Your first period: What’s the deal with menstruation?
Chances are, you’ve started to feel your body going through a bit of a transformation. This is just part of a new chapter in your life known as puberty and one of the biggest changes that you will experience is your first period. So let’s take a little look at what menstruation is and what you can expect from it.
Puberty is all about growing up. It is an important part of everyone’s life that brings plenty of new experiences, including first periods. It can feel like a lot – there will be changes to how you feel and to how your body looks and works! But if you’re getting anxious about it, remember you’re not on your own. Menstruation is completely natural process and is something that many of us will go through at some point. After a few months, you’ll be taking your periods in your stride. But until then, learning more about what menstruation means can help to put your mind at ease and prepare for what’s next!
Did you know?
What is a period (menstruation)?
When you start puberty, your menstrual cycle kicks off. This means that every few weeks the lining of your uterus (which is in the lower part of your tummy, in a place called the womb) gets thicker with tissue and your ovaries release an egg (called an ovum). One of two things can happen from this point: if a sperm fertilises the egg (usually through having unprotected sex), the tissue in the uterus stays there to provide a home for a baby. But if the egg isn’t fertilised, then that extra tissue that is not needed gets released through your vagina, along with mucus and other vaginal fluids. This is basically the process of menstruation –or what is commonly known as getting a period.
Why do girls have periods?
Periods are Mother Nature’s way of letting us know our bodies are grown enough to have babies. But this doesn’t mean you have to become a parent right now, or ever! It's likely you have plans like studying, traveling, and having different kinds of adventures before you decide to bring new members to your family. Many people have children until much later on in their lives, and others choose to remain child-free. There’s lots of options out there and it’s not a decision you have to take yet, getting your period just means that you may be able to have kids one day if you want to.
What is the average age to start your period?
Most girls start getting signs of their first period between the ages of 10 and 16.  There is no such thing as “the right age” for menstruation to begin because everyone is different. So in the same way that you may have grown your first tooth at a different pace than your friends or siblings (sooner or later), you will get your period when your body is ready.
Can you get your first period faster?
Waiting for your first period can be frustrating, especially if you feel like all of your friends have already got theirs. But it’s not a competition or a race to the finish line! Everyone goes through puberty at different times and we can’t really force our bodies into a process that happens naturally, so try to be kind and patient with yourself.
And while there are no ways to guarantee that your period will come faster, looking out for the signs that it is on its way can help you prepare for the big day.
What are the signs and symptoms of your first period?
Some signs and symptoms are quite easy to spot. For instance, if your breasts or pubic hair have been growing, or you have noticed discharge in your underwear, then it won’t be long before your first period.
Another clue is if you experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which causes symptoms like period pain, mood swings, bloating, backache and skin break outs. And while this may not sound particularly exciting, periods shouldn’t stop you from getting out and doing what you want. There are plenty of ways that you can deal with period pain and other PMS symptoms such as eating healthily, exercising regularly and even taking over-the-counter painkillers if you need a little extra relief.
What does your first period look like?
When some people think of their first period, they may imagine it to be bright red blood – similar to when you prick your finger with a needle or pick a scab. However, the colour of menstrual blood is usually slightly darker and more of a dull, brownish red. Your first period in particular may be especially brown in colour and not last very long. This can be a bit of a surprise and you could be asking yourself questions such as “Is that it?” or “Was that actually a period or something else?”. But it’s perfectly normal!
So, if you’ve experienced some of the signs and symptoms above and have also found some brown spots in your underwear, then congratulations – this is most probably your first period! Keep in mind that your monthly flows will change in length, colour and amount as you keep growing up, but you don’t need to do much about it – just let your body work its magic.
If you’re feeling slightly anxious by the arrival of your first period or are just curious about menstruation in general, doing your own research online and asking friends, family, or even teachers about their own experiences can help put your mind at ease. The more you understand about your body, the better! Your first period is a big milestone, but it shouldn’t worry or stress you out – think of it as a natural sign of you growing up.
If you want to continue learning, why not read our articles on how much bleeding is normal during a period and how long does a period last?
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.