Your period is blood passing out of your womb as part of a natural process to prepare your body for pregnancy. Now that your body is changing you can get pregnant, (and just before your first period too).
Your period happens once a month, and usually lasts between 2-7 days, but it may take a few months for your period to be regular and predictable, the first few may be light and irregular. You may find it useful to keep track of your period each month, to see when it is due and when it arrives. You can use an easy.
Although a lot of girls get their first period between 11 and 13 years old, you could get yours anywhere between 9 and 16. Everyone has her own “biological clock,” and yours is different from anyone else’s. So even if you feel like you’ll never get your period, don’t worry, you will! How do you know it’s on its way? Watch for these signs.
First Period: Signs and Symptoms
Puberty in itself is a big sign that your first period’s on its way. Here are a few to look out for, too:
Developing breast: It can take three to four years for your breasts to then fully develop, but you can expect your period about two years after your breasts start developing.
Growing pubic hair: Just after your breasts start to form, you’ll probably start growing pubic hair. It will be soft and thin at first, but it’ll get coarser over time. Your period usually arrives around one to two years after.
Discharge: Vaginal discharge (white or yellowish fluid) is usually a sure sign that your first period is on its way. You may want to start using pads or tampons to protect your underwear. Your period should start in the next few months!
Signs of period: Around the time of your first period, your body shape will become curvier, your hips and breasts will get bigger. You will also notice more hair growing in new places, under your arms and around your vagina. These are all normal changes and part of growing up.
How do I manage my first period?
There are different feminine hygiene products available. Find the right period solution for you, and take time to practice until you feel comfortable and confident. Always wash your hands before and after changing your period product.
Pads or towels are worn inside your underwear, and stick down to hold in place. They absorb your menstrual flow as it leaves your body. Change your pad every 4-6 hours and dispose of in the rubbish bin.
Tampons are made from a cotton material and are carefully inserted into your vagina where they absorb your menstrual blood. They must be removed and changed every 4-8 hours. Dispose of in the rubbish bin.
Menstrual cups are small cups that are inserted into your vagina, like tampons. They collect your flow and can be worn for up to 12 hours. They are made from a very healthy material and are washable and reusable – so they are good for the environment too! Check Get Started With a Menstrual Cup to find out more or order yours here.
Preparing for Your First Period
Since you never know when your first period will arrive, it’s a great idea to be ready. Here are some ideas:
- Prepare an emergency kit containing a pantiliner, pad and clean underwear in a discreet bag
- Keep a pantiliner or pad in your book bag or purse
- In an emergency, toilet paper can work until you can get a pantiliner or pad
- Ask a friend, school nurse or teacher for help — most schools keep extra pantiliners or pads for exactly this reason!
What Does a Girl Want to Know About Her First Period?
As puberty draws near, a girl is likely to be excited at the prospect of leaving childhood behind and “becoming a woman,” but she’ll probably also have more specific thoughts, worries, and fears about menstruation and the way her body is beginning to change. Here are some of the types of questions may she be asking herself:
Will I get my first period at school? That’s a big fear for a lot of girls, says Madaras. “Strategize with your daughter about what she can do — carrying something in her purse, going to the school nurse or, even as an emergency measure, putting toilet paper in her underpants,” she says. “But she’s probably most worried that she’s just going to gush blood, so you should reassure her that that doesn’t happen.”
I don’t have my period yet, but there’s this white stuff in my underpants. What is that? This is another big worry for many girls, who may imagine they have a disease or that they’ve injured themselves by masturbating. “Give them the physiological facts — that vaginal discharge is just a way of keeping the vagina clean, and it’s perfectly normal,” Madaras says.
How do I use tampons? Sanitary pads are pretty self-explanatory, but tampons can be intimidating. You may want to suggest that your daughter wait until she’s a little more comfortable with her period before using tampons. Today’s pads are much more sports-friendly and easier to hide than the bulky ones of yesteryear. Some tips for when she starts trying tampons: Use a smaller size first to judge what is most comfortable for her body. Change tampons every four to eight hours. Be sure she washes her hands before and after insertion.
Am I normal? Whether a girl gets her first period early or late, or right at the “average” age, she will probably worry that there’s something wrong with her. “Emotional swings are part of adolescence, and we all figure that everybody else is developing normally and we’re not,” says Zager. “Reassure your daughter that she will eventually develop — or that the other girls will catch up with her, if she’s developing early.”
That fear – that “I’m not normal!” – can also make the usual fluctuations of early menstruation seem like dire events.
“Be sure to let your daughter know that she might not get her period every month right away. Irregular periods are common during the first year or so,” says John Steever, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. “Talk about the symptoms that may go along with her period, such as cramps, retaining water and weight fluctuation, mood swings, and headaches.”
No one loves menstrual cramps and other symptoms, but when we’re older, we usually know when they’re coming, and we have our tampons and over the counter pain relievers , so you’re not adding in the whole element of surprise and anxiety, says Zager. “Young girls, when they first begin to menstruate, are usually anxious, so helping them be prepared makes these things easier to cope with.”
First period: FAQ
What is puberty?
Puberty is a time when your body begins to change to become more like an adult’s. Starting your menstrual period is one of these changes.
What is a menstrual period?
When puberty begins, your brain signals your body to produce hormones. Some of these hormones prepare your body each month for a possible pregnancy. This is called the menstrual cycle. Hormones cause the lining of the uterus to become thicker with extra blood and tissue. One of your ovaries then releases an egg. This is called ovulation. The egg moves down one of the two fallopian tubes toward the uterus.
If the egg is not fertilized with a man’s sperm, pregnancy does not occur. The lining of the uterus breaks down and flows out of the body through your vagina. The discharge of blood and tissue from the lining of your uterus is your menstrual period (also called “your period”).
When will I start my period?
Most girls start their periods between the ages of 12 years and 14 years, but some start earlier or later.
How long do periods last?
When you first start having your period, it may last only a few days. Your first few periods may be very light. You may only see a few spots of reddish brown blood. Anywhere from 2 to 7 days is normal.
How often will I get my period?
A menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of bleeding in one month to the first day of bleeding in the next month. The average menstrual cycle is about 28 days, but cycles that are 21–45 days also are normal. It may take 6 years or more after your period starts for your cycle to get regular.
Why is it a good idea to track my period?
If you do this every month, you may notice a pattern. It may become easier to tell when you will get your next period. Check online or on your smart phone for apps that can help you track your period.
How can I track my period on a calendar?
To track your period on a calendar, mark the first day your bleeding starts on a calendar with an “X.” Put an X on each of the following days that you have bleeding. Count the first “X” as day 1. Keep counting the days until you have your next period.
What personal care products are available for me during my menstrual period?
Pads are used to soak up the menstrual flow. Tampons and menstrual cups catch the flow from inside your vagina. Pads, tampons, and menstrual cups can be used at different times. Some also can be used together.
How are pads used?
Pads are worn inside your underwear to collect your menstrual flow. They come in different sizes, styles, and thicknesses. Some have extra material on the sides called “wings” that fold over the edges of your underwear to help keep the pad in place and give better protection. A thinner, shorter version of a pad is a “panty liner.” Some girls wear panty liners on the last days of their periods when the flow is light or on days when they think their periods will come.
How often should I change my pad?
Change your pad at least every 4–8 hours or whenever it seems full or feels wet and uncomfortable. Some girls change their pads each time they urinate.
How are tampons used?
Some tampons have a plastic or cardboard applicator tube that helps slide the tampon in place. Some tampons do not have applicators and are inserted with just your fingers. A short string attached to the end of the tampon hangs out of your vagina to help you remove it later.
How do I choose a tampon?
Just like pads, tampons come in different sizes for heavier and lighter periods. The tampon package will tell you how much fluid it will absorb. A “super” tampon, for example, is thicker and is meant for heavy flow. A “slim” or “junior” tampon is slender and is meant for lighter flow.
How often should I change my tampon?
You should change your tampon at least every 4–8 hours. Leaving a tampon in for a long time has been linked to toxic shock syndrome. When your flow is heavier, you may need to change it more often.
What are menstrual cups?
Menstrual cups are made of plastic or rubber. They are inserted into the vagina to catch the menstrual flow. You remove and empty the cup every 8–12 hours. Some cups are used only once and thrown away. Others can be washed and reused.
Does having a period cause pain or discomfort?
Some girls have a cramping pain in the lower abdomen or back or breast tenderness just before and during their periods. Some girls get headaches or feel dizzy. Some get nausea or diarrhea.
To help ease cramps, you can try the following:
- Take ibuprofen or naproxen sodium (if you do not have an allergy to aspirin or severe asthma). Always follow the directions on the bottle about how much to take.
- Place a heating pad, heat wrap, or other source of heat on your abdomen or lower back.
What is amenorrhea?
Amenorrhea means not having a period. It is normal for some girls not to start their periods until age 16 years. However, your doctor may want to see you if you have not started by age 15 years. You also should see your doctor if you have started your period but it then stops for more than 3 months.
What if I am having heavy bleeding?
If you are bleeding so much that you need to change your pad or tampon every 1–2 hours or if your period lasts for more than 7 days, you should see your doctor. See your doctor right away if you are light-headed, dizzy, or have a racing pulse.
What if I have irregular periods?
You should tell your doctor if your periods are usually regular but then become irregular for several months. You also should see your doctor if your period comes more often than every 21 days or less often than every 45 days.