When will you get your first period?
Many young girls ask the question “when will I get my first period?”. The answer isn’t that definite. Most girls start their periods between the ages of 12 years and 14 years, but some start earlier or later. That's usually between the ages of 10 and 16. Every girl’s body is different and has its own internal clock. Just because a friend or sister started at a certain age, it doesn’t mean that you will.
Signs of the first period
Once a girl starts puberty, her body goes through changes that happen both internally and externally. The female body starts to release increased amounts of different hormones that cause these changes. The increased levels of these hormones result in physical changes in the breasts, ovaries, uterus, and vagina. With these changes will come the signs of your first period.
About six months to a year before a girl’s period starts, she will have an increase in vaginal discharge. This fluid should be clear and not have any foul odor. There may also be several symptoms that a girl can experience before she even starts to spot or bleed.
The symptoms of the first period can include:
- abdominal cramps
- acne breakouts
- mood swings
- breast tenderness
These symptoms are signs you’re getting your first period. Now is a good time to gather some feminine hygiene products to carry with you. You can tuck a few panty liners and/or pads in a small bag that can easily go in your backpack or purse.
A girl's first menstruation is called menarche. One of the biggest questions that girls ask is “what does your first period look like?” The first time period can be rather light and appear as just spotting. You may even experience a brown discharge.
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How long does a first period last?
Your first period can be shorter than normal as your body adjusts. A woman’s menstrual cycle is typically 28 days long. This is approximately one cycle per month with bleeding that lasts about 3-7 days. However, your periods can be irregular for at least the first year. This means that it might not start exactly at the time you were expecting it to start and you may experience a different amount of blood flow each time. You may even skip periods. This is completely normal.
So, what do you do when you get your first period? Don’t panic, you are not alone. It is a good idea to tell a parent, a friend, your older sister, a school nurse, or a teacher that you feel comfortable talking to. You may have questions about feminine hygiene products such as tampons and pads and how to properly use them. You may also have questions about things that you are feeling (good and bad) and if they have had similar experiences. Remember, you are not alone with this and there is always another person that can help you. Don't be afraid to ask.
Should you induce your first period?
Today, girls are getting their first period earlier than before. This has been a trend over the past few decades and some research points to the increased use of hormones in milk and different meats. Because of this, many girls are looking for answers to questions like “how to get your first period faster? or “how to make your first period come faster?”. There is also a lot of information on the internet about “foolproof” ways to induce your first period, but there is no medical evidence that any of these actually work. There are no natural healthy ways that you can induce your period in one day or overnight. The truth is, you will get your first period when your body is ready. There is no need to rush it! You will have plenty of periods throughout your lifetime.
How to get your first period faster
The only reason to get your period faster would be if you are far past the normal age and have not had your first period yet. In this case, it might be necessary to see a medical professional to discuss why this has not occurred.
Here are a few means that are usually discussed when talking about ways to get your first period faster.
Vitamin C supplements
Vitamin C supplements will not make your period start but can be a good way to keep your body healthy. One thing we do know about the reproductive system is that you need to eat a healthy diet to support proper hormonal functions. If you are missing certain nutrients including vitamins and minerals in your diet, it is advisable to take a good daily vitamin. But ask at first your doctor for advice about using any vitamins and supplements. If taking supplements, be careful to stick within the recommended safety limit — too much vitamin C can be dangerous.
Birth control pills before first period: can you try them?
There really isn’t a medical reason for any girl to take birth control pills before she has her first period. Until this time, you do not have any of the symptoms or reasons that would justify a medical professional to prescribe them.
Exercise on a regular basis is a good thing for general health. However, exercise will not cause you to get your period faster. In fact, vigorous exercise on a regular basis will do just the opposite. Studies have shown that female athletes have a higher incidence of hormone disruption and amenorrhea (no period) than the girls their age that do not exercise as much.
Different types of exercise can also eliminate some of the symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle. Walking and different gentle stretching exercises can help you relieve cramping, bloating and muscle pain associated with your period. Exercise can also cause the release of endorphins to help with mood and energy.
A hot bath cannot induce your first period. Once you start getting your periods, this form of bathing can be very comforting when you have pain and cramping.
Reducing stress levels
Increased stress and the hormone associated with it (cortisol), can cause your periods to be late or absent. Higher than normal levels of cortisol have been shown to cause amenorrhea in women. Increased stress can also cause problems with infertility among women that are trying to conceive. Therefore, if you want your cycle to be regular, try to keep stress levels as low as possible. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a proper diet can also help the body reduce the effects of stress.
Weight loss can be an effective means of increasing a woman’s ability to conceive, reduce the risk of PCOS and improve the general quality of life. However, weight loss will not induce your first period. In fact, loosing too much weight or rapid weight loss can cause amenorrhea (no period) in some women. If you are overweight and feel that it may be affecting your menstrual cycle, it is advisable to seek medical advice.
There is a variety of remedies that are believed to be effective for the treatment of irregular menstruation. Here are some suggestions.
Enriching your diet with fruit
Fruit is a healthy addition to the diet and supports many functions of the body. One fruit, in particular, is thought to help with menstrual irregularities. It is papaya. The unripe papaya has a quality that can control the contractions of the muscle fibers of the uterus and is beneficial for inducing proper menstrual flow. Papaya is also found helpful in young unmarried girls when menstruation ceases due to stress or fright.
Medicinal plants are used for menstrual disorders throughout the world. Ginger has been shown to ease cramps and reduce heavy menstrual bleeding. It has also been used as a safe and effective treatment for nausea during pregnancy (after checking in with your doctor, of course).
When to start tracking your cycle and using female hygiene products?
Girls (and women) track their cycles for different reasons. For young girls that have just started the period, it would be a good idea to track when they occur. This can be done in the app like Flo and should include the following information:
- dates of bleeding
- what the flow looked like (brown, light brown, light pink, bright red)
- flow volume (light, moderate, heavy)
- symptoms before the start of the period
- symptoms during the period
- things used to relieve symptoms
- any notes on products used
This information can be very helpful if you need to see a medical professional. They will probably ask you questions about this information. If you have it written down in one location, it can make this much easier to recall. This is especially important if you are experiencing menstrual irregularities or symptoms that you may be concerned about.
When should you see a doctor?
It is very common for young girls to be seen by their primary care provider for annual exams that include gynecological reviews up to a certain age. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG, 2017) suggests that young girls start annual gynecological exams when they are typically 13-15 years old and they do not need to have a pelvic exam at that time unless they are having problems, such as abnormal bleeding or pain. If they are sexually active, they may be tested for certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
It is normal to be nervous during this first exam. A parent or guardian should accompany you to this appointment. They can be there to offer support and ask questions that you may forget to ask. It is also OK to let the doctor know that you are nervous. They can explain everything that is going to happen and provide any additional information you want.
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