A girls first period

Starting your periods


The questions girls ask about periods

Here are some of the questions that you, as a parent, might get asked by girls about periods, with suggestions on how to answer them:

How will I know when my periods are going to start?

Signs that your period is on its way are if you’ve grown underarm and pubic hair. Typically, you’ll start your periods about 2 years after your breasts start growing and about a year after getting a white vaginal discharge. The average girl will get her first period around 12 years old, but it varies from person to person.

Why haven’t my periods started yet?

Your periods will start when your body is ready. That’s usually between the ages of 10 and 16.

See a GP if your periods haven’t started by age 16 (or 14 if there are no other signs of puberty either).

Possible reasons include being underweight, doing lots of exercise (including dance, gymnastics and athletics) and a hormone imbalance.

Read more about Why haven’t I started my periods?

How do I get ready for my first period?

Talk to your mum or another adult you trust about what you can expect before it actually happens.

It’s a good idea to start carrying sanitary pads or tampons around with you in advance, so you aren’t scrambling to find some when your period finally arrives.

If you find yourself at school without a pad or tampon, talk to a female teacher or the school nurse. They’re used to being asked and they’ll want to help you out.

How long will my first period last?

When your first period arrives it might not last very long, as it can take your body some months to get into a regular pattern. As a general rule, once they’re settled, you’ll have a period every 28 to 30 days and it will last 3 to 7 days.

How much blood will I lose?

It might seem a lot, but it’s only about 3 to 5 tablespoons. It’s not a sudden gush – you’ll just see a reddish-brown stain on your pants or on your sheets when you wake up in the morning.

What if period blood leaks through my clothes?

Part of becoming a woman is dealing with embarrassing mishaps. There are ways of covering up stains until you’re able to change your clothes, such as tying a sweatshirt around your waist. Keep a spare pair of pants and tights at school or in your bag, and avoid wearing light-coloured trousers and skirts during a period, just in case.

Should I use pads, tampons or menstrual cups?

This is really up to you. Both tampons, menstrual cups and towels (or pads) are safe and suitable for girls who have just started their periods. You’ll probably want to use pads for your very first period, though, as tampons and menstrual cups can take a bit more getting used to. It might be worth experimenting until you find the product that suits you best.

Can a tampon get lost inside me?

No, it can’t. When you insert a tampon, it stays in your vagina. All tampons come with a string at one end that stays outside your body. You can remove the tampon at any time using this string.

Read the full answer to Can a tampon get lost inside me?

What if I forget to remove my tampon?

If you forget to remove your tampon, it can turn sideways or become compressed at the top of your vagina. This can make it difficult or impossible for you to pull it out. If you think you’ve left a tampon in and you can’t get it out, go to your GP. They can remove it for you.

Read the full answer to What if I forget to remove my tampon?

Your Daughter’s First Period: How You Can Help

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Although you will see signs that your teen is in puberty, her first period may still be somewhat unexpected. Some young women are frightened by the sight of bleeding or embarrassed if it causes a stain on their underwear or clothing. As a mother or caretaker, it will help if you talk to your teen about her impending periods and what she can expect. It’s important to remind her that it is natural and that every woman goes through. You can also give her tips on how to prepare for her period ahead of time, so she’s not taken by surprise when it shows up. For example, you can give her pads and panty liners to carry with her in her backpack or purse.

Some of the next information you probably already know, but it can help you explain to your teen what’s going on within her body, as well as what having her first period signifies in her development:

Explaining what’s happening in her body.

A girl’s first period is likely to occur between the ages of nine and 16. It usually lasts for three to seven days and then stops until the next period begins—usually about 21 to 28 days after it started. This timeframe—from the first day of bleeding until the first day of the NEXT menstrual period—is called a “menstrual cycle.”

During a typical menstrual cycle, one of two ovaries releases a microscopic egg, called an ovum. (The ovaries are reproductive organs approximately one and a half inches long and located in the lower abdomen, one on each side of the uterus; ovaries also release hormones that help to control the menstrual cycle.) The release of an egg from an ovary is called “ovulation,” and it usually happens in the middle of the menstrual cycle—around day 12 to 14 in a 28-day cycle. Ovulation can be irregular, though, when periods first start.

After ovulation, the egg moves through one of the two fallopian tubes (the two tubes attached to the top of the uterus that lead to the ovaries). At the same time, body tissues and blood cells are beginning to line the walls of the uterus, forming a thin layer of material that will eventually be shed as the next period. All this goes on in a woman’s body without her feeling a thing.

Important things to mention about sexual activity.

Depending on your teen’s age, you may want to explain to her that if she were to have sexual intercourse around the time of ovulation, and sperm from a male partner would fertilize the egg on its way to the uterus, she would become pregnant. The egg would attach to the lining of the uterus and a fetus would start to grow. However, if sperm does not fertilize the egg, the body no longer needs this lining to support the fertilized egg. So, hormones trigger a different process, and this lining gently falls away from the walls of the uterus and comes out through the vagina. This is the menstrual flow, or period.

What she’ll need.

To avoid staining her clothes, your teen will need to use sanitary pads, panty liners or tampons during her period. Sanitary pads and panty liners fit inside her underwear and stay in place with an adhesive strip on the back of the pad. There are a variety of pads available with various thicknesses, lengths and absorbencies. Panty liners are good for the beginning or end of a period, when the flow is lighter.

Tampons, which are inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual flow, are another option. Make sure your teen reads the manufacturer’s directions for using a tampon carefully. If she’s using a pad, she should change it every 3 to 4 hours. If she’s using a tampon, she should change it every 4 to 6 hours. If she says she needs to change her pad or tampon more often than once every hour, talk to a health care professional.

It might take a while—perhaps a year or longer—for your teen’s periods to become regular. During the first year, she may have your period as often as once every two or three weeks or as infrequently as once every few months. Her periods may be heavy or light, and blood flow may change from month to month. Even after her period becomes regular, exercise, stress or a change in diet may throw it off track. Remind your teen she shouldn’t feel discouraged—over time, she will learn more about her body and her menstrual cycle and become better prepared to deal with her period.

Here are some things you might want to encourage your teen to take with her if you think the start of her periods is near:

  • Two pads, liners and/or tampons, depending on her preference, in case her period begins unexpectedly.

  • A medication, such as ibuprofen, to relieve cramps and other period-related symptoms. It’s important to make sure that your teen doesn’t have any allergies to ibuprofen before taking it, and you should talk with a health care professional about how much she can take for menstrual discomfort. Check with your school about the rules for carrying medication; she may need to leave her medication with the school nurse.

Understanding symptoms leading up to her period.

A teenage girl may feel uncomfortable for the few days leading up to her period. She may be moodier than usual. She may get cramps. She may also feel bloated or “puffy.” Breast tenderness and swelling, headaches, back and leg aches, acne breakouts and nausea are also common symptoms for many young women before and during their periods. These symptoms usually stop or become less severe a day or two after the bleeding starts. If your teenager seems overwhelmed by any of these or other symptoms, discuss them with a health care professional. Many symptoms can be relieved by lifestyle changes, such as altering eating habits, exercising or taking medications.

If your teen has any of the following symptoms, or if there is a possibility that she may be pregnant, call a health care professional immediately:

  • severe pain

  • heavy bleeding (for example, soaking a pad or tampon every hour)

  • bleeding that lasts more than eight days

  • bleeding between periods

  • skipping a period for six months or longer

Explaining PMS.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) describes a group of symptoms some women experience seven to 10 days before their period begins. These symptoms go away when your period begins or shortly after. PMS can include emotional symptoms, such as crying or crankiness, and physical symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness or headaches. If your teen suffers from PMS, she’s not alone. While about 90 percent of girls and women who menstruate experience some type of menstrual-cycle discomfort, 5 percent of them experience symptoms severe enough to disrupt their normal activities—a condition known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Here is a checklist of possible signs and symptoms of PMS. Share this list with your teen if you suspect she may be suffering from PMS:

  • Bloating and weight gain. Do your jeans feel tighter as your period approaches?

  • Tension, anxiety or crying spells. Do you find yourself overreacting to stress or setbacks? Do you have a “short fuse” just before your period?

  • Depression. Do you feel sad for no reason? Feeling sad or blue for a day or two can be normal, but feeling down for a longer time may be one symptom of clinical depression, a serious, but common mental health condition experienced by many teens, as well as adults. Depression causes other symptoms, too, such as feeling tired or sleeping all the time, or not being able to sleep at all; overeating or not eating enough; and feeling no joy in activities you used to enjoy. Usually, when a person is depressed, she may experience several symptoms. If you are experiencing any one or more of these symptoms, don’t wait or hesitate to speak with your parents and/or a health care professional.

  • Breast tenderness. Do your breasts hurt when touched? Does your bra feel uncomfortably tight?

  • Food cravings. Do you crave chocolate, potato chips or other foods (particularly salty or sweet foods)?

  • Joint or muscle pain. Do you wake up feeling achy even though you haven’t strained anything?

  • Nausea or vomiting. Does your stomach feel upset, even though you’re not eating anything unusual?

  • Headache. Do you have a pattern of headaches in the premenstrual period?

  • Trouble with concentration. Is it harder to study or pay attention in class?

  • Fatigue. Do you feel tired early in the day? Do you feel exhausted when you get home?

Things you can do to avoid or relieve PMS symptoms.

Share these tips with your teen if she’s struggling with PMS:

  • Eat right. It may take a couple of months for some effects to kick in, but you’ll be surprised at the difference the following steps may make:

    • Eat smaller, more frequent portions.

    • Consume 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, whether through diet or a supplement. (Talk to a health care professional or your parents to make sure you don’t take too much.)

    • Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

    • Cut back on salt, salty foods and refined sugar, especially during the seven to 10 days before your period begins.

    • Cut out caffeine, which can worsen irritability and breast tenderness.

    • Drink low-fat milk and eat low-fat yogurt, cheese and other calcium rich foods.

  • Exercise. Aim to get aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week to boost your health and well-being. (Brisk walking, jogging, and bike riding are all forms of aerobic exercise.) Exercise can reduce feelings of fatigue, depression and moodiness.

  • Lower your stress levels. First, be sure to get adequate sleep. Most teens do not get the eight to 10 hours or more of sleep they need to feel their best. You’ll be surprised by how many symptoms you can reduce when you get enough sleep.

Second, no matter how busy you are with school, after-school activities or a job, be sure to take time to do something fun for yourself—see a movie, hang out with friends or read a book.

A third strategy many teens find helpful is relaxation. Muscle relaxation or deep-breathing exercises can reduce anxiety and improve sleep. Here’s a good deep breathing technique, called the 4-7-8 breathing exercise:

  • You can do the exercise in any position, but it’s best to sit with your back straight.

  • Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the entire exercise.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound

  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four.

  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.

  • This is one breath. Next, inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Yoga and meditation are popular (and effective) ways to relax and de-stress. There are several approaches to both of these disciplines. Check one out to see if it might work for you—consider going with a friend to a community center or gym that offers yoga and meditation and making it a regular practice.

  • Record your symptoms. Keep a notebook of your symptoms—what they are, when they occur and for how long. Also record when they go away and any factors you think make them worse or better. Your findings, such as a pattern to your symptoms and things that relieve them, may help you manage your symptoms or give your health care professional some clues about effective treatments.

  • Talk to your health care professional. If do-it-yourself strategies aren’t working, describe your symptoms to your health care professional or a school nurse or pharmacist. If symptoms are severe or interfere with your ability to do schoolwork or the activities you want to do, you need to take action. There are treatments that can make a dramatic difference in PMS symptoms: antidepressants, birth control pills or injections (these products minimize hormone fluctuations) and pain medications such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil) or naproxen sodium (e.g., Aleve), which can reduce cramping and breast pain.

Dealing with severe PMS.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS that affects about 5 percent of girls and women who menstruate. In severe cases, PMDD can interfere with school activities and relationships.

Symptoms, which usually set in just before your period, include:

  • Severe mood swings, depression, irritability and anxiety. Women with PMDD may experience uncontrollable crying spells, anger or depression so intense they can’t function. Emotional symptoms are the ones most likely to lead health care professionals to diagnose PMDD.

  • Sleep disturbance. Another symptom of PMDD is insomnia (inability to sleep), or need the need for excessive sleep just before a period starts

  • Difficulty concentrating. Some women with PMDD find it impossible or nearly impossible to study or pay attention in class or at work

  • Breast tenderness and bloating. Achy breasts and abdominal bloating are also common in women with PMDD

If you think your teenager may have PMDD, try lifestyle modifications recommended for PMS and talk to a health care professional. Many of the emotional symptoms appear to be associated with low levels of a brain chemical called serotonin. Medication can increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, thereby minimizing PMDD.

With your daughter’s first period comes other things, like hair growth, acne, and other big milestones, learn more about puberty here.

You probably learned the basics back in middle school health class: Every month, a woman bleeds. This is her period, and it means she isn’t pregnant.

But like everything else you’ve gathered about women since you were a teenager, it’s not quite that simple.

Even though you’ll never have to go through menstruation, it pays to know what actually goes on down there. Follow this guide and see what we mean.

(For the complete handbook to a woman’s body—including exclusive tips from the world’s best sex experts—check out How to Pleasure a Woman, the new manual from the editors of Men’s Health.)

1. It’s more than just blood.

Women will roll their eyes when they read this, but we’re amazed at how many guys don’t actually know what menstruation entails. If you do, go ahead and skip to the next section.

If not, here’s the gist: Every month, her endometrium, or the lining of her uterus, sheds. During the course of her menstrual cycle, this lining plumps up to prepare to nourish a fertilized egg.

If that doesn’t occur, her body doesn’t need the extra tissue. It then gets released during her period, which generally lasts between 2 to 7 days.

2. Timing sex can boost your odds of a baby.

Quick refresher in biology: In order to become pregnant, a woman’s egg must meet your sperm. That can only happen during ovulation, when the egg breaks free from her ovaries.

Exactly when a woman ovulates depends on the length of her cycle, or the number of days between periods. If she has an average 28-day cycle, she’ll usually ovulate around day 14. (Women can use over-the-counter ovulation tests to help them determine when it’s happening.)

Related: 5 Reasons She’s Not Getting Pregnant

But eggs can stay alive for up to 48 hours after ovulation, and sperm for up to 72 hours after ejaculation, says Linda Bradley, M.D., director of the Fibroid and Menstrual Disorders Center at the Cleveland Clinic.

So if she ovulates on day 14, she can still get pregnant from sex on day 11 or day 16.

3. She can get pregnant on her period.

Ever hear that it’s safe to have unprotected sex while she’s bleeding? That’s actually a myth, since not all women have regular cycles, says Nathaniel DeNicola, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Penn Medicine.

(More bad news: These 5 Biggest Health Myths You Still Believe aren’t true either.)

A woman with a short cycle, for instance, could end up ovulating shortly after she stops bleeding. So if you have sex on the last day of her period, it’s possible your sperm could stick around long enough until her egg is released. Which, of course, could lead to pregnancy.

Plus, if her cycles are erratic, she may confuse the start of her period with the light spotting that can occur during ovulation. And if you have unprotected sex during that window, well, that’s prime baby-making time.

Bottom line: If you don’t want to be a dad, use some form of birth control every time you have sex, whether she’s on her period or not.

4. She can get a “period” and still be pregnant.

If the condom broke while you were getting busy, you’d probably white-knuckle it every day until she reported her period. But that might not mean relief, since she can actually bleed and still be pregnant.

“It’s not possible to have a real period, where she’s shedding the uterine lining, and a viable pregnancy at the same time” says Dr. DeNicola. “But it’s definitely possible to see spotting, which may look like a period, during a regular pregnancy.”

According to a 2012 study from China, 24 percent of women reported bleeding during their first trimester, or first 3 months, of pregnancy. This could just be due to the fertilized egg implanting in the uterus or hormonal changes related to pregnancy.

But it can also signal something serious, like problems with the placenta, or a possible miscarriage, says Dr. DeNicola.

5. Cramps suck just as much as she says they do.

An Italian study found that over 80 percent of young women reported pain with their periods. And for about 1 in 3 of them, the pain was so bad that it made them miss out on social events or other obligations.

Related: 6 Things More Painful Than Childbirth

When her period begins, her levels of a chemical called prostaglandin increase, says Dr. Bradley. This helps her uterus contract in order to expel its lining.

But it also causes cramping—which can feel like throbbing or a dull, constant ache—that can radiate from her lower abdomen to her back and thighs. It can also spark gastrointestinal complaints like diarrhea.

6. PMS really exists.

If she gets testy with you, resist the urge to make a PMS joke. Premenstrual syndrome occurs during the week or so before her period begins, and it really can make her feel like total crap.

Scientists don’t know what exactly causes PMS, but it seems to be linked to fluctuating levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Some women may be more sensitive to these changes, says Dr. DeNicola. As a result, they may experience some of the symptoms typically associated with PMS: fatigue, mood swings, food cravings, breast tenderness, cramps, aches, and increased anxiety.

PMS is different from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a less common condition that’s kind of like PMS on steroids.

Women with PMDD can experience severe feelings of depression, inability to concentrate, or changes in sleep patterns that can really hinder their lives. If she’s feeling these symptoms, she should talk to her doctor.

7. Ovulation can rev her up.

According to a Canadian study, women experience more sexual fantasies when they’re ovulating than they do during any other part of their cycle—and they report feeling more turned on by them.

That’s because during that time, her brain sends signals to stimulate her ovaries to get them ready to release the egg. Her levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) spike highest at that point.

These hormonal changes can allow her to become aroused more easily, says Brett Worly, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Ohio State University.

8. Her period might kill her mood—or make her hornier.

When her period begins, levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone—which are linked to PMS symptoms like moodiness, irritability, and breast tenderness—plummet. As a result, women usually start to feel their mood improve, says Dr. Worly.

But that doesn’t mean she’s ready to slide between the sheets: Cramps can make sex seem unappealing, as can the social stigma of getting it on while bleeding. She may assume you’d be uncomfortable with it, or it may be something she’s self-conscious about.

But some women actually find their arousal increases during their period. “Her pelvic organs can be more sensitive due to the increased blood flow at that time,” Dr. Worly says.

Christa Sgobba For nearly 10 years, Christa has created health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness content that’s steeped in science but engaging enough that people actually want to read it.

Download Clue to track the changes you notice in your cervical fluid.

Top things to know

  • If you can, ask your biological mom when she got her first period

  • Pay attention to changes in your nipples, pubic hair, body shape, and the fluid in your underwear

Check out Clue’s Complete Guide to Puberty: Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Here’s a summary of what to know about when you might get your first period.

The first step in estimating when you’ll get your first period is to ask your biological mom when it happened to her, if you can.

Beyond that, your body will give you a few signs.

Before you get your first period, you might notice changes in your:

  • Nipples/breasts

  • Pubic hair

  • Body shape

  • Fluid in your underwear

The most important thing to remember is that your body is unique. There is no exact “right” time for anything to happen. Every healthy body has its own pattern and timing.


Changes to your nipples and breasts may be the first thing you notice.

In the beginning, the small bumps around your nipples become raised. Then, the darker area of your nipples will get bigger and start to puff out—it might even feel like there is a little lump on your chest. These are called breast buds. This can happen on both sides at the same time, or on just one side at first. If it happens on one side, it can take up to 6 months for the other side to catch up (1).

Most people first get their first period 2–3 years after their breast begin to grow (1, 2). If your breast buds start to grow around age eight or nine, it may take closer to three years for your period to start. If your breast buds develop later than most people in your class, like when you’re 13, it may take less than a year for your period to start (2, 3).

The shape and height of your body will also be changing around this time. By the time you notice breast buds, your whole body will have already started growing more quickly (4).

Pubic hair

After breast buds, you may notice the first signs of pubic hair. Just a few long hairs may sprout up at first. You’ll grow more pubic hair with time, and that hair will get curlier, thicker, and spread out towards you thighs (1).

There is a chance you’ll see some pubic hair before your breasts start to grow, but most people see it the other way around (5).

You probably won’t see any hair under your arms until around the time your period begins, or just before that (5).

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Body shape

Your body’s shape and size also change quickly before your period starts. Your biggest growth spurt may be about six months to a year before your first period (this is the case for most people, but for others, it can be just before, two years before, or even after a first period) (6–8). If you’re tracking your height, and you notice it changes fast and then starts to slow, your first period may be on its way.

Along with changes to your height and weight, it’s also normal for the size of your pants to get bigger as your hips widen (8). Some parts of your body will become fattier and rounder, while other parts stay the same. You might notice this begin around the same time your breast buds start to grow.

The whole lower area of your abdomen is called your pelvis. Your vagina, uterus and ovaries are in there, and also grow in size (1). The exact timing of your body’s growth will be unique to you.

Vaginal/cervical fluid

Sometime after your breasts start to grow, you may notice a change to the fluid in your vagina, and it may feel a bit wetter than before (9). Some people will notice this about 6–12 months before a first period (10). It will likely be a thin, whitish liquid, and won’t have much of a smell.

As you get close to your first period, you may be able to notice the fluid from your vagina changing day-to-day. Even if you haven’t had a period yet, this is the beginning of your menstrual cycle, which is way more than just your period.

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The hormones in your body will go up and down each cycle, as your body gets ready to release an egg. This changes the fluid that comes out of your vagina. Sometimes there will be more fluid, sometimes less. The fluid will also look and feel differently at different times in your cycle.

It may look and feel creamy for a couple of days, like a skin moisturizer, or stretchy and clear, like an egg white. For some people, it may be hard to notice these changes until a few cycles after a first period.

Your vagina is self-cleaning, so be sure you only use water on your inner labia or vagina when bathing.

Going through these changes, or waiting for them to happen, can be exciting and welcomed, or challenging and stressful. It can be especially hard if the changes happen before or after most people in your class.

All of these feelings are normal! If you can, find someone to talk to who’s been through it. You might ask a trusted adult to set up a sharing circle for you and others who are going through similar changes. Sharing stories can be helpful and make you feel more supported.

Kat, a former Clue intern, shared her personal experience of waiting to get her first period below.

“Periods can be frustrating, messy and sometimes downright painful. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to get mine. When I was nine, my mom taught me about periods, but stressed that I shouldn’t expect mine to start any time soon since she had gotten hers later than average. Still, I was determined that that wouldn’t be the case for me.

When I was 10, I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, looked down, and finally, a little spot of blood! The wait was over! I was a grownup now, ready to tackle anything! I rushed down the hall to tell my mom who gave me a pad with an unconvinced look on her face. That night I was almost too excited to sleep, knowing what I could tell all my friends in the morning. You can imagine my despair when there was not a hint of red to be seen, only a small cut on my upper thigh. False alarm.

Throughout elementary and middle school I had to sit through various puberty talks and was given countless handfuls of pads and tampons from sex ed teachers “just in case.” I had to watch all of my friends come into school ready to spill the details of where they were and how they felt now that they were “a real woman.” I wasn’t as physically mature as they were but I felt absolutely sure that this milestone would make me fit in again. Days, months and years passed. I watched everyone develop, claim that they had “synced up,” and relate to each other’s symptoms. I felt excluded.

Then, one day, I realized I was the only one left. All of my friends and classmates had experienced a sensation that I couldn’t even fathom. I asked a friend in the grade above me if it felt like peeing and she laughed. I was inconsolable and scared. My mom tried to cheer me up by saying that I shouldn’t want it anyway. I asked my doctor if I was normal. She gave me a year.

A year and a half later, at 14 and a half, I finally got my period. I was alone. I calmly went to my parent’s bathroom and borrowed a pad. It was incredibly anticlimactic. No cake, no congratulations, no profound revelations, just me and some bloody uterine lining.

Looking back, I was lucky. I longed to be a part of a group that was connected by blood, and took no time to appreciate that I didn’t yet have to worry about keeping a supply of menstrual products on hand or learn how to get blood stains out of my underwear. I was simply scared I wasn’t normal. But when it comes to the menstrual cycle, there really is no absolute normal.

The average age for a first period (also called menarche) has been slowly creeping down for years. I wish someone had given me the advice to be patient, appreciate the time you have without it and don’t be afraid to be the last one bleeding. You’ll have, on average, 40 years of getting your period, and an extra year or two won’t make too much difference.

Are you still waiting to get your period? Try not to stress out about it too much. Everyone is different. If you’re worried that your prolonged menarche points to a larger health issue, or you haven’t gotten your period by age 15, then consult your healthcare provider.”

Article was originally published July 26, 2017

Many women probably remember when and where they got their first period. A lot of us probably also wish we’d been a little more prepared.

If your daughter is approaching her first period, how can you help her be ready without embarrassing her — and yourself? Make an action plan so you’re both ready.

Confront concerns. Your daughter is probably wondering what her period will feel like, how long it will last, and how she can take care of herself each month. Let her know that asking questions is OK, says pediatrician Cara Natterson, MD.

You can start with the basics: Explain that her first few periods will most likely be light, and they might not be regular in the beginning. The blood might be red, brown, or even blackish, and she should change her pad every 4 to 6 hours.

Dads, if this topic is outside your comfort zone, ask an older daughter or female relative to bring it up. Your daughter might be just as uncomfortable talking with you about her period as you are.

Make a period kit. Many girls fear they’ll get their first period at school or when they’re away from home. To help your daughter feel ready, buy a small zippered pouch and stock it with a couple of teen-size sanitary pads and a clean pair of underwear, Natterson says. Tell your daughter to keep the pouch with her at all times, and keep one with you, too, just in case.

Her kit can also be a way to deal with another of the biggest period fears: a leak. “Tell her that if her underwear gets soiled, she can just wrap it in toilet paper and throw it away in the little trash can in the bathroom stall” and use the clean pair in her kit, Natterson says.

Talk about tampons. While there’s no physical reason that most teen girls can’t use tampons from their first period on, Natterson feels it’s better for them to wait a few months. “Tampons are usually leagues beyond their emotional development at this point,” she says. If your daughter is very active, she may insist on trying them. In that case, review a diagram of female anatomy with her (either in a book or the leaflet in the tampon box) so she knows how to put one in.

Period symptoms

Period symptoms – what to expect

You won’t get periods until you have been through puberty, which takes about 2 years. During this time (also called adolescence) your body will change into that of a young woman. Breasts, pubic hair, curves, growing taller, greasy hair and pimples are all part of this stage.
Then you may notice white patches on your panties. This means that something is changing in your vaginal area. When you notice brown mucous in your panties, this is a sure sign that your first period is not far away.

If you’ve already started having periods, or have heard about them from your mom or your friends, you’ll agree that there can be some pretty unpleasant things you have to deal with during this time.

It may take some time to get used to the discomforts that come along with having a period. But with the right advice and information, you should be just fine.

What you could expect during your period:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Feeling irritable
  • Diarrhoea or soft stools
  • The need to pee more often
  • The inconvenience of ‘bleeding’
  • Uncomfortable boobs
  • Mood swings
  • Sometimes depression

As you mature and grow older, you will learn to deal with each of these symptoms in your own way. Girls discuss with one another how they cope with periods, and in this way they learn what’s best for them.

Once periods start, hormones begin to circulate in the blood again and nasty symptoms begin to diminish.

Follow our web page on how to deal with period pain and other icky symptoms e.g. PMS (pre-menstrual stress).

A girl’s best friend during this time is bling, books, magazines, friends, food, fun, fashion, chocolates, music and, sometimes, just being left alone for a while.

All these symptoms are perfectly normal so there is no need to stress. Some girls take it harder than others. If you don’t notice these symptoms then consider yourself lucky! But if these symptoms are serious and lead to ongoing depression, talk to your mom about them, a teacher, a family member or your best friend. You may need help!



There are rather scarce data in the literature on prepubertal menstrual-like bleeding (Berberoglu et al., 2009; Heller et al., 1979; Hill et al., 1989; Murram et al., 1983; Shanthi et al. 2006). Although a seasonal pattern was found in one study (Blanco et al., 1985), the occurrence of cyclic vaginal bleeding was not related to a specific season in our case. Exclusion of any other underlying pathology is essential and needs the consideration of several underlying conditions. Whether recurrent cyclic prepubertal vaginal bleeding can be defined as prepubertal menarche (Shanthi et al., 2006) or premature menarche (Murram et al., 1983) can be a matter of debate. It could be argued that by definition menarche is one step in the chain of pubertal events and necessitates a certain level of cyclic hormonal changes, which is not the case in this study. Anyway, in all cases reported there was no impact on the subsequent menstrual pattern and fertility prognosis (Sterling, 2007).

Early menarche (before the age of ten years) can occur in case of central precocious puberty. This disorder is by definition gonadotrophin dependent and is caused by a precocious maturation of the hypothalamic pituitary axis, which results in physical and hormonal changes (Cesario et al., 2007). In none of our tested girls a pubertal response to GnRH was seen and no other signs of pubertal development were present.

The response to GnRH test was suppressed (no increase in basal gonadotrophins) in two cases, but this was not associated with an elevated oestradiol level. This might be due to a previous and transient follicular cyst although these transient ovarian cysts are often associated with breast development which was not the case in our patients. A suppressed response of gonadotrophins is seen in other causes of peripheral precocious puberty such as adrenal and ovary tumors. DHEAS values were normal in all our patients and none of them had an advanced bone age, which is classically seen in such cases of peripheral precocious puberty. Two girls were younger than four years of age. In case of uterine bleeding at a very young age (most often below the age of two) Mc Cune Albright syndrome must be considered. This sporadic disorder is accompanied by café-au-lait spots and fibrous bone dysplasia. This triad can also fit into other endocrine pathologies like pituitary adenoma, hyperthyroidism. The ultrasound examination of these children typically shows voluminous ovarian cysts, which was not seen in our cases. Detailed history did not evoke any exposure to exogenous oestrogens in our patients. None of them had taken any herbal medicines or was having contact with a mother, grandmother or caretaker treated with dermal oestrogens.

A temporary activation of the hypothalamic pituitary axis was unlikely in our population of girls with menstrual-like vaginal bleeding, since there was neither an increase of gonadotrophins nor of oestradiol levels. Ultrasound showed a normal prepubertal state of uterine maturation and the absence of endometrial proliferation. In only one girl endometrial lining was evidenced, suggestive of an increased sensitivity of the endometrium as possible mechanism in this particular case.

Surprisingly, active bleeding was seen in only one girl in our study. We cannot exclude that some of these girls might suffer from the Munchausen by Proxy syndrome. This psychiatric syndrome due to relational problems confirms the importance of an objective evaluation of the vaginal bleeding (Sterling, 2007). Some conditions and symptoms may be faked by the caregiver or the parents and even the child may inflict injury on itself to draw attention and sympathy.

Prepubertal vaginal bleeding is a source of anxiety not only for the girl, but also for her family. In each case a prompt evaluation is recommended and warranted. If no explanation can be found, only clinical observation and reassurance of the girl and parents are necessary (Golub et al., 2008; Posnet et al., 2006). The clinician should also be sensitive to the unspoken concern of possible sexual molestation. Harmful traditional practices of genital mutilation in foreign girls can be another cause of genital bleeding.

First Period Q + A

Getting your first period is exciting; it means you’re becoming a woman. But you probably have a lot of questions, too. Here are some answers to questions most girls have.

Q. When will I get my first period?

A. Most girls get their first period between the ages of 9 and 16. It follows the development of breasts, hips, waist, pubic hair and a growth spurt. As a rule of thumb, most girls weigh at least 100 pounds before beginning menstruation. If you’ve gone through most of those changes, your first period is on its way. Genetics also plays a role. If possible, find out when your mom got her first period to get an estimate of when yours may arrive.

Q. What will happen when I get my first period?

A. Usually a first period is very light. It will probably be a few spots of bright red blood or a brown sticky stain that shows up on your underwear. If you are out in public and don’t have a pad with you, don’t worry. Maybe your mother or another adult relative will be close by and can give you one. If not, ask a friend or other woman if she has a pad. Every woman at some time in her life has had to ask another woman for a pad. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but you can rely on other women to see you through this situation. And in all honesty, first periods were designed really well because it is usually so little that it won’t seep through to your outer clothes.

Q. How long will my period last?

A.Everyone is different. Your period can last between two and seven days. Most girls have it for about five days.

Q. What should I do when I get my first period?

A. In addition to what’s covered above, it’s a good idea to have feminine products ready for that first period, and to know how to use them. Usually a pad is your best bet for the first year or so. Just unwrap it, remove the adhesive cover, place it firmly in your underwear, and you’re all set. Just be sure to change it every four to six hours.

Q. What if I get my first period at school?

A. If you have a pad with you, go to the girls’ room and put it on. If you don’t have one, go to the school nurse, the office or wherever you can get a pad. Try keeping a pad at school, just in case. If you don’t need it, maybe one of your friends will and she can return the favor some day soon.

Q. What if my flow is really heavy and I have to use lots of pads?

A. It’s probably just a heavy flow, which can happen during a period’s first day or two. Some girls normally experience a heavy flow. If you have a prolonged heavy flow, call your doctor.

Q. Will I have to stop activities such as sports when I have my period?

A. No. Believe it or not, the more active you are, the less likely you are to have menstrual cramps. And, if you’re worried about leaking during sports activities, check out our Product Selector to find the pad or tampon that will protect you best.

Q. How often will I get my period?

A. Menstrual cycles range anywhere between 21 and 45 days. The average is 28 days. At first it will probably be irregular. The number of days between when you get it, the number of days you have it, and the amount of flow will all vary. As your body finds its own internal rhythm, your period will settle into a pattern. It can take a year or two.

Q. Can I go swimming when I have my period?

A. Yes, you can go swimming on your period, but don’t wear a pad. It will swell up like an inflatable raft. If you want to swim, wear a tampon. But first, talk it over with your parent or other responsible adult before trying a tampon for the first time, as it may require a little practice.

Q. Can I take a bath when I have my period?

A. Yes. In fact, a bath or a shower is really important at this time to keep you clean and to avoid any odors that may occur.

Q. Will getting my period hurt?

A. The actual bleeding part doesn’t hurt. The menstrual cramps are uncomfortable but manageable.

Q. What do period cramps feel like?

A. You’ve probably already guessed this, but cramps don’t feel very good. They’re uncomfortable, particularly below your belly button and in your lower back. Cramps are caused by the uterus contracting. You can get them just before and during your period. Some girls have a few cramps, some have lots, and then there are those lucky girls who have none. The intensity of menstrual cramps varies, and you may not get them every time you have your period. They can be managed with over-the-counter pain relief medication. Ask your doctor for more information.

Q. What is menstruation, anyway?

A. Menstruation is really just the result of your body’s monthly opportunity to create a baby. When your body first becomes able to produce a child, usually between the ages of 9 and 16, it begins preparation once a month for possible motherhood. A tiny egg matures in one of your ovaries, then travels down a fallopian tube toward your uterus. Your uterus, meanwhile, has been preparing for the egg’s arrival, and its lining has thickened. If the arriving egg is fertilized by a sperm, your uterus is all set to protect and nourish the developing baby for the next nine months. If the egg doesn’t get fertilized, your uterus has no use for that thick, spongy lining. So it sheds the lining and flushes it out, along with some blood, body fluids and the disintegrated egg. For two to six days each month, this stuff flows out of your body through your vagina as reddish-brown menstrual flow. After you begin to menstruate, you’ll usually have a menstrual period about every 28 days (except during pregnancy), although your cycle may vary anywhere from 20 to 35 days.

Q. What does it mean if I have an irregular period or late period?

A. Irregular periods for the first couple of years are normal. But, after that, when you’ve started to menstruate regularly, missing a period may be a sign of pregnancy (if you are sexually active). Other causes of irregularity include a change in diet, increase in exercise or drug use. The best advice is to chat with your doctor if you’re concerned.

Q. Will other people know I’m having my period?

A. When you’re having your period, there’s no reason for the world to know. Regular bathing, proper use of pads and/or tampons, and loose, comfortable clothes are all part of a good strategy.

Q. Why do I feel crabby and sad right before my period?

A. Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, can cause moodiness, anxiety, headaches, backaches, pimples, nausea, cramping, food cravings and, sometimes, depression. Some women experience severe PMS symptoms, while others don’t get them at all.

Q. What are the causes of PMS and why do I feel so bloated?

A. PMS symptoms are caused by hormonal changes that take place before menstruation. As hormone levels even out, PMS symptoms gradually disappear. The emotions and problems that seemed overwhelming suddenly feel manageable.

As for feeling bloated, just before and during your period your body tends to retain water. This added fluid might make you feel full and your breasts feel tender. It’s normal to gain a couple of pounds during this time of the month and lose them when your period is over. If you feel like a water balloon, pull on some loose, comfortable clothing. Avoiding salt immediately before and during your period is also a good idea, because salt increases water retention.

Q. What if I bleed through my clothes?

A. First, don’t feel bad; it has happened to almost every woman. Tie a sweater or jacket around your waist or untuck your shirt. If that’s not an option, have a good friend walk directly behind you on the way to the bathroom. Find the closest tampon or pad. When you get to the bathroom, check to see if you can blot out any noticeable spots. If it’s a hopeless situation, take a trip to the office and see if someone can bring you a change of clothes from home. If you are at work or out shopping, try to call it a day and head home. Soaking your underwear or other clothes in cold water and using a stain remover can usually get out any bloodstains.

Being proactive can keep this from ever happening again. In the future, stash an extra pair of underwear in your locker and wear dark clothes on days when you’re expecting your period or when your menstrual flow is at its heaviest. Plan on changing your feminine product on a regular basis. Don’t wait until it’s too late because you’re busy. And wear the right product for your flow.

Getting your period is a normal part of growing up. During your period, a little bit of blood comes out of your vagina for a few days. Here’s the deal on periods, cramps, and PMS.

What do I need to know about my period?

Menstruation (also known as having your period) is when blood from your uterus drips out of your vagina for a few days every month. You start getting your period during puberty, usually when you’re around 12-15 years old.

Your menstrual cycle is what makes your period come every month. It’s controlled by hormones in your body. The purpose of the menstrual cycle is to help your body get ready for pregnancy. Your menstrual cycle = the time from the 1st day of your period to the 1st day of your next period. Learn more about how your menstrual cycle works.

Most people get their period every 21-35 days — around once a month (that’s why periods are sometimes called “that time of the month”). The bleeding lasts for 2-7 days — it’s different for everyone. Your period might not always come at the same time each month, especially when you first start getting it. It can take a few years for your period to settle into it’s natural rhythm, and some people never get regular periods throughout their lives.

Missing your period can be a sign of pregnancy if you’ve had penis-in-vagina sex without using birth control. But there are other reasons your period might be late, too. Learn more about what to do if you miss your period.

There are lots of ways to deal with the blood that comes out of your vagina when you have your period. You can use pads, tampons, period underwear, or a menstrual cup to collect the blood, so it doesn’t get on your clothes. Learn more about using tampons, period underwear, pads, and cups.

Some people get cramps or other symptoms before and/or during their period — this is called PMS. Luckily, there are things you can do to feel better if your period is painful or uncomfortable. You can also track your period using our app, to help get a better idea of when your period is coming and what side effects to expect.

Getting your period is a healthy part of growing up. Periods don’t have to stop you from going to school, doing sports, swimming, or hanging out with your friends — you can do all your normal activities during your period. And you’re the only person who’ll know that you’re having your period.

How do I deal with PMS and cramps?

PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome. It’s when the hormones that control your menstrual cycle cause changes in your body and emotions around the time of your period.

Some of the most common PMS symptoms are:

  • Cramps (pain in your lower belly or lower back)

  • Bloating (when your belly feels puffy)

  • Breakouts (getting pimples)

  • Sore breasts

  • Feeling tired

  • Mood swings (when your emotions change quickly or you feel sad, angry, or anxious)

Some people get PMS every time they have their periods. Others only get PMS every once in awhile. You may have all or just some PMS symptoms. And some people don’t get PMS at all. Learn more about PMS.

Cramps are one of the most common symptoms to have before/during your period. They can be super painful, or just a little annoying. You can calm cramps by taking pain medicine (like ibuprofen). Putting a heating pad where it hurts, taking a hot bath, exercising, or stretching your body can also help. Learn more about how to deal with cramps.

Certain types of birth control — like the pill, shot, implant, and IUD — can help with PMS and other period problems. If your PMS is so bad that it’s hard to do normal activities during your period, talk to an adult you trust or your family doctor. You can also call your local Planned Parenthood health center. You shouldn’t have to suffer every month, and they can help you find the cause and get treatment.

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Key Facts

  • It’s normal to have mild cramps during your period.
  • Menstrual cramps may start 1-2 days before your period begins.
  • If your cramps don’t get better with over-the-counter medicine, you should see your health care provider.

Menstrual periods can be light and easy for some teens and young women, but for others, they can be heavy and/or accompanied by painful cramps. Cramps can be a big reason why girls are absent from school, why they miss sport practices, and why they may avoid social events with their friends.

What is Dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea (pronounced: dis-men-o-ree-a) is a medical term that means “difficult or painful periods.” There are two types of dysmenorrhea, primary and secondary.

Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common kind of dysmenorrhea. Cramps (pain in the lower belly area and/or lower back) can start 1-2 days before your period comes and can last 2-4 days.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is when cramps and, for some, lower back pain are a result of a medical problem such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease.

What causes menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps are caused by uterine contractions (when your uterus tightens and relaxes allowing blood to leave your uterus). The lining of your uterus releases special chemicals called “prostaglandins.” These substances can increase the intensity of the contractions, especially if the levels rise. High levels of prostaglandins may also cause nausea and lightheadedness.

*Some or all of these problems may start a day or two before your period and can last for part or all of your period. These signs could be caused by other medical conditions and therefore it is important to talk with your health care provider about your symptoms.

Is it normal to have some mild cramps during your period?

Yes, it is normal to have mild cramps during your period because of uterine contractions. The uterus is a muscle that tightens and relaxes which can cause jabbing or cramp-like pain. However, if the discomfort is not relieved with over-the-counter medications and causes you to miss school or other daily activities, it could mean that there is another reason for your symptoms.

It is common for young women to have irregular periods when they first begin to menstruate. This means that ovulation (when a woman’s body makes eggs) may not happen for a few months or even for a few years. So you may not have menstrual cramps when you first begin your period. After one, two, or three years, when your hormonal system is more mature, you might have more painful menstrual cramps.

If your cramps are severe and interfere with your daily activities, don’t ignore what your body is telling you. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider, because there may be other reasons for your pain.

What other symptoms do girls have during their periods?

Girls may have other symptoms, such as:

  • Nausea (feeling like you want to throw up)
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • Loose bowel movements/diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating in your belly area
  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness (feeling faint)

Are menstrual cramps the same as PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome)?

Menstrual cramps are not the same as PMS. Symptoms of PMS such as bloating, weight gain, and moodiness happen before a woman’s period begins, and get a lot better when her period starts. On the other hand, menstrual cramps usually get worse the first day or two of a woman’s period and have a different cause and treatment.

What medicine can I take for my menstrual cramps?

If you are having menstrual cramps, talk with your parents or health care provider about your options. If your menstrual cramps are painful, you may think about taking some type of over-the-counter medication for one to two days. These medications are “anti-prostaglandins.” They help relieve the discomfort, make your flow lighter, and cause your uterus to cramp less. Look for over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. Take this medicine when you first start to feel uncomfortable, and continue taking it every 4-6 hours or as recommended by your health care provider. Since this kind of medicine can upset your stomach, you should take it with food. Make sure you read the label to see how much and how often you should take the medication. You should not take these products if you are allergic to aspirin-like medicine or have stomach problems. It is important not to take more medicine than is recommended or prescribed.

Is there anything else I can do to help my menstrual cramps?

Natural remedies such as a microwavable warm pack or a heating pad placed on your abdomen (lower belly) may help. Soaking in a warm bath may also relieve uncomfortable cramps. Some teens find that increasing their physical activity helps; others find that resting quietly for short periods of time helps.

Acupuncture is an alternative treatment that is sometimes recommended to treat menstrual cramps. You should also eat healthy foods, drink lots of fluids, and get plenty of rest. Check with your health care provider about different treatments that work best for you.

What if nothing helps my menstrual cramps?

If your menstrual cramps are not relieved by over-the-counter medicine, make an appointment to see your health care provider. Use a period and symptom tracker for 2-3 months and then bring it to your next medical appointment. A record of your symptoms can help your health care provider figure out the best treatment choices for you.

My Monthly Period & Symptom Tracker

My Monthly Period & Symptom Tracker is an easy way to keep track of your menstrual flow, and it’s also a way to keep track of cramps, and/or PMS and period symptoms (if you have them) each month.

  • Review the sample Monthly Period & Symptom Tracker.
  • Print out copies of My Monthly Period & Symptom Tracker.
  • Simply make a check mark in the appropriate box (or boxes) for each day of the month. If you don’t have any flow or any symptoms on any given day, leave the box empty. Refer to the Blood Flow Key at the bottom for “Flow” definitions.
  • The dates at the top are the same as the dates in one month. Some months have 28 days, others have 30 or 31.
  • Remember to bring My Monthly Period & Symptom Tracker with you to your medical appointments.

Sample Monthly Period and Symptom Tracker

My Monthly Period and Symptom Tracker

Is it okay to exercise when I have my period?

Exercising is a good way to stay fit and healthy. Some girls like to exercise when they have their period because it helps lessen their cramps. Other girls are uncomfortable exercising when they have their period. You should find what works best for you. Talk to your coach or gym teacher if exercising is uncomfortable during your period.

Remember, if cramps or other symptoms cause you to miss school or other activities and over-the-counter medicine and other comfort measures don’t help, you should make an appointment with your health care provider.

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