If you’re here because you just started having your period, congratulations! If you’re here because you haven’t started your period yet but you know it’s coming and you want to find out more, welcome! And if you’re here because you’re a guy and you want to find out more about what is happening to women’s bodies you’ve come to the right place.

Menstruation is a natural and normal part of becoming a woman. You have probably noticed many of the physical and emotional changes that young women go through as part of puberty (including breast development and new hair in new places!) Menstruation is one of the last signs that a young girl is turning into a woman.

When you think about your menstrual cycle you may only think about menstruating, but your menstrual cycle involves a lot more than just those few days when you really see and feel what is going on in your body. It’s all part of a series of changes your body goes through to prepare for a possible pregnancy. And it does this every month or so.

It’s all about hormones

It’s all about hormones and getting your body ready to have a baby. It all starts in the early or pre-teen years (sometimes as early as 9 years old) when a young woman has her first period. The cycles continue until a woman reaches menopause at around age 50. Menopause is when a woman’s hormones change again: her body stops preparing for a possible pregnancy and her periods stop.

Everyone is different

Every woman is slightly different. Some get their period when they are quite young, others when they are in their late teens; some start menopause in their 40s, other in their late 50s. Some only have small cramps when they get their period; others have really painful cramps and suffer from PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Some women use only natural products to manage their blood flow, others want the convenience of disposable pads and tampons. Some women celebrate their period as a sign of womanhood; others just grin and bear it. Whatever your style or your experience, it is good to learn all you can about the menstrual cycle, how to manage your period, how to take care of cramps, and other physical or emotional changes that go along with your cycle, and how to recognize what’s normal and what might be a sign that you should see your doctor or other health-care professional.

Knowing about what is happening to your body and understanding the options available for managing your period give you some freedom and control.