Menstrual Period: How to Prepare for your First Period

period productsEver wondered about how to prepare for your first period? A great place to start is by understanding the “why” – why does a uterus menstruate? Next, get to know your period product options and keep a few at home and school, and remember that it’s completely normal to have mild physical and emotional symptoms during your cycle. Your body is normal and beautiful!

What does menarche mean?

Menarche is the onset of menstruation (period) in people who were born with a uterus. The process is completely normal and healthy, but you’re not alone if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the concept. Knowing the science behind why we menstruate will help you develop an informed, positive relationship with your body.

When can I expect my period to begin?

Periods are part of puberty, a time of hormone and body changes that usually starts between the ages of 8 and 13. Your period will likely begin around 2-3 years after you first notice breast/chest development.

What happens during menstruation?

Menstrual periods occur when the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium [en-doh-mee-tree-uhm]) thickens because of rising levels of the estrogen hormone. When those estrogen levels fall again, the lining is no longer supported, and passes out of your body through the vaginal canal as a “period.”

Ok, I understand menstruation. What products will I need?

Why do we use period products?

Period products have one job: to absorb or collect blood and uterine tissue while allowing you to move freely throughout your day. From the classic liners, pads, and tampons, to eco-friendly reusable cloth pads, menstrual cups, and period underwear, you’ll find the combination that’s best for you. Using these products may feel a little awkward at first, and that’s completely normal. It will feel easier with every cycle – just another way of taking care of your body.

What if I can’t afford period products?

We know that period products can be very expensive. Here are some ideas to help you access free and affordable period products when you need them:

  • Check out the list of states that require schools to have free menstrual products.
  • Check in with your health care provider (HCP). Many health care offices and clinics keep a stock of free period products at all times, and your HCP may have more ideas about where you can access products in your area.
  • Check to see if any health groups in your area are holding period product fairs.

How will I feel before my period?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

As you prepare for your first period, you will likely hear a lot of stories about premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Most people who experience PMS notice symptoms around 5-7 days before their period starts. Common symptoms include mood swings, breast soreness, bloating, acne, food cravings, increased hunger and thirst, and fatigue, but people have reported other symptoms as well. Some people never have symptoms!

Notice how your body feels in the days leading up to your period! If your symptoms bother you, talk to your health care provider (HCP).

Menstrual cramps

Cramps are caused by uterine contractions (when your uterus tightens and relaxes to allow blood flow). You may notice pain in the lower belly and/or lower back area 1-2 days before your period starts, which may last for around 2-4 days.

Cramps are normal, and we even have some tips to help with pain. However, if pain is not relieved with over-the-counter medications, and especially if it causes you to miss daily activities, you should check in with your health care provider (HCP).

Remember that everyone’s flow is a little bit different.

One interesting and sometimes confusing part of puberty is the fact that everyone’s body moves at a slightly different pace. It’s important to remember to not to compare yourself to the specific experience of another person. While menarche typically occurs between the ages of 10 and 16, many factors play a role in the process including genetics, exercise habits, socioeconomic conditions, nutrition, and more. If you get your first period a little earlier or a little later than the other people in your life, or if you notice that your period is irregular during the first few months, don’t worry!

Some people get their first period as a flow of bright red blood and tissue, while others may notice a brownish, rusty color in their underwear. The color of menstrual blood is all about how quickly the released lining is flowing – brighter red means a faster flow, while brown/rust-colored spotting means a slower flow. Both are totally normal.

If you have specific concerns about your period, and especially if you have not had your first period by the time you’re 16, you should check in with your provider.

What should I do if I still have questions?

If you have further questions, they may already be answered by our team of experts in the “Ask Us” section of our website. If you can’t find the answer to your question, fill out our question form. Each week, we’ll choose one new question and post the answer.

It’s totally okay to have mixed emotions about getting your period, but you’ve got this! Remember there will always be people to support you through the transition. Be gentle with yourself and connect with your favorite people. Your body is normal.