face and other parts of the body. The reproductive organs will start to mature
Menstruation and the Menstrual Cycle
Of all the many changes girls experience during puberty, menstruation is perhaps the biggest mystery-but it doesn’t have to be. There’s a perfectly natural reason for it. Menstruation is one of the signs of maturity-of being a woman instead of a child. It means that your menstrual cycle is beginning. Its purpose is to prepare your body for the normal biological function of women-the ability to reproduce, or have children. Month after month, the menstrual cycle is repeated during the reproductive years of a woman’s life.
It is a series of changes taking place in the female reproductive organs leading up to the menstrual flow. An organ called the uterus or womb prepares a lining where a tiny female egg cell is not fertilized, pregnancy does not take place and the lining of the uterus is shed.
Further down the page, you will see a diagram showing all the organs involved in the menstrual cycle-just where they are in your body-and an explanation of how they work.
The average menstrual cycle is about 28 days. Your cycle length is the number of days from the first day of one period (counting that day as one) to the day before your next period starts. The diagram on page 8 will help you understand how this works.
The menstrual cycle can vary from 17 to 35 days and still be normal. Your cycle may be irregular for the first year or so, but after this tine it should become regular. The length of each period also varies. Some girls menstruate for only 3 days; some for as long as 7. However, the average menstrual period is about 4 or 5 days.
It can be as early as 9 or 10 years of age … or late as 15 or 16. Most girls start when they are about 12 or 13. If you haven’t started by 16, discuss this with your clinician.
No two girls are completely alike. There is a difference in growth and development, so some girls mature earlier than others. Menstruation begins after certain physical changes take place. First you will notice your breasts have developed and hair grows in the pubic area. The next year or so, underarm hair appears. During this time you may be aware of a small amount of whitish fluid coming from your vagina. Several months later you should experience your first menstrual period. This timing may vary somewhat with each girl.
No one can tell the exact day or month you will start. When your first period begins, you may not be aware of it, or you may notice a dampness in the vaginal area. When you go to the bathroom, you will discover some menstrual blood on your panties. This means menstruation has begun for you. Depending on where you happen to be, ask your mother, the school nurse, or a friend for either a tampon or pad to absorb this flow and to protect your clothing. Of course it would be best to have discussed all this with your mother before your first period actually happens.
Only a small amount during each menstrual period. The amount that leaves your body is about 1 to 4 ounces or 4 to 5 tablespoons. There is usually heavier flow the first few days and much less the last day or so. This is why tampons and pads used for menstrual protection come in several sizes or absorbencies for the different days of your period.
Until your organs adjust to your new cycle, your period may not come regularly. Also, it can be affected by your emotions or changes in routine like going to camp, taking a plane, or preparing for a test. If your period continues to be irregular, see a doctor.
Menstruation usually comes to an end during the mid-forties or early fifties. This is called menopause, or change of life. This process is similar to the changes you experience during adolescence when the reproductive organs begin to work. Menopause simply means the end of the reproductive years of a woman’s life and is a normal change. Now that you have the facts, you’ll be better able to understand what is happening to you. Menstruation is a natural part of life. Treat it that way and you won’t be embarrassed or upset each time it comes.
Most girls are concerned about menstrual protection. They worry about the possibility of embarrassment . . . about odor, revealing lines, sudden flow. They may wonder, too, about tampons and how to use them. If you have questions like these, don’t worry about them. There’s a simple answer to each. This section should clear up your doubts. Detailed instructions can also be found in the directions for proper use that come with all TAMPAX( products. There are two kinds of menstrual protection-tampons and pads. Pads are worn outside the body between the legs. Tampons are placed in the vagina to absorb flow internally.
The female reproductive system
These are the female reproductive organs that determine how and when menstruation occurs.
- HYPOTHALAMUS: A part of the brain that produces chemicals for controlling certain functions of the pituitary gland.
- PITUITARY GLAND: This important gland is located at the base of the brain. Every month, it sends out a hormone or chemical messenger through the bloodstream, causing a tiny egg or ovum, to ripen in an ovary.
- OVARIES: There are two, each containing thousands of tiny, undeveloped egg sacs. Every month, an egg ripens in one of the two ovaries, and breaks out of its sac. This is called ovulation.
- FALLOPIAN TUBES: There are two, one curled around each ovary. When the ripened egg breaks out of its sac, it enters one of the tubes and travels toward the uterus.
- UTERUS: This muscular organ has a lining which thickens each month into a nurturing place for a fertilized egg to develop into a baby. If the egg isn’t fertilized, it disintegrates. The lining no longer needed, is shed. This is called menstruation.
- VAGINA: A passageway from the uterus to the outside of the body-through which the menstrual flow leaves the body. It is also called the birth canal.