A period also called menses/menstruation, is a time when your body releases tissue it no longer needs. 

This tissue comes from the uterus, which is where a baby (fetus) can develop in your body. Every month, the lining of the uterus gets thicker to prepare for a fertilized egg, to support pregnancy. If the egg doesn’t get fertilized, that lining is released from your body in the form of blood, through the vagina (an elastic, muscular canal with a soft, flexible lining, which is a part of the female reproductive tract). This monthly process is called menstruation or menses or a period. The average menstrual cycle is about 28 days, but this can vary in some women due to various factors.

The menstrual cycle is a normal process that occurs in every girl, starting from puberty. Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child’s body matures into an adult, occurring usually between the age of 10 to 14 years in girls and between 12 to 16 years of age, for boys. 

The onset of menstruation is a major moment of puberty in girls. It can be very confusing with all the physical and emotional changes occurring in the body. Many girls don’t have a very good understanding of periods and get stressed about normal changes occurring in the body. 

Here are 4 common changes  that are normal with the commencement of menstruation in most girls:

1. Acne. Acne, commonly known as pimples or breakouts, is a skin condition that occurs when hair follicles get clogged with oil and dead skin cells. 

When your menstrual cycle begins, the body undergoes hormonal changes every month. It is normal to have breakouts before having your periods. Just before your period date, the production of progesterone falls and estrogen (female sex hormones) levels rise. This can result in an increase in oil production in your body.

Period acne is usually very annoying and it can be difficult for many girls to deal with it. A good cleansing (washing to remove dirt, sweat, and pollutants from the surface of your skin) regime may help. Eating less oily and processed food can help reduce them by keeping your hormones balanced.

2. Vaginal dischargeVaginal discharge, also known as leucorrhoea, is a normal physiological feature of women of reproductive age group (15-49 years). It is a mixture of cells, liquid, and bacteria that is constantly produced by the vagina.

Once you start getting your periods, the amount of vaginal discharge will also increase to keep your vagina free from infections. It is normal to have a clear to white discharge but if you notice yellowish discharge, you may need to see your gynaecologist. You can change your undergarment 2-3 times a day if you feel uneasy.

3. Mood swings. Mood swings refer to rapid changes in your mood. Mood swings are common around the time of and during menstruation.

Fluctuating hormones have an effect on your emotions. It is normal to feel anxious, sad, cranky, or happy for no reason at all. Mood swings usually go away after your periods are over and do not affect your overall mental well-being.

A condition known as Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS can also result in severe mood swings. PMS is a monthly gift from “Mother Nature”, between two-period cycles. It is a group of changes that happen before your monthly period. 

PMS is often a result of hormonal imbalance and mood swings are a major symptom of PMS. If you experience an extreme shift in your mood just before your period date, it could be due to PMS and it is advisable to consult your gynaecologist to know more on how to deal with PMS.

4. Period cramps. Muscle cramps are sudden, involuntary contractions that occur in various muscles. These contractions are often painful and can affect different muscle groups. 

Cramps in your abdomen, back, and groin (area of your hip between your stomach and thigh) area during periods are normal and can vary in intensity from mild to severe. The pain usually reduces by the 3rd day of your period. Heat therapy from a hot water bottle or electric heat pad and rest may help you relieve cramps pain. Visit your gynaecologist if the pain is unbearable.

Physical and mental changes are very common during your periods. They not only occur during the first period but are seen during every cycle. If you have severe symptoms and pain, consult your gynaecologist to know more.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.