Ahhh hormones, they make the world go round, right? Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration but they’re deffo responsible for rollercoaster emotions and the weird and wonderful things that happen to bods during puberty and beyond.

So are you clued up or totally clueless about the chemicals that make us fabulously female?

Let’s find out! (WARNING: This test is tricky).

1. Ok, so one of these ISN’T a legit hormone. Can you spot it?

2. What’s the name of the super-important hormone that kicks off your first period during puberty?

3. Aww, did you know the brain releases a ‘cuddle’ hormone that makes you feel all warm and loving. What’s it called?

4. What natural chemical in the bod causes those demon cramps when you’ve got your period?

5. Boys have oestrogen in their bodies too. True or False?

6. You feel pain less when oestrogen is at its highest (the week after your period finishes). Fact or fib?

7. The follicle-stimulating hormone sounds fancy. But what does it do?

8. Due to the blue light that devices let off, too much time on your phone late at night (yup, guilty), can meddle with the sleep-related hormone called…

9. Progesterone majorly peaks sometime during your monthly menstrual cycle, but do you know when?

10. What’s the name of the brain-chemical that makes you happy and fun? (When this dips you can feel super-sad too. Boo.)

For any gal who gets a period, choosing how to handle things is a pretty big decision. It’s almost as if the struggle of contorting yourself into a ball to combat cramps, fighting the urge to scoff six packets of chocolate biscuits in a row and trying to keep a lid on an explosion of ragey hormones wasn’t enough to deal with.

A lot of girls would call it a no-brainer when it comes down to what comes next, though. When that magical time of the month rolls around, you stick your hand in your bag and pull out either a pad or a tampon to prevent your favourite undies from being ruined. Right? Um, not necessarily.

Did you know that there’s actually a shedload of alternative options if you’re still not convinced by the two main players in the ‘feminine hygiene’ (eye roll) aisle? Here’s a few other genius ways of handling your period that you might not have heard about before.

Period pants

Alright, hands in the air if there’s a couple of pairs of particularly tragic looking undies in your drawer, that have been officially ruined by an unexpected period or two? Yep, that’s everyone then.

Luckily, there are now specially designed PERIOD PANTS out there to make sure that such knicker-related disasters never happen again. Some brilliant human has invented totally stain-resistant underwear called Thinx, which are absorbent enough to hold up to TWO tampons worth of fluid.

They totally eliminate the need for any extra bits and bobs each month, and all you have to do is pop them in the washing machine between uses. Even if you’re not quite confident enough to rock them through the day, they could just save your sheets through the night if you get particularly heavy periods.

Menstrual cup

Tempted by tampons but ever so slightly freaked out by the cottons, the fibres, the fact they cost a million pounds a box? You’re not alone, and that’s where THE CUP could be ready to change your life. A menstrual cup is a small, cute little silicone cup which basically just sits inside you and collects your flow as you go.

Attempting to use one can be a little tricky to begin with, but once you’ve cracked it, some say they’re way more comfortable to wear than tampons. Plus, a cup can hold a LOT of fluid, so it can be left to do its thang for up to 12 hours, and they’re as environmentally friendly as it gets. Some can last up to ten years if cared for properly. It’s kinda like your ride or die.

Importantly, a cup is the ultimate way to get to know how your body works (yup, emptying them into the loo is weirdly satisfying) and will teach you more than you ever knew about the whole process of your period from start to finish.

Sea sponge

Everyone wishes they were a mermaid, but using a sea sponge for your period surely takes things to the next level. Almost definitely favoured by Ariel, this non-toxic, all-natural little guy really does come from the sea, and basically transforms your ovaries into a coral reef. Kinda.

Sponges are obvs super-absorbent and soft when soaked in moisture, so it totally makes sense that they’d be handy for periods. A menstrual sponge/sea sponge/sponge tampon is literally just a piece of natural sponge that’s cut to the right shape and soaked before use.

It might sound kinda crazy, but hear us out. All you have to do is use it, take it out, rinse it and pop it straight back in – and they can last for up to a year which would save you a few quid. They’re comfy, sustainable and are even more absorbent than your average tampon. Okay, so it’s not your usual period accessory, but everyone HAS been going on about #mermaidgoals this year…

Free bleed

For the girl who owns a strong supply of black underwear and is on the ball when it comes to changing the sheets, free bleeding – as in, just letting your period come on down – is a perfectly valid option and it’s totally okay.

Grossed out by the idea? Well, think about it. You’re simply just letting your body do what it’s naturally born to do, without any hassle from a load of products getting involved. A lot of women opt for it for comfort, ease and even as a kickass feminist statement.

There’s all sorts of benefits that come with literally going with the flow. Tampons absorb more than just menstrual blood – they also take in vaginal and cervical fluids, so ditching them leaves your bits and pieces in their perfectly natural state. It’s better for the planet, it’s free and hey, the only thing you have to lose is your last pair of stain-free undies.

Resuable pads or tampons

Who knew that reusable tampons were a thing that existed? Washable versions of the trusty, traditional (but not always perfect) tampon can actually be knitted, sewn from cotton or even crocheted, which just brings a whole new meaning to arts and crafts.

You can easily find them online, and once you’re the proud owner of a reusable tampon or two, you’ll never have that horrible, sinking feeling of realising you used your last one this morning.

Reusable pads are also a solid choice that you might want to consider. They vary in absorption and comfort levels to perfectly suit your period, depending on the type of material that they’re made from. Often with a clever built-in waterproof back lining, reusable pads just need a wash between uses, and are often made from cute AF patterned fabrics.

So maybe it’s time to think outside the tampon box for your next cycle? Whatever you choose to opt for to tackle your time of the month, make sure it’s something that’ll leave you feeling totally confident and comfort. Period.

The first time I ever fancied someone I was four years old.

Let’s be honest, that’s premature. And a bit weird. So you can imagine my surprise – and disappointment – when, first secondary school disco in full swing, I found myself in the girl’s toilets, totally consumed with fear at the thought of the night ending in my being someone’s girlfriend.

It wasn’t like Scar from The Lion King was even there (plot twist: I no longer fancy cartoon lions, but still love a black hair/ green eye combo). Or that anyone was showing the slightest whiff of interest in the glitter hair mascara fringe I was debuting that evening.

But, despite the sassy four-year-old inside me who was so desperate to be wifeyed back in 1994, the mere thought of anyone trying to snog, dance or really do anything beyond offering me their seat so I could rest my inexperienced platform-heeled feet was enough to make me fake illness and call my Dad to come take me home. Ah, home. I could eat Indian takeaway and watch Friends there, I could have a bubble bath, I could listen to The Killers and imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship without the scary reality of actually having to go through with it.

Needless to say, after that first school disco, it was obvious: casual intimacy intimidated me. And I ended up spending my entire teenage years single.

It wasn’t because I’d suddenly stopped fancying anyone – quite the contrary. I fancied everyone. At least it felt that way; but as I quickly learnt, my feelings were fickle. The second anyone paid any interested in me I was onto the next one, before they had a chance to fish out the alleged eyelash from my heavily kohl-lined socket.

On several occasions I was accused of being a tease or a flirt, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was interested in being in the relationships I formed in my mind – it’s just the reality brought so much pressure, and I was yet to meet anyone with the maturity and patience to match my timid curiosity. I wanted fun from a relationship and, from the looks of things, the real-life kind involved heartbreak, school gossip and the risk of everyone knowing the private things I only wanted special people to know.

It took me longer than I wish it had to realise that I wasn’t a tease, and I wasn’t frigid. I just didn’t want to be in a relationship with anyone who didn’t love me. It was as simple as that.

Of course I felt embarrassed about being what from the outside probably looked like a ‘late bloomer’. When you aren’t in love it always feels like everyone else is – but, honestly, this is just imagination talking. I have friends who lost their virginity aged 14 and friends who had their first kiss aged 22, there is no finish line when it comes to intimacy. There just isn’t. Adult life doesn’t begin with your first kiss. If you’re interested in that stuff then life will be littered with it, and you’ll have times when it’s happening a lot and times when it isn’t happening at all.

I’m a bit older now, and I’ve had a serious relationship. We made it work for three years, which doesn’t sound like long but considering the fact that we were broke, lazy students who wore the same Dominoes-stained joggers every day (him) and believed that jarred pesto counted as one of your 5 a day (me), it was a triumph against bad odds. That relationship had everything I’d thought up in my Killers bubble baths. He was loving and hilarious with a gorgeous face, and the first time we kissed I remember being surprised because I wasn’t thinking about when it would be over like all the regretful snogs before him.

It’s important to say here that I think prolific ‘relationship people’ – the types that seem to have loved a hundred times before they’re even legally allowed to drink – are sensational. In my experience they tend to be super open, to both rejection and love, because they come as a pair. Emotional gamblers, pursuing subtle flirtation with the conviction of some sort of intimacy gladiator. But, unless that comes naturally to you, you can’t force it.  As with everything in life, but especially your emotions, you’ve got to consider what you’re comfortable with.

A few days ago a friend asked when I was going to get round to dating someone seriously again and I felt that familiar pang of embarrassment – like FOMO with a sprinkling of shame. The truth is, I just really like being single. Not because I’m frigid, or want a different person every night, or have low self-esteem, or think I’m too good for that bloke who asked me out. I simply love being single because there is so much to love about it.

I don’t have to share anything; my money, my time, my bed, my pizza. I’ve got to know myself in incredible depth, because I’ve had to. I plan my weekends depending on what I want to do, I go to places I want to visit on holiday, I cook what I love for dinner every night. I know exactly what I’m lacking, and what a potential partner could give to make me a better person, but I also know that I’m enough. It’s a strong and sentimental statement, but it’s true. And I like to think this relationship with myself started during those relationship-less teenage years. I’m not scared of being single.

Ultimately relationships can be crazy, fun, sad, beautiful life experiences. But they’ve got to happen on your own terms. My advice would be: take the time to understand exactly what you feel comfortable with.

Because in the end, the only person you have to live with forever is yourself.

 Image: Getty

You know the saying knowledge is power? Well that’s soooo the case when we’re talking vaginas. Discovering all the wonderful, and let’s face it sometimes weird, things that goes on with our ladybits is fascinating, huh? More importantly though, learning what *really* happens between our legs can be the difference between thinking you’re freaky and knowing you’re totally normal. Trust us, you’re normal.

So how much do you know already about the inner and outer workings of your vag? A lot? A little? Nada? Take our test to find out…

1. How many holes do you have *down there* (bum included)?

2. Which moves us swiftly on, what the heck is the urethra?

3. The clitoris is the vagina’s super-sensitive feel-good button, but how many nerve endings does it have?

4. Vaginas are clever, but which one of these things CAN’T your vag do?

5. The outer lady bits – the labia, clitoris, urethra and the vaginal opening – are together called…

6. Which one of these ISN’T part of your vagina?

7. Their official name is the labia, but do you know the purpose of your lovely lady lips?

8. What is the hymen?

9. The cervix links up your uterus and your vagina, but do you know where it sits?

10. ONLY one of these discharge situs is totally normal. Can you spot it? (The others need checking out by a doc btw)

Image: Katie Edmunds

Cramps, clots and moods: we’re living in an era where people are more vocal and open about periods both among our friendship groups and in popular culture. We discuss the merits of a menstrual cup vs tampons, swap cramp cures and are just generally more comfortable chatting about that time of the month. This shift in how we talk about and manage our periods is amazing, but what about how they were dealt with in the past? How did people treat cramps in medieval times? What did people use before tampons?

Ancient attitudes

The root of the word ‘menstruation’ comes from the Latin word ‘mensis’ which means month. The word ‘moon’ also originates from this Latin root. Using the word ‘period’ is actually relatively modern, although it was in use from the early 15th century, it wasn’t used in the context we know it until the 1820s.

There was a major taboo around periods in ancient civilisations, and this means that there isn’t a lot of recorded information about what people used to deal with periods thousands of years ago. What we do know for sure is that both Ancient Greeks and Romans used makeshift ‘menstrual cloths’, a very basic version of the sanitary towels of today. A lot of these historical records were also written by men, so there’s not a lot of first-person accounts from people who actually had periods.

The medical knowledge we have today about periods means that a lot of the mystery that was there before has been debunked. Ancient civilisations were far more superstitious about periods and what they ‘really meant’.

The Ancient Greeks believed that if you didn’t get your period after the age of 14 the excess blood would cause a condition called ‘hysteria’, the main symptoms of which were headaches, depressive episodes and (gasp) swearing. Strips of linen were used and washed by Ancient Egyptians, who viewed the period as a time of ‘cleansing’. Ancient Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder was pretty outlandish in his claims about menstrual blood. Calm down, mate:

“turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren, grafts die, seed in gardens dry up, the fruit falls off tress, steel edges blunt and the gleam of ivory is dulled, bees die in their hives, even bronze and iron are at once seized by rust, and a horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infects their bites with an incurable poison.”

Medieval menstruation and beyond

Hygiene standards in the Middle Ages were less than perfect. In the era of the bubonic plague and open sewers, it can’t have been easy around the time of the month. Super-absorbent bog moss was used to stuff homemade menstrual pads, and petticoats were often red to disguise bleeding. Historians Karen Harris and Lori Caskey-Sigety wrote a book all about the subject and found that few medieval women actually got regular periods because of poor nutrition, and often menopause began earlier in light of the short life expectancy in general. Religious beliefs at this time also meant that periods were still seen as unclean and something not to be discussed.

The beliefs about periods varied from culture to culture. When Europe colonised America, they found that the indigenous Cherokee tribe avoided women during their periods, and the women stayed in special houses for the few days a month. Christian Europeans wrongly believed this was a result of the tribe thinking the women were unclean, when it was actually a case of them believing menstruating women were extremely powerful.

The hysterical Victorians

The Victorian era was extremely conservative and uptight, and any discussion of periods or female sexuality was usually silenced. People were more generally aware of having good hygiene standards, so tampons, if used at all, were made with linen and even had the string they come with today. A girdle-like contraption called a ‘sanitary apron’ was also used during this time. The idea of female hysteria from the Ancient Greeks became something Victorian doctors wrote about a lot, with symptoms like headaches, mood swings and even homicidal mania. These ideas would eventually evolve into what became known as PMS (pre-menstrual tension).

The first period products

The first disposable pads were called Lister’s Towels and were made by Johnson & Johnson from 1888. During World War One, nurses noticed that wood pulp bandages made excellent makeshift pads. Cellucotton were big suppliers of these bandages and in a stroke of genius decided to market them as Kotex. The first commercial tampons were invented a few years later in 1929 by Dr. Earle Haas. He later sold the patent to Gertrude Tendrich who made each tampon by hand with a sewing machine and air compressor. Her company is now known as Tampax.

The first pads with an adhesive strip were made in 1969 by Stayfree, which was just one of many design changes that made life easier for millions of people.

The first menstrual cup was patented all the way back in 1932. It was made of rubber, not like the modern silicone variety and wasn’t a commercial success, as people were still a little squeamish at the idea. The popularity of reusable cups has now skyrocketed, as a way to save money and also avoid creating waste.

Still a way to go

The stigma around periods is lifting, with companies finally realising that ads depicting a blue liquid being poured onto a pad just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Approaching periods in a realistic way means more of us are talking about them. We’re ending the shame, piece by piece, conversation by conversation.

Although many of us are lucky enough to be able to afford period products, there are many others who are not as fortunate. People who are made homeless or living in poverty don’t have access to the comfort and security of pads or cups, but there are ways you can help. Dignity Period are an organisation that provide pads and education to improve the lives of women and girls in Ethiopia. Closer to home, food banks accept donations for those they help, and your donation can really make a difference.

Lots of things in life are complicated. Conjugating french verbs. Contouring. Heart surgery.

Luckily for all of us, tampons don’t have to be one of them.

Made of absorbent material, compressed into a small cylindrical shape and inserted into your vagina like a fancy plug, tampons come in two main species:

Applicator vs non-applicator tampons

Applicator tampons have a cardboard or plastic mechanism that slides out, clicks into place and helps guide the tampon into place, like the satellite GPS of sanitary products. Because of the applicator, they can look intimidatingly long when they’re in their packaging, but don’t worry – most of that will end up in the bin, not your body.

Non-applicator tampons are just like applicator tampons… but usually shorter, a little wider and, you know, without the applicator. You just insert these bad boys with a clean finger, no equipment required.

Tampons may take a bit of practice to get right, but when they’re put in correctly you shouldn’t be able to feel them at all (like, AT ALL).

The best way to work out whether you an applicator or non-applicator type of gal is to try out both, and see what works for you.

Let’s talk absorbency  

Tampons tend to fall into four main houses.

Lite – these are the Hufflepuff of tampons. People often overlook them, or underestimate their abilities, but they’re actually really approachable and great for those who are new to the tampon world. Perfect for the light beginning and end of a period, or times when you’re only bleeding a teeny tiny bit.

Regular – these are the Gryffindor of tampons. They’re popular and heroic and they often take on more than they can handle. They’re all-round great sports. But just because they get all the glory, it doesn’t mean they’re always the right tampon for you.

Super – these are the Slytherin of tampons. They’re ambitious guys who know how to get a job done. They might seem a bit intimidating, but when needed they should still slither-in fairly easily… if you know what we mean.

Super plus – the Ravenclaws of tampons, super plus won’t be outdone by anyone thank you very much. Like a teacher’s pet in a History of Magic class, these guys absorb everything. Just remember to Expelliarmus every 4-8 hours to avoid a Moaning Myrtle situation.

How do I know which one to use?

Luckily there’s a sorting hat in your pants – all you need to do it listen to it. Most people start with lite or regular tampons and then adjust the size they use depending on their flow.

Your tampon should be easy to remove. If it feels dry or ‘stuck’ it probably means it hasn’t been in for long enough and you can wait a bit longer before removing it. But if you’ve had it in for eight hours and this is still happening, you might want to try a lower absorbency tampon – particularly towards the end of your period when things tend to lighten up.

On the other hand, if you go to the loo and find that the tampon string is wet with menstrual fluid, you’re definitely ready for a change. If you find that this keeps happening after only having your tampon in for a few hours, you might want to try a higher absorbency tampon. Simple!

Or as the French would say… simple. Oh.

If you’re not sure what kind of sanitary product will work best for you, check out our tampons vs pads article.

Image: Manjit Thapp

PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome.

It’s also sometimes known as Premenstrual Tension (PMT), the monthly blues, or The Bit Before Your Period Starts When You Feel Like You Want to Hide Under Your Duvet with Three Packets of Oreos and Shout at Everyone. But that’s less catchy.

Give it to me straight

People experience PMS in different ways, and 25% of women don’t experience PMS at all. With any luck you’ll be one of those people – but if you’re not, here is the rollcall of things that you might find you experience for a day or two before your period.

Physically, PMS might make you feel a little bloated, tired or achey. Some people have headaches or backache, some get a few cramps before their period actually arrives. Others notice they’re more clumsy (mind that lamp!). You might find your skin gets a little spotty, or your fringe does that annoying flicky thing you hate.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome, and it generally affects three in four women. That’s lots of us. Hiya.
  • Emotionally, it might make you more irritable, anxious or weepy. Physically, PMS might cause bloating, acne, headaches, backache or sore breasts – but hopefully not all at once.
  • Exercise and a healthy diet can both help decrease PMS symptoms. But if you’re really struggling, a chat to your GP might give you more options.

Emotionally, you might find yourself feeling a little… fragile. This could mean that you’re more irritable, anxious, weepy and/or prone to slamming doors. One minute you might be on top of the world, the next you could feel like the world is getting on top of you. Or it might just be a general feeling that everything is a little… blarrgh.

A bit… arrghh.

Basically, all the fun stuff. But you probably won’t have all these symptoms; most people just experience a few.

Who can I blame?

Don’t shout, but nobody knows exactly what causes PMS. It’s thought to be something to do with the changing levels of hormones in your menstrual cycle, which can throw everything… off. A little.  

The most important thing to know is that you’re not just being a drama queen – PMS is very real, and you’re definitely not alone.

PMS Treatment: How do I make it go away?

While there’s not much you can do to prevent PMS, there are lots of ways you can help yourself feel better.

Eating a balanced, varied diet with lots of fresh fruit and veg could help ease those symptoms. PMS might make you feel like face-planting a bucket of KFC, but too much salt or fatty, processed foods can actually make things worse (don’t get us started on the unfairness).

And while it might be the last thing you feel like doing, regular exercise can also help keep PMS in check, as well as generally making you feel more like a queen. That could be a run, a fierce game of hockey, a nice long walk with a favourite playlist or just punching a pillow quite hard.   

As time goes on you’ll find your own, personal ways to beat the premenstrual blues – but some of our favourites are: weeping along to a sad film, having a one-woman dance party, learning to cartwheel, giving yourself a craft project or watching videos of unlikely animal friendships. For more inspiration, visit Weepy Girls’ Corner.

NOTHING. IS. WORKING.

Be kind to yourself, and remember that some people suffer more than others – and it won’t last forever. But if PMS is still having a big impact on your life, it might be a good idea to head to your GP for about what will work best for you.

There’s only so much those poor pillows can take.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Ah, boobs – one of life’s biggest ironies. Some people have them, and wish they didn’t. Others don’t and wish they did.

Just like people with straight hair often dream of having curly hair, and people with curly hair want straight hair, and tall people often wish they were shorter and short people often wish they were taller. Haven’t you heard? The grass is always greener.

You just have to trust us when we say everything is pretty damn green on your side of the fence too.

Boobs, boobs, boobs

Puberty is a process. Like photosynthesis. Or methodically stalking your crush on social media.

At the beginning of your boob development, you might notice a small, raised bumps behind your nipples. These are breast buds. They’re pretty friendly, but sometimes they might get sore and tender from the effort of growing. A little while later, you might notice your nipple and the skin around it (the areola) get bigger and darker.

Some time after that, your breasts will begin to grow. For some people, it might feel like your boobs sprouted overnight. For other people, it might feel like you bought a ticket to the main event, and no one showed up. People’s boobs develop at different speeds and grow to different sizes. Whether you end up an A cup or a J cup, we promise, your breasts are awesome.

Sure, but when do I need a bra? #shopping

The good but confusing news is: there’s no right time!

Comfort is the best reason that anyone decides to wear a bra – whether it’s physical, or emotional. It could be to stop them bouncing up and down like a five year old on a trampoline while you’re trying to do PE. It could be because you don’t want people to see your nipples through your t-shirt. Or it could be because other girls in your class are wearing them and you want to too. We’ve all been there.

But either way, your comfort is the most important thing. The biggie. Numero uno.

So I can put it off?

It’s totally up to you! But most people find that their boobs are quite tender when they’re growing, so a bit of support can make things in your chestal region more comfortable.

TL;DR? Do I need a bra - the important stuff:
  • Most people find that once their boobs have started growing, they’re more comfortable with a bit of support – especially for playing sport or running around.
  • It’s always a good idea to get properly fitted. Maybe start with a crop top and move onto a soft cup bra once you need something sturdier. And save underwires for later, once your boobs are more developed.
  • There is no magical ‘right’ time. Comfort is the main reason that anyone wears a bra, and it’s important that you do what makes you feel great – even if that means not wearing one at all.

For your first bra, it’s a good idea to get properly fitted. We know the idea of a lady in a department store with a tape measure round your norks is beyond awkward, but trust us: if you’ve ever tried to wear shoes that are a size too small, you’ll know it’s really not worth the pain.

You might want to start with a crop top in the early days, and move onto a soft cup bra when your boobs get bigger. And unless your boobs grow very quickly, you probably won’t need an underwired bra at first – just keep things soft and comfy.

Got that? Comfort is Queen.

So there’s no ‘right’ time?

Nope. Working out when (or if) you want to wear a bra is totally up to you. We recommend wearing one for sport to keep the bouncing at bay, but whether or not you want to wear one day-to-day is something you can decide as you go.

As you venture into the weird, wonderful world of underwear, you’ll meet bras that can make your boobs look bigger or smaller, rounder or pointier, closer together or further apart – but while it’s fun to try all the different styles, remember your boobs are totally fine just as they are.

So are your hair and your height, while we’re at it.

Britney is a total sasspot. Seriously, if you haven’t seen her in concert (ok, we get it, it’s expensive and in Vegas but we can dream) or at least watched her goddess moves on YouTube over and over, please do. Not only is she an insane dancer, but she gets us. We can pretty much relate to every one of her bangers.

If you’re having relationship drama, Womanizer on repeat will help release your anger. If it’s love you’re feeling, Gimme More will have you head over heels before you can say, ‘It’s Britney, bitch’. And if you’re on your period, well, you could create a whole album… Does it drive you crazy? Make you stronger? Or do you become a total slave for it? Take our quiz to find out!

1. You come on your period at school, do you...

2. You’re two days into your period. It’s Wednesday. It’s raining. Do you...

3. You see a puppy in the park licking its owner and you...

4. You’ve got a sleepover tonight and you’re on your period, do you…

5. Periods = cravings. Always. Your go-to favourite food to binge on is…

6. You’ve got a party on Saturday night and your crush is going. But you’ve got a period spot. Do you…

7. You’ve vegging out in front of the TV eating snacks. But what’s loading up on your widescreen?

8. You’re sat round the lunch table chatting with your squad. Are they…

Whether you’ve been dreading it or totally desperate for it to arrive, your first period can feel like a leap into the great unknown.

Will it arrive drip by drip, or all at once in a river? Will I look different? WILL EVERYONE KNOW?

Unfortunately there’s no period crystal ball to tell you exactly when it will happen, or where you’ll be when it does (please not assembly). And like your first day of school or your first ever burrito, everyone’s first period will be memorable in a different way.

But here are some things you can expect.

Will I feel it?

Probably not. You might feel some wetness or stickiness in your pants, or maybe some slight cramps in your tummy – but there is no specific ‘bleeding feeling’ that announces your period is in town. Chances are you won’t notice at all until you next go to the loo.

What colour will it be?

This will be different for everyone too – but we can promise you this much: it won’t be blue.

Nobody really knows why olden days sanitary towel companies decided that bright blue liquid would be less scary than the real deal, but you can live safe in the knowledge that your monthly visitor won’t be a raspberry Slush Puppy.

More surprisingly, period blood doesn’t often look like the bright red blood you see when you fall over and cut your knee either. For some that first appearance will be a pink-ish colour, while many people’s first period is often closer to brown than red – which can come as a bit of a surprise. Fact: you will not be the first person to wonder if they pooed themselves without noticing.

Seriously.

Whatever the shade, don’t panic. Your reproductive system is just getting into the swing of things, and the colour will often become more red over time. But it will never, ever be blue.

How much blood will there be?

The amount will be different for everyone too. It could be a sticky discharge that only lasts a day or two, or ‘spotting’, which means bleeding lightly on and off for a few days. And some people’s first period might be quite heavy – but don’t panic, that doesn’t mean it will be heavy forever.

Your first few periods might be feel like a whole variety pack of changes, but things should settle down into a more predictable routine.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • At least at the beginning, period blood will probably be more brown than red – but everyone is different.
  • Some people will have a sticky discharge the first time, others will have light, on-off bleeding and some might bleed quite a lot.
  • Your first period can last from anywhere between one and 10 days, and might not arrive again for a while.
  • You can celebrate however you like (we recommend a dance party).

How long will it last?

Your first period can last from anywhere between one and 10 days, and it’s also pretty common to have your first period and then not bleed again for a few months. Helpful, we know.

For the first year or so your periods might be a bit all over the place while your body finds its natural rhythm, but things should settle down into a fairly predictable pattern.

Will everyone know?

Nope.

Promise?

Honestly. You might feel like you’re walking around with a neon flashing ‘PERIOD! PERIOD!’ arrow above your head, but the truth is you look exactly the same as you did the day before. Nobody will know unless you choose to tell them. Or send out party invites.

But if you’re ready, it is a good idea to talk to an adult you trust. They can help you to get all the supplies you need – whether it’s pads, tampons, cuddles or a really big burrito.

Image: Emma Block

We talk about boobs a lot here at betty, but we haven’t actually spoken about how to do one of the most important things: fondle your tits. (The more scientific phrase is obviously: how to examine your breasts, but that doesn’t sound as exciting.)

So, here’s the lowdown on how to check your boobs and why you need to do it. By the end of this, you’ll have monthly reminders on your phone. We bet you 50p.

I’m only a teenager, why do I need to check my boobs?!

Right?! We hear you. If you’re still a teenager, or even young adult, then what’s the point of checking your boobs for anything nasty?

The facts state that developing breast cancer in your teenage years is ‘extremely rare’ and it’s still even ‘uncommon’ when you’re in your 20s and 30s. The NHS doesn’t start sending ‘COME AND GET YOUR BOOBS CHECKED’ letters until you’re 50, which is the age (and above) at which most breast cancers are diagnosed.

BUT, nevertheless, it’s good to get the practice in. It’s easy, quick, and free, so why not start a routine of checking?

Also, you might not find anything cancer-related but you might just find something else. There are many different types of breast lumps and most of them aren’t malignant (cancer). Benign breast lumps are non-cancerous and come in many shapes and sizes, and many different ages.

One example is a fibroadenoma. They’re lumps that can grow thanks to your hormones (surprise surprise), can be quite common to find during puberty/as a young woman, and aren’t dangerous, but can hurt if they’re sizeable and can be removed. (Spoiler: I had two when I was 20!)

how to check your boobs

How do I check them properly?

Both the NHS and boob charity CoppaFeel say that there’s no one right way to check your boobs, so don’t feel nervous that you’re doing it wrong. Just bloody do it.

Some basic pointers are:

  • Check them in the shower! While you’re naked, get touchy feely too. Two birds (blue tits, obvs), one stone.
  • But if you do check in the shower then make sure you actually use your hands and not a scrunchie thing. You need those fingers to properly prod about.
  • For checking not-in-the-shower, you can start by standing front of a mirror with your hands on your hips, looking like a strong, empowering badass. Have a good ol’ gander at your boobs to see if anything’s changed since the last time you checked.
  •  Then, THROW YOUR ARMS IN THE AIR LIKE YOU JUST DON’T CARE and have another look. This is basically the natural way of grabbing your boobs and lifting them up to check from a different angle.
  • Have a nice lie down. Your boobs will flop like pancakes down on your chest. This is one of the best ways to check for actual lumps. Just give your boobs a gentle prod around using a couple of fingers.

Don’t panic if you DO feel some lumps and bumps. All boobs are lumpy (or ‘nodular’ to be scientific) with milk-making bits and fatty bits, but you’re looking for any differences, either between your two boobs or from the last time you checked. Keep a tit diary!

A #valentinesday message* from the Boob Team 💘

A post shared by CoppaFeel! (@coppafeelpeople) on

What am I actually looking for when I’m checking?

You’re not checking for just lumps and bumps. Other signs of mischief can be:

  • Changes in texture. Look for any dimples, where the skin goes in a bit like a mini-crater.
  • Swelling. There might not be any actual lumps, but check for any general swelling or redness.
  • Pain. Some pain is normal, especially in the week of your period, but if you’re in pain all the damn time, or it’s getting worse, then there could be an issue.
  • Discharge. Are your nipples leaking? They shouldn’t be, so have a check.
  • Changes in shape and size. Not everyone’s boobs are identical and that’s totally fine, but if one boob has suddenly changed in shape or size so the other one is like ‘u ok hun’ then there could be something up.
  • Changes in nipples (inversion or direction). The same goes for your nipples. If one has suddenly dived headfirst into your boob then definitely question that.
  • Rashes or crusting. It sounds gross but please don’t ignore wild rashes or crusty nipples! Be brave and flop that boob out to your GP.

Remember, you’re always looking for differences. Checking your boobs from now on will make you more aware of what your normal boobage is, so you notice any differences better in the future.

I think I’ve found something weird, what do I do now?!

DO NOT GOOGLE. Ya hear? Don’t do it. Step away. Put the phone down. It’s not worth it.

The best thing to do is to see your doctor. No shockers there. Don’t be worried about what they might say – remember that in all likelihood, it’s fine. The stats are on your side. There are a load of reasons why your tits are titting about. Grab a family member or good friend and make that appointment.

You can always read our article on how to talk to your doctor about embarrassing stuff if you’re flapping!

Do you owe us 50p now?

 

Your skin is a lot of things, but one thing it isn’t is lazy. Your skin is constantly making new skin cells to replace the old ones. Not, like, three or four new cells; we’re talking 30,000 to 40,000 EVERY DAY. Your skin makes Beyonce look lazy.

But sometimes, despite all this epic effort, your skin just can’t keep up.

Enter: stretch marks.

Ok, what are they?

Stretch marks are little wiggly stripes or marks on your body that look like tiger stripes. We think they’re actually pretty cool. Often they start out red, pink or purplish in colour, before eventually fading to a silvery-pale colour not far off your natural skintone.

Stretch marks can pop up all over your body, but they’ll most likely make an appearance on the areas of your body where fat is stored – ie. the soft bits, such as your tummy, boobs, bum, upper arms and thighs.

Why is this happening? Whyyyy?

Stretch marks happen when your skin is pulled by rapid growth or (whaddya know) stretching.

Skin is normally super elastic, but when your body changes rapidly, it can struggle to churn out those new cells quick enough. Racing cars have go-faster stripes, and so does your body.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Stretch marks often start out red or purplish, before eventually fading to a silvery-pale colour that’s much less noticeable.
  • They can pop up all over your body, but they're most commonly on the softer areas of your body like your tummy, boobs, bum, upper arms and thighs.
  • Stretch marks aren’t harmful or anything to be embarrassed about. Most people find they fade over time and they don’t even notice them after a while. But keeping your skin soft with a nice body lotion is never a bad plan.

Stretch marks can happen in adulthood too. But puberty, while your body is undergoing a loooottttt of changes, is prime stretch mark time for many girls (and boys. #Equality). During this time your body expands in all sorts of places and directions; your hips widen, your boobs grow, you might have a growth spurt or two, and you might notice stretch marks appear.

But don’t panic, they’re perfectly natural – and tbh, about 300% less noticeable than you think they are.

What do I need to do about them?

Nothing! Stretch marks aren’t harmful – they’re just a reality of being a human person with skin. So embrace them, love them, buy them flowers and sing them long, slow ballads.

If you do feel self conscious about them, there are lots of lotions and potions out there designed to minimise stretch marks. They might not work the miracles they promise, but a good moisturiser never hurt anyone. And if bronzed limbs are your bag, some people swear by fake tan too.

But most people find that their stretch marks just fade on their own over time, and after a while they don’t even notice them. So relax.

And if you ever find yourself feeling anxious about stretch marks, just remember: you are a tiger, you earned your stripes. Own it.

Image: Amber Griffin