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Your ‘Menstrual cycle’ can start anytime from the age of 8 to 18 and will be a part of your life until you reach your 50s. As you will continue to have your periods for many years, it’s worth understanding what’s going on so you can make sure you’re the one in control.
You’ll often hear that your cycle lasts 28 days. In all honesty it varies a lot, from month to month and person to person. Anywhere from 21 to 34 is common.
Click on the video to see what’s going on during your cycle.
Day 1 marks the start of your period. It’s when you (or your uterus to be precise) release a mixture of blood and nutrients out of your body, which can vary in colour and texture.
Although you may feel like there’s quite a bit of blood, in reality you'll only lose between 10 - 80 ml. A period usually lasts between 2 - 5 days but could be up to 10. The majority of blood loss occurs during the first 2 days and some women notice menstrual (abdominal) cramps, back and leg ache too.
More oestrogen is produced at this stage and your ovaries prepare to release an egg. Your body also prepares for pregnancy so the lining (we’re talking about your uterus again) starts to develop. This is the most unpredictable part of your cycle and the reason why your cycle can be longer or shorter than the stated 28 days you'll often hear about.
About half way through your cycle, one of your ovaries releases a miniscule egg, which journeys down your fallopian tube where fertilisation takes place.
The sperm has a small window of around 48 hours to fertilise the egg before the unfertilised egg is absorbed back into the body. The 6 days leading up to this and the 2 days after this event is when you’re most fertile and you could become pregnant if no birth control is used at this time.
The final stage before your period starts again.
This lasts for 14 days while your body produces more oestrogen and progesterone, which causes the lining of your uterus (you’re back here again) to thicken with blood and nutrients.
If you're not pregnant, progesterone levels drop which causes the lining to break-up and your cycle starts all over again.
We all have questions about our periods, no matter our age. Read our FAQs here.
Your health and wellbeing is our priority so here are some tips and advice on managing your period at different life stages.