Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Menstruation happens about once a month, as a normal part of the menstrual cycle.

Menstruation happens about once a month, as a normal part of the menstrual cycle.
beginning of content

Menstruation (periods)

3-minute read

Menstruation affects pretty much every woman. This information will help you understand your menstrual cycle.

What is menstruation?

Menstruation is bleeding from the vagina that happens about once a month, as a normal part of the menstrual cycle. It is also known as having a period.

During this cycle, your hormones make the lining of the uterus become thicker, getting ready in case of pregnancy. Hormones also cause an egg to be released from an ovary, which is known as ovulation.

If you don’t become pregnant, then your periods starts about two weeks after ovulation. The lining of the uterus falls away and, along with some blood, flows out through the vagina. Periods can be light or heavy, and the blood can range from bright red to dark brown. You might also notice small clots.

Some women get symptoms leading up to and during menstruation, such as:

When do periods typically start?

Girls have their first period during puberty. Most often, that is at age 12 or 13 years old, but girls can start menstruating as young as 9, or as late as 16.

What problems can women have with their periods?

Problems with periods can include:

When might periods stop?

Periods stop during pregnancy, and often while you are breastfeeding.

Some women find their periods stop for a time because of long-term illness, low body weight, stress, lots of strenuous exercise and hormone problems.

Some medications, such as contraceptives, might stop your period. This can be helpful for some women, especially if their periods are heavy or painful.

Sometimes after stopping the pill or other contraceptive, it can take a while for your periods to come back.

Periods stop altogether when women reach menopause – the average age is 51-52.

When should I see a doctor?

You should talk to your doctor if:

  • you are 16 years or older and haven't started to have periods
  • your periods are getting heavier
  • your periods get much closer together or further apart
  • your periods have stopped and you’re not sure why
  • you are bleeding in between periods or after sex
  • you are bleeding after menopause
  • you have severe period pain.

You can also talk to your doctor if, for any reason, your periods are affecting your wellbeing or enjoyment of life.

More information

Learn more about the menstrual cycle on Jean Hailes for Women’s Health website.

Last reviewed: July 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 25 results

Menstruation problems -

Find out about common menstruation problems: amenorrhoea (absence of periods), dysmenorrhoea (painful periods) and menorrhagia (heavy periods).

Read more on myDr website

Menstruation - pain (dysmenorrhoea) - Better Health Channel

Women of any age can experience painful periods and some women find periods are no longer painful after pregnancy and childbirth.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) | myVMC

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder causes women to experience severe emotional and physical problems in the two weeks before their menstrual period.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Period pain -

Period pain (also called dysmenorrhoea) is a common problem, and when severe it can stop you from doing your usual activities. However, there are treatments available for painful periods.

Read more on myDr website

Period pain | Jean Hailes

Learn about period pain, what causes period pain, what is ‘normal’ and some possible ways to get relief from period pain.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Spinal manipulation for painful periods | Cochrane

Painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhoea) are caused by cramps in the uterus (womb). One of the non-drug options for dysmenorrhoea is spinal manipulation (using the hands to put pressure on certain parts of the back bone). This procedure is sometimes offered by physiotherapists, osteopaths or chiropractors. As dysmenorrhoea may be caused by restricted blood flow, manipulating the lower spine could improve blood flow to the pelvic area. The review of trials found no evidence that spinal manipulation relieves dysmenorrhoea.

Read more on Cochrane (Australasian Centre) website

Managing period pain | NPS MedicineWise

Period pain is one of the most common health issues for women. Find out which pain relief medicine might be the most effective for you.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Teen Health - Health Topics - Freckles and moles

Freckles are small flat spots on the skin that may be about the size of a pin head. Sometimes they merge together to make a larger spot.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

How to spot a dodgy weight loss diet Dietitians Association of Australia

How to spot a dodgy weight loss diet A fad weight loss diet is any diet that promises fast weight loss without a scientific basis

Read more on Dietitians Association of Australia website

Quick relaxation techniques

Different relaxation techniques appeal to different people. Please try out each technique and rate it out of 10, then choose the one(s) that suit you best.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo