Period Science

Puberty can be a baffling period for everyone. All these changes happening at once can be incredibly nerve-wracking. However, I have found that simply knowing what is going on in the body can be extremely comforting. I have to admit that waiting for a biology lesson at school or stumbling upon an article online after spending hours worrying and overthinking is a wasted effort; thus I hope this article finds you on time and is a source of comfort for your child. 

A simple understanding of the biology of periods is enough because too many details can be confusing. No need to worry — your child will begin to learn, understand, and feel more comfortable in their body.

Now, let’s dive into the science behind periods!

To start off, we need to discuss the basic structure of the uterus. The uterine lining or the endometrium is a layer of muscle and tissue that, as its name suggests, lines the inner wall of the uterus. As the menstrual cycle proceeds, the endometrium becomes thicker in preparation for fertilisation. However, if fertilisation doesn’t take place, the thickened lining sheds. Essentially, this is what periods are. The cycle is regulated by chemicals called hormones. 

The menstrual cycle is approximately 21-40 days long. The ‘period’ is the phase of the menstrual cycle during which the lining of the endometrium sheds. The period lasts for about 3-7 days, depending on the person. The first day of the period is also considered the beginning of the menstrual cycle, and the cycle ends the day before your next period. 

It is not unusual for your child’s period to be irregular for a few years after their first cycle. Nonetheless, if you are still concerned, it never hurts to consult a professional. 

Some of the first things that come to my mind when I hear the word “period” are the various signs that indicate that my period is about to begin. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are symptoms that occur a few days prior to and during the period. They range from cramps and bloating, to mood swings and muscle pain. These symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable to deal with so it is important to help your child deal with their pain. Every person experiences different PMS symptoms and some may not encounter them at all.

Before I sign off, I would like to reiterate that puberty and menstruation are incredibly personal and individualistic processes and that no two people experience it the same way. Therefore, you should remind your child that they shouldn’t compare themselves to others and that they should be comfortable growing at their own pace.

See you next week,

Tihara from the REDefine Team

Featured artwork by Sanvee Jatia (Title art) and Anaanya Poddar (Diagram of the Uterus)

References: 

Laurie Ray, DNP. “The Menstrual Cycle, Explained.” The Menstrual Cycle: Phases of Your Cycle, Clue, 27 Apr. 2021, helloclue.com/articles/cycle-a-z/the-menstrual-cycle-more-than-just-the-period.

“Mayo Clinic Q and A: Irregular Periods Can Be Common at First.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-q-and-a-irregular-periods-can-be-common-at-first/.

“Irregular Periods (for Teens) – Nemours KidsHealth.” Edited by Robyn R. Miller, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Dec. 2018, kidshealth.org/en/teens/irregular-periods.html.

NHS Choices, NHS, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/fertility-in-the-menstrual-cycle/#:~:text=The length of the menstrual,to 40 days, are normal.

“The Uterus.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/science/human-reproductive-system/The-uterus.

Watson, Stephanie. “Stages of Menstrual Cycle: Menstruation, Ovulation, Hormones, Mor.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 29 Mar. 2019, http://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/stages-of-menstrual-cycle#menstrual.

An Introduction to Puberty I: How Does the Body Change?

Growing up may be scary, but watching your child grow up might just be scarier. Worry not! We’re here with a guide to help you tackle the most obvious part of puberty: the physical changes.

The most noticeable changes are the widening of the hips and the growth of breasts. This is going to be associated with feelings of insecurity or discomfort, and at this time, discussing and reassuring your child of these changes is necessary. They must know what they are going through before they can feel comfortable with it. The growth of hair accompanies the changes in physique — as uncomfortable as it may be, talking about the growth of pubic and armpit hair is important. Having your child know these changes are normal and occur in everybody will put them at ease. Knowing the purpose of this hair growth — which is to protect the body from unwanted infections, irritation, or injury — will alleviate some of the anxiety around these changes. Remember, making sense of these developments will help them understand, thus accept, these developments better. 

If the need arises, however, there are methods of hair removal like waxing, shaving, or creams (as well as others) which they can consider, after doing research to see what suits them best. 

Your child may worry about stretch marks or cellulite appearing on their skin — though most of us don’t know it, this is a natural part of puberty. It is a sign that the body is growing. Other physical markers like acne, pimples, or break-outs of skin may also arise; these are caused by the fluctuating hormones of the teenage body, which are also the cause for mood swings. Your child’s hormones will be especially imbalanced during their period.

But wait! How do you tackle explaining what a period is to your child?

Here’s an easy explanation my mother used:

A period is a cycle where an unfertilised egg and the uterus lining are shed from the uterus. To break this down, let’s say that every month or so, the body prepares the uterus for a baby. The walls of the uterus get all dressed up to make a comfortable bed for the baby, but when the baby does not come, the bedding must be removed. The uterus sheds it anywhere between three to seven days in the form of blood being discharged from the vagina. This cycle is associated with cramps, pain in the breast area, mood swings, break-outs, bloating — all of which your child may experience before and/or after their period, as well.

Shopping will also be an uncomfortable and awkward affair — however, you can power through it! It is absolutely necessary. Your child will need menstrual products and extra underwear. They will need bras, depending on their growth, which can be trainer bras or sports bras to start with, then moving on to hooked bras and padded bras.

Here is another tricky area: comparisons. You must make sure your child understands that everyone grows at their own pace. Some may take months, some may take years — remind them, the pace their body sets is the perfect pace for them.

Having these conversations with your child are crucial. They are less likely to be scared and insecure about this phase, and with reassurance they will experience puberty as simply another part of life instead of dreading it. We are sure that, as parents, you wish to ensure that your child does not feel lost or afraid during this natural process. May your journey forward be smooth-sailing.

Until next week,

Samara from the REDefine Team

Featured artwork by Anaanya Poddar

Start Here: A Guide to Giving Your Child’s First Puberty and Sex Talk

To all the parents and guardians on a mission to find the perfect way to give their child their first puberty and sex talk, we’ve got you. We have come up with a list of the most important topics we believe should be a part of every child who menstruates’ puberty talk. Every article in this series will explain each idea in detail so that you can use it as a resource while giving the talk. (Disclaimer: this series is simply an aid to help you have a meaningful conversation with your child as opposed to a replacement for the talk itself.)

The purpose of this puberty talk is to inform and educate young children about what to expect while going through puberty and how to cope with it. It also helps prevent your child from internalising inaccurate information that can come from various sources – from the internet to an enthusiastic classmate. This will make the transition to adolescence as smooth as possible because, as we all know, it is quite a bumpy road.

After much deliberation and planning, we decided to write the series for parents of children around the ages of 10 to 11. By then, they are old enough to understand this information while being on the cusp of puberty, which is when this information will be relevant to their lives.

We understand that you might be hesitant about reading an article by teenagers. I mean, we are basically kids ourselves, what do we know? However, I am here to convince you otherwise. As teenagers close to graduating puberty school, we have just gone through the emotional rollercoaster that is adolescence. Thus, we know exactly what your child will go through, breast pains and all, and may be able to impart some knowledge on what could be seen by adults as “Come on, everyone knows this stuff!” There are many things we learnt growing up that would have been so much more useful had we known it earlier and we would love to share those tidbits and advice with you.

Here is a list of all the articles we will be writing. They will be sequenced as written below:

An Introduction to Puberty I: How Does the Body Change?

An Introduction to Puberty II: An Emotional Rollercoaster 

Period Science

New Apparatus and a Change in Wardrobe 

Emotion and mood swings

An Introduction to Sex I: What is “Genitalia”?

An Introduction to Sex II: The Nitty-Gritties

An Introduction to Sex III: Consent as a Right

What is Vaginal Hygiene?

Separating Your Societal Ideals from Your Personal Beliefs

We hope you enjoy reading the series.

Until next week,

Tihara from the REDefine Team

Featured artwork by Anaanya Poddar