Puberty And Your Period
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH MY BODY?
What is puberty?
Puberty is the time when your body matures, usually between the ages of 8-15. While it can feel like an awkward or overwhelming time, just know everyone has gone or will go through puberty in their lifetime.
It usually starts with a rapid growth spurt, where you could grow a few inches, and develop breasts and pubic hair. You may see sticky white discharge in your underwear. You may also see changes in your skin or experience mood swings. It’s ok! That is just your body prepping for its first period.
What is a menstrual cycle and why do we get it?
Your menstrual cycle is the way your body readies itself for the possibility of pregnancy. Each month, you also ovulate, which means an egg is released from your ovary. If sperm doesn’t fertilize your egg, then it is shed from your body, and you’ll get your period.
Both of your ovaries contain all of the eggs you will produce in a lifetime. Your “cycle” is the length of time it takes for your body to go through the process of ovulation, which is when one egg matures and takes a little trip out of the ovary, through the fallopian tube and to the uterus. Your "flow" (blood and tissue) then goes from the uterus through the opening of the cervix and is released through your vagina and out of your body. Your hormonal system controls the whole “flow”, which is why you may find a stray zit (or three), and you might feel crampy and emotionally irritable.
When will I get my first period, and will it ever stop happening?
Your period can start anywhere between the ages of 9 and 16, but it often happens between ages 12 and 13. Everyone is different. Your cycle continues throughout your lifetime, until you reach menopause in your late 40s or 50s—when your body is no longer preparing for a potential pregnancy.
How often does it happen and how long do periods last?
It usually takes 1 to 6 years after your first period to settle into a regular cycle. A cycle typically lasts around 28 days. However, each of us has our own cycle, and depending on the rhythm of our bodies, it can range from every 21 to 36 days. Most periods last 3 to 8 days, but the average duration is 6 days.
To track your cycle, start with the first day of bleeding—that’s day 1 of your cycle. Count from that day onward, all the way to the day before the first day of bleeding in the next month and you’ll get the number of days of your cycle. Everyone’s cycle is a little different, so don’t worry if yours is longer or shorter than your friend’s.
So, let’s say your period begins on the 6th day of March, you have 6 days of bleeding, and then you don’t have another period until the 3rd day of April. That means you have a 28-day cycle. Plot it out on a calendar and count the days. Check out our Period Tracker for an easy way to learn more about your cycle and plan so you’re prepared for your period.
How do I make my cramps go away?
You’re feeling crampy because your uterus is contracting to help you shed the lining of the uterus. While cramps aren’t fun, they’re fairly common.
Here are some ways to help reduce your cramps:
- Eat healthy foods and avoid drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages
- If you’re up for it, move your body – exercise can help create endorphins that fight pain naturally
- Gently massage your stomach area to relax your muscles
- Put a heating patch on your stomach or take a hot bath
- Try switching from a tampon to a pad if you are feeling vaginal pain with your cramps
- Take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen tablets, according to the package directions or under doctor consultation
- Remember, cramps may become milder over the course of your reproductive years
If your cramps are really bad, get more info here.
What do I do if I get my first period at school?
It helps to be prepared, since you don’t know exactly when your period is going to arrive. We love the idea of a portable period care kit containing a resealable plastic bag, a spare pair of underwear, plus a few pantiliners and pads. Bonus points for a stain-remover stick, some ibuprofen, and a snack!
If you happen to be at school for the first time it happens, don’t worry. Wrap a jacket or a sweater around your waist, grab your kit, and head straight to the bathroom. Change your underwear, remove the lining paper and apply the liner or pad to your new underwear. Use the stain remover stick on your old underwear and clothes, let it sit, and then rinse and dry as best you can. Put your clothes back on and put your old underwear in the re-sealable bag for laundering when you get back home. The good news is that your flow is usually pretty light on day 1.
If you don’t have a kit prepared, it’s ok. You always can use toilet paper as a temporary leak guard until you can find some proper protection. Just use a bit of soap and water to clean up any stains and dry it out as best you can. Then ask a friend, a teacher, or your school nurse for a pad if they are not readily available in your restrooms. Don’t stress, someone will have one for you.
Will everyone know I’ve got my period?
Unless you’re holding a big red sign that reads “It’s my time of the month!” or you’ve posted your trip to the tampon aisle on social media, your classmates will not know you have your period.
I’m kind of dreading talking to my mom, dad, or guardian about my first period. What should I say to them?
“The talk” can seem pretty awkward, but it doesn’t need to be. Sometimes it’s a big relief to get it out in the open and ask for what you need! You can be direct and say, “I need to talk to you about my period,” or simply, “I need to buy some period supplies.” It’s a good idea to have all of your questions written down, so you can get all of the answers you’re looking for.
Your parent or guardian may approach you about it first. But if they don’t, and you want to talk about it, don’t wait. Just tell them you need to talk about something important. If it isn’t urgent, wait for the right moment when you can speak with them one-on-one. Or send them a text telling them what you need.
I don’t really have someone I feel I can talk to about my first period. What should I do?
Sometimes you may not have a parent or guardian you feel comfortable talking to about this. If this is your situation, maybe a doctor, school nurse, a guidance counselor, a coach, or your teacher could step in. A good way to bring this up is to say that you need to talk to them about something personal.
When you’re ready for that one-on-one conversation, say something like, “I have my period. This is new for me. I have some questions and I’m going to need some supplies.” They’ll be sure to help you out. Remember not to rely on advice from your friends–they’re all trying to figure it out, too! Same with social media. You may get information that’s not real or true. Experiencing these life changes won’t always feel scary and overwhelming, and you’ll figure out what works best for you.