Your Body

All women’s bodies are different, but there are some things that all women should know.

This page lists some things that happen to most women's bodies at different stages in their life.

Photo of young woman with long dark hair sitting on the grass with her legs crossed.

Puberty

When girls become young teenagers, they will usually go through a stage called puberty.

Photo of two young girls with pink bandana's on smiling.

The age puberty starts can vary a lot but it is usually between 8 and 16 years old. Puberty begins with body changes, and then the start of menstruation.

Symptoms

Some symptoms of puberty include:

  • hair in new places, like under armpits and around genitals
  • weight gain and breast growth
  • pimples and oily skin
  • mood swings
  • periods.

Menstruation (periods)

Most people who have a vagina or who have been assigned female at birth (AFAB) will start menstruating between the ages of 10 and 18.

Menstruation is bleeding from the vagina that happens about once a month and is commonly known as your menstrual cycle or having a period.

In the first part of the menstrual cycle, your hormones make the lining of the uterus thicker, getting it ready in case of pregnancy. If you don’t become pregnant, the lining of the uterus will shed and exit your body in the form of bleeding (your period).

If you do become pregnant, your periods will stop while you are pregnant.

Watch the Family Planning Victoria video (external website) about menstruation:

Tip: Click the subtitles button in the bottom right hand corner of the video to turn closed captions on and off.

Symptoms

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

  • cramps or stomach pains
  • constipation and diarrhoea
  • very heavy bleeding
  • skin problems
  • mood changes.

Management

There are many ways you can manage the symptoms of your period including:

  • wearing disposable pads or tampons
  • wearing reusable pads or absorbable underwear
  • using a menstrual cup
  • taking pain medication like ibuprofen
  • keeping track of your period with a smart phone app like Flo (external link).  

Changes

There are some things that can result in changes to your period, like:

  • losing or gaining a large amount of weight
  • pregnancy
  • going through menopause
  • taking contraceptives.
Tip: If you notice changes in your period that you are worried about, or your period causes severe pain, it is important that you talk to your doctor. This may be a sign you have endometriosis or another health complication. You can learn more about endometriosis on the Health Direct website (external link).

Menopause

Photo of WWDA Board member, Pamela; an older woman with blonde hair and glasses.

Menopause occurs when your body stops producing the usual amount of hormones and you start to become infertile. The average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51, but any time between 45 and 60 years old is considered normal.


Symptoms

Some symptoms of menopause include:

  • changes to your period
  • hot flushes and night sweats
  • tiredness
  • mood changes
  • anxiety and depression.

Management

A range of management options are available for the different symptoms of menopause, including:

  • exercising
  • eating foods with phytoestrogen (this can help by mimicking the hormone oestrogen which decreases during menopause). Foods with phytoestrogen include: soy bean products, tofu, whole grain products, beans and lentils
  • talking to your doctor about treatments like Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) or other prescription medications
  • using things to cool down during hot flushes, like a fan or cold drink
  • relaxation techniques like meditation.
Tip: You can learn more about ways to stay healthy and feel good on the page Healthy Living.

Body image

In a world where we are surrounded with media images and messages about “perfect bodies,” many women are unhappy with what they look like. Some women can experience psychosocial disabilities like depression, anxiety and eating disorders as a result.

Love your body!

If you are feeling bad about your body, here are some things you can try:

  • remember that the bodies you see online, on television, in magazines and in advertising are not real. They are almost always edited and re-touched
  • remind yourself that everyone’s body is different. No one looks the same and if we did it would be pretty boring!
  • make a list of 10 things you like about your body. This can include what you can do with your body, not just what you look like
  • organise a catch up with friends and family that make you feel good
  • do the WWDA Youth mirror love activity (external link).

Important Resources

Publications
WWDA Position Statement 4: Sexual and Reproductive Rights
Information from WWDA about the rights of women and girls with disability to make decisions about their bodies, sexual health and relationships.
Apple App Store
Google Play
Visit Website
Download Word (accessible)
Download PDF
Listen Now
Download PDF
Download PDF
Watch Video
External website
Family Planning Alliance Australia: services
A website where you can find your local family planning service.
Apple App Store
Google Play
Visit Website
Download Word (accessible)
Download PDF
Listen Now
Download PDF
Download PDF
Watch Video

Where to next:

External website
Beyond Blue
Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health.
Apple App Store
Google Play
Visit Website
Accessible Word File
Download PDF
Listen Now
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Watch Video
External website
The Butterfly Foundation
A website providing support for eating disorders and body image issues.
Apple App Store
Google Play
Visit Website
Accessible Word File
Download PDF
Listen Now
Download PDF
Download PDF
Watch Video
Videos
Family Planning Victoria YouTube Channel
A series of videos about sexual health from Victoria.
Apple App Store
Google Play
Visit Website
Accessible Word File
Download PDF
Listen Now
Download PDF
Download PDF
Watch Video
External website
Lifeline
Lifeline is a national organisation that supports Australians in mental health crisis. If you are in crisis you can call Lifeline on 13 14 11.
Apple App Store
Google Play
Visit Website
Accessible Word File
Download PDF
Listen Now
Download PDF
Download PDF
Watch Video
External website
Jean Hailes - For Women's Health
A national organisation that provides women with information about their health in various stages of their life.
Apple App Store
Google Play
Visit Website
Accessible Word File
Download PDF
Listen Now
Download PDF
Download PDF
Watch Video
External website
Apps
Ngaanyatjarra pitjantatjara yankunytjatjara women’s council (Aboriginal corporation): Kulila! App
The Kulila! app translates key mental health words and phrases into the indigenous language, Pitjantjatjara.
Apple App Store
Google Play
Visit Website
Accessible Word File
Download PDF
Listen Now
Download PDF
Download PDF
Watch Video
External website
The Royal Women's Hospital
A website with lots of useful information and downloadable fact sheets about women's health.
Apple App Store
Google Play
Visit Website
Accessible Word File
Download PDF
Listen Now
Download PDF
Download PDF
Watch Video