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.
When girls become young teenagers, they will usually go through a stage called puberty.
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.
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
Most people who have a uterus will start menstruating between the ages of 10 and 18.
Menstruation is bleeding from the uterus 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.
Some people get symptoms leading up to and during menstruation, such as:
- cramps or stomach pains
- constipation and diarrhoea
- very heavy bleeding
- skin problems
- mood changes.
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).
There are some things that can result in changes to your period, like:
- losing or gaining a large amount of weight
- 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 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.
Some symptoms of menopause include:
- changes to your period
- hot flushes and night sweats
- mood changes
- anxiety and depression.
A range of management options are available for the different symptoms of menopause, including:
- 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.
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).