My first period

Whether you are looking forward to your first time or not, experiencing your first period is one of life’s major milestones.

While it happens to about half the population, it can feel like a daunting prospect full of unknowns.

But if you know the signs to look out for and you’re prepared for what to do when it arrives, you’ll be surprised by how smoothly you can enter into this new phase.

Everyone starts their period at different ages, but it’s usually between the ages of 10-14.

Some girls can experience “menarche” (the technical term for your first period) at age 8 or 9, others at age 16 or 17.

Everyone is different, so while you may even be impatient to get your period, remember you have another 40 years or so of periods ahead of you – don’t worry if it hasn’t shown up just yet!

What is a period and why do we
get them?

The menstrual or period cycle is a monthly cycle that allows you to get pregnant. When you have your first period, it’s your body’s way of showing you that you are transitioning towards adulthood and potentially, one day, parenthood.

During your monthly cycle, the walls of the uterus fill with nutrients and blood in order to support the fertilised egg.

When the egg is not fertilised, the lining of the uterus breaks down and your body gets rid of it (the blood). This is not dangerous, in fact it is very healthy, and your body will continue to do this on average every 23-35 days until menopause.

When will I get my first period?

There is no way of predicting the exact moment when you will get your first period and there is nothing you can do to make it start.

However, before getting your first period, there are signs you can look out for that indicate you have started puberty and you may get your period soon:

  • Your breasts begin to bud
    • Pubic hair and underarm hair start to appear
    • Some girls experience a sudden growth spurt

These changes normally occur around 1-2 years before you start your first period.

A few months before your first period, you may also notice a white or pale-yellow discharge – another indication that can help you to be prepared.

There are many factors that can influence when you go through menarche, from your race and genes, to outside influences such as weight and environment.

It’s a good idea to talk things through with your mum and ask her when she started hers. Alternatively, you can talk any concerns through with a doctor or a trusted adult, such as a teacher or school nurse, who can also help to answer any questions you may have.

What do I need to do to be
prepared for my first period?

It’s a good idea to have a small “period kit” on standby, such as a small toilet bag, where you can keep a fresh pair of underwear, panty-liners and pads and/or the MedFem Menstrual Cup size Mini menstrual cup.

Make sure your bathroom at home is also well stocked if you choose pads or tampons, if you go with a menstrual cup, you will just need one.

Which period products should I use?

It can feel like there is an overwhelming choice of period products out there. But they generally breakdown into 3 simple categories:

Pads:

Pads have a sticky underside and are worn outside the body. They are placed inside your underwear to absorb the flow. They come “with” or “without wings”, which are essentially side flaps that wrap around the underside of your underwear, and they come in a range of thicknesses to absorb a light, medium or heavy flow. You can practice placing pads in your knickers even before starting your period. Pads should be changed every 4-6 hours.

Tampons:

Tampons, which also come in a range different sizes, are inserted into the vagina to absorb your menstrual blood before it leaves the body. The string part hangs outside the vagina and is used to pull the tampon out. Tampons must be changed every 4-6 hours.

Menstrual cups:

Menstrual cups, such as MedFem Menstrual Cup, are becoming increasingly popular. They are reusable cups that are inserted into the vagina to collect your menstrual blood. The MedFem Menstrual Cup menstrual cup is made from soft, allergy-friendly medical grade silicone that is both very healthy for your body and good for the environment too. They can be worn risk-free inside your vagina for up to 12 hours, so you can simply insert it and forget all about it for the rest of the day. We recommend Size Mini for teens.

TIP: If you are at school and you start your period, you can ask your school nurse or teacher for help, as they should have a supply of products to hand. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, toilet paper works as a temporary substitute to a period product!

How much bleeding is normal?

It may look like a lot of blood, but in actual fact, you only release around 30-50 ml of menstrual blood (with some additional fluid, the measure only refers to the blood only) each time.

Some people may release a bit more, but if you are not experiencing severe cramping, nausea or other side effects, then your individual flow can be considered normal. Usually the flow is lighter when you start your period and it can take a while for it to settle into a regular flow. It is also very likely and normal that you will see some blood clots appear during your period too, particularly if you have a heavier flow.

How long should my period last?

Your period can last between 2 and 7 days. First periods are often lighter and can be irregular to begin with.

Nowadays there are plenty of apps to help you keep track of your period, so you can monitor your regularity and plan accordingly.

If you feel like your period is very heavy or lasts beyond 7 days, check in with your doctor for advice.

Will my first period hurt?

Some of the most common physical period symptoms include (but are not experienced by everyone):

  • Period cramps (dull ache in your stomach area or lower back)
    • Tender or swollen breasts
    • Tiredness and mood swings
    • Feeling bloated

It is perfectly normal that you feel emotional the first few times you experience these reactions. During this time, be kind to yourself, make sure that you listen to your body and take plenty of rest when needed.

Don’t be afraid to talk people close to you about how you are feeling. Gentle exercise and a warm bath or hot water bottle can go a long way to ease menstrual cramps, as well as over the counter pain killers if needed (consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice).

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