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Menstruation and Hygiene

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Definition: Menstruation, also known as your “period,” is the regular release of bloody waste from your uterus.

Girls who are entering puberty have rapid body changes. It is during this time when young girls develop breasts, hair underarms and around private parts, oily skin and body odor. You will need to pay close attention to your personal hygiene during this time.

Your period comes about when you are not pregnant and the lining of the uterus is released. This “waste” comes out of your vagina. The process is usually painless, although some girls do have some cramping. Cramping is normal. If cramping is severe there are medications that will help. The “waste” is bloody because the lining of the uterus is rich in blood supply. This usually happens on a monthly basis, but the first year of a girl’s menstrual cycle may be irregular. Medications or serious illness may affect the menstrual period. Increasing cramps may be normal or may be due to infections. In sexually active teens, the most common reason for missing a period is pregnancy.

Your period usually starts once your body looks more like an adult female. It is important to be aware of certain signs or signals that may tip you off that you are about to “get” your period. Usually a few days before the regular flow you will experience some slight spotting and notice a pinkish tinge on the toilet paper when you wipe after going to the bathroom. Some girls also experience loose bowel movements right before they start their period.

You can buy hygiene products to keep yourself clean and dry during this time of the month. Absorbent pads (Kotex®, Always®, Stayfree®, etc.) can be used with your panties and tampons (Tampax®, Playtex®, OB®, etc.) can be inserted into your vagina. Your family member, guardian, counselor, or health care provider can help you decide which is best for you.

Because your period consists of “waste” products from your body, it is very important that you wash your hands before and after changing your tampons or pads. It is also very important that you keep yourself clean and dry. Daily or more frequent washing of your genital area or private parts is very important. It helps to stop any odor or possible infection.

No matter what product you use during your period, it is very important that the pad or tampon be changed at least every four -six hours. Change more frequently if the pad becomes soaked or if you see blood on your underwear when you are wearing a tampon. If you sleep through the night, you do not need to worry about getting up to change your pad. Do not wear a tampon when you go to bed. Bacteria can grow when a tampon is left in the vagina for the entire day or the entire night. Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare but serious disease that can occur when tampons are not changed frequently.

These are the symptoms of TSS. If you notice any of these, remove the tampon and tell an adult immediately:

  • High fever (greater than 102 degrees)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Extreme weakness, dizziness
  • Rash

Toxic Shock Syndrome is very rare. Many women use tampons and never become ill.

Some girls bleed more heavily during times of exertion or exercise and at night. You may need to wear more protection during this time. There are products available for different “flows” or amounts of bleeding, from light to extra heavy. Time and experience will help you choose the right one. Super absorbent tampons should only be used on the days when the flow is heavy. It is wise to always carry some supplies in the bottom of your backpack or your purse. There will be times that you will bleed through your panties or start your period without any warning. This happens to all women.

Because your body is changing so rapidly, you are also producing more oils though your skin. Daily bathing is very important in preventing body odor. You may also notice that you need to shampoo your hair more frequently. Use mild cleansers such as Dove®, Caress®, Tone®, or Lever 2000® for skin care. Most of the time, the presence of adult body odor begins prior to the onset of menses. It is a relatively early event during the process of puberty. The use of deodorant/anti-perspirant is a personal choice. Even with daily bathing you may develop body odor, so please discuss this with your family member or guardian. When bathing, it is also important to pay special attention to skinfolds and to wash these areas carefully. If your breasts are large, you must lift and cleanse under each breast to avoid infection or rashes under the breast. Rinse the areas well with water and dry carefully.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 11/06

(757) 668-7000