Although every woman starts her period at some point in life as they begin their journey to adulthood, there is still a negative stigma attached to menstruation.
Despite many studies and articles normalising or debunking certain myths around menstruation, there is still a need for more education.
There is also a greater need for women to know more about their periods and why specific changes occur.
Parent24 chatted to two experts including Dr Marlin McKay, who runs his medical practice in Roodepoort, Johannesburg, and Boitumelo Sebambo the CEO of a local pharmaceutical company, 3Sixty Biomedicine.
Sharing some fundamental indicators women can check to know if their period is 'normal', Sebambo says keeping track of duration is a good place start. A regular period lasts four to seven days, she says.
You can start to worry if you have periods that occur less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart, says Sebambo.
If you miss three or more periods in a row, you should know that something is wrong with your period, Sebambo says.
If you notice that your flow is much heavier soaking through a sanitary pad or tampon every hour for two to three hours or passing large clots or much lighter than it usually is, you should be worried.
Another indicator that something might not be right includes severe pain during or between periods that interfere with normal day-to-day activities, says Sebambo.
Changes in the period after birth
We then asked Dr Marlin McKay if the woman who has given birth should worry about certain changes in her body after birth.
He explained it is common for the first few periods to be different from how they were before pregnancy. It may be heavier, lighter, or even absent. However, for most women, their cycle will eventually return to the same pattern as before pregnancy.
Based on his experience, these changes are due to the uterus taking time to return to its average size or shift hormone levels. Another possibility, he says, maybe that breastfeeding is affecting the woman's hormone levels.
What could be causing these changes?
Sebambo says that there are a few reasons for a woman's period to change. These include stress and underlying conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome PCOS, affecting approximately 8 to 13 of women.
Underlying issues such as PCOS can cause infertility in addition to hirsutism, acne, irregular periods and even hair loss, says Sebambo.
Sebambo urges parents to encourage teenage girls to visit a gynaecologist and be on the lookout for irregular symptoms in their cycles to avoid long term effects on their health.