What actually *is* a period?

Let’s go back to basics! What actually is a period? Here are some answers you will probably get from your over-sharing aunt and your weird school nurse:

“It’s when you become a woman.” Bleurgh.

“It’s a miracle.” Oh please.

“It’s your body’s way of showing it’s ready for a baby.”

WHAT?! Doesn’t my brain get a say? I CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER WHERE I PUT MY MATHS HOMEWORK.

Breathe. Here’s the actual science.

Period blood isn’t like the blood that comes out of your body when you cut your elbow making an awesome save in football, or graze your knee tripping over a doormat. We call it ‘blood’ because frankly that’s less hassle than referring to it as ‘menstrual fluid and womb lining’, but that would be a bit more accurate.

Over the course of your menstrual cycle, progesterone causes the lining of your uterus to grow thicker with extra blood and tissue, making it extra cosy and snug in case a fertilised egg shows up and wants to become a baby.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Over the course of your menstrual cycle, progesterone makes the lining of your uterus grow thicker with extra blood and tissue, in case a pregnancy occurs.
  • If it doesn’t, as your hormone levels fall, the extra blood and tissue fall away and leave your body as your period. Wooo.
  • Just because your body is technically ready to have a baby, it doesn’t mean you have to be ‘a woman’ anytime soon.

If that hasn’t happened by about the 21st day of your menstrual cycle, your hormones will decide it’s time for their monthly clean-out. Then the lining of your womb comes away and leaves your body through your vagina. The bits of tissue can make things look less like tomato ketchup and more like chutney, if you get our drift….

Part of getting your period is your body showing that it’s able to have a baby. So if you are going to have sex and don’t want a tiny screaming person to take care of nine months later, you need to make sure you always use protection (condoms are also pretty crucial for preventing the spread of gross diseases).

But obviously, just because your body is ready, it doesn’t mean the rest of you is anywhere near. After all, you’ve still got your maths homework to find.

Moral of the story?

Don’t let your over-sharing aunt and your weird school nurse freak you out. But if you’re confused it’s a good idea to talk to an adult you trust, even if it’s just to ask about what products they use.

Also, we give you full permission to roll your eyes at anyone who says your period is a miracle. I mean, it kind of is – but there’s no need to get sappy about it.

Image: Kate Forster

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