First Period Q + A

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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.

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