Just as puberty begins in some girls earlier than for other girls, the same applies to a period. Some girls may get their periods as early as 10, while others as late as 15.
It’s easy to focus on the visible part of having a period, the blood. However, you may not have learned what happens before you get your period.
To help describe the “before” part, we will tell you about the process of ovulation and menstruation.
All girls are born with ovaries, fallopian tubes, and a uterus. Ovaries contain thousands of eggs, called ova. One egg is called an Ovum, which is Latin for “egg.” When your body is ready for puberty, the pituitary gland in your brain releases hormones that stimulate the ovaries to produce other hormones know as estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are what cause your body to undergo numerous physical emotional changes, such as body hair growth, development of breasts, and mood swings.
When your body is ready, a tiny egg leaves the ovary and travels down one of the fallopian tubes toward the uterus each month, and exits through your cervix and vagina. This process from start to finish is known as ovulation and about two weeks after this process, you get your period.
While the ovum begins its travel, the endometrial lining is preparing for its arrival. The endometrial lining is there to provide nourishment should pregnancy occur: if the egg is fertilized by a sperm, it will travel to the uterus and attach itself to the thick endometrial lining, where it will slowly develop into a baby. If the egg is not fertilized, which is the case most of the time, it will pass through the cervix. Occasionally, this may leave brown discharge, also known as spotting.
About two weeks later, the uterus will shed this extra lining. For 3-7 days (everyone is different), the extra tissue, blood and unfertilized egg leave the
uterus, clearing out the old padding and creating a clean environment for another ovum to make its journey to the outside world, next month. This is known as a girl’s menstrual period, and about 2-4 tablespoons of blood is shed every month. The color of the blood can vary from pink or red, the deepest purple-blue, even brown or black!
This cycle repeats roughly once a month, on average every 24 to 36 days (unless the woman is pregnant) until a woman reaches her fifties, when her ovaries no longer release eggs. This stage is known as menopause.