Ages and stages

Navigation Menu

Periods and menstruation

Periods and menstruation

Preparing your child menstruation and periods


When my periods started, I was given an information booklet and told that I couldn’t have sleepovers anymore. I don’t want it to be like that for my daughters.

Parent of girls 9 and 10

How to answer some common period questions

What are periods?When a girl reaches puberty, her ovaries start to release an egg (called an ovum) about once a month.

The egg travels from the ovary along a tube towards the uterus.Every month the uterus gets ready for the egg to arrive by building a thick, soft lining.

If the egg does not connect with a sperm (i.e. get fertilised), the egg and the lining of the uterus will pass out through the vagina.

It looks like thick blood and is called a period.

Once a girl starts releasing eggs (which can be before she gets her first period), she is able to get pregnant if she has penis-in-vagina sex.

When will I get my period?A girl will usually begin her periods about two years after her breasts have started to swell.

Periods usually start at around 12 or 13 years of age but can start as young as 8 or 9 years and as late as 16 years.

What do I use for my period?There are a few options for soaking up the period blood as it passes out through the vagina.

Some of the methods include:

• pads – these stick on to the underwear and come in lots of shapes and sizes 

• tampons – which go into the vagina

• period underwear – special underwear designed to soak up period blood. This kind of underwear can be expensive initially but can be washed and reused

• reusable cloth pads – made from cotton or bamboo, these pads can be washed and reused

• menstrual cup – a plastic cup that goes into the vagina and is taken out, washed and reused. It can take a little getting used to

• some folded up toilet paper/tissue – if you get stuck without any of the things above.

Each method has pros and cons and it can take some experimenting before you find the method that works best for you.

Some other common questions about periods• What will I do when I get my first period?

• How will I know when it is coming?

• What will happen if I get my period at school/ during a sleepover/on camp?

• How do I dispose of pads or tampons in the school toilets?

• Do tampons hurt?

• Can a tampon fall out?

• Can I go swimming?

• Do I have to use tampons?

• How much blood comes out?

• How often do I have to change pads/tampons?

• Will I get blood on my shorts?

• Will other people be able to tell if I have my period?

There are many resources available to help parents answer questions about periods. Some are listed at the end of this page. 

My mum was very open. She celebrated menstruation with a gift and a special dinner out. I will do the same with my daughter. 

Parent of girl 4 and boy 6

Top tips for helping your child to manage their periods

Show tampons, pads, period knickers and menstrual cups before a first period. Show how they work using coloured water.This is also a good way to show how much blood normally comes out during a period (only a couple of tablespoons over 3 to 5 days) and how much the products can hold.
It is often possible to get free samples and starter packs online.
Most young girls use a pad for their first periods. If they want to try a tampon, try those with a special tube (called an applicator) to help slide it into place. It’s good to practise using tampons at home first. 
Create a special period pack – a pencil case or wallet with some pads or tampons, a spare pair of knickers and a plastic bag (for used knickers and pads). 
Point out that some toilet cubicles at school should have a disposal bin. Discuss what to do if a bin is not there. 
Talk about who to go to at school if clean underwear, a pad or tampon is needed (trusted teacher or adult, school nurse, friend). 
Show how an ‘emergency’ pad can be made out of toilet paper. 
Show how to soak blood-stained undies in cold water at home before putting them in the washing machine.
Explain that during the day, a pad or a tampon needs to be changed every 4 to 6 hours.
Help make a plan for days at school or out of the house.
 Help them decide the best way to manage their period at night time.

At my school we hold a ‘girls circle’ afternoon for Year 6s that includes: education about menstruation and how to manage it; staff and community members sharing their ‘first period’ stories; and small group Q and A time. The aim is to normalise this part of puberty and provide support.

Deputy Principal and parent of girls 13 and 16