Worried or confused about your first period? It’s OK to feel anxious about this, but rest assured, whatever you’re experiencing is - for the most part - absolutely normal. We’re here to clear up those rumours you’ve heard and shed a little light on what your first few periods might be like. It’s different for every girl, but here’s what you can expect...
What will your first period be like?
Let’s get real: it’s not going to be the magical experience those high school pamphlets say it will, but it’s not going to be like the horror stories you’ve seen on TV or heard from your friends, either. One day it’ll just kind of… be there. You’ll likely start your period when you’re around age 11, but if you’ve started it early (some girls start as early as age 8) or you’re a bit later, don’t worry. It will happen when puberty says so!
You’ll know your period is on the way when you start to notice other signs of puberty, such as hair growing in new places, breasts developing, and discharge from your vagina. Discharge is normal about a year before you start your period, which can act as a good indicator.
When you feel like it’s going to arrive soon, keep some pads, wet wipes and pain relief in your bag in case of emergencies. If you find yourself at school without any period products, remember you can always ask a female teacher to help you. If this sounds like the most embarrassing thing you can imagine - trust us, it’s not! The awkwardness of period accidents has worn off by the time you’re an adult, so your teacher will help you in a discreet but casual way.
Why isn’t my period heavy yet?
Heavy bleeding isn’t exactly enjoyable, so it’s normal to be curious about when your period will become heavier so you can prepare. Your first one will just be some light spotting that lasts a couple of days. In fact, it can take girls’ bodies a few months to settle into a rhythm as their hormones stabilise. You won’t know how light or heavy your period is likely to be until a few months have passed and your body has gotten used to this change.
If you’re imagining blood coming out like a tap turning on, you can relax. Even when your normal periods arrive a few months later, it’s never a sudden heavy flow like this. Sometimes it can feel like a lot of blood that’s coming out, but in fact, it’s usually only about 3-5 tablespoons of blood - not much at all.
It’s normal to worry about leaking through your clothes, too, but know that this is very rare as long as you use the right period products and change them regularly. Plus, there are ways to cover up stains so no one will suspect: carry a change of pants in your bag, tie a sweatshirt around your waist, wear dark-coloured trousers while you have your period, that sort of thing. All great ways to cover up mishaps.
Some girls have heavier bleeding than others, and it’s usually normal, but if you feel like it’s more than it should be, or it’s affecting your daily life, speak to someone you trust who can take you to a doctor to find a solution.
Why isn’t my period regular yet?
Once your body has settled into a period routine, it will likely last 2-7 days each month. The average menstrual cycle is around 28 days, but it’s different for everyone. Irregular cycles can be as short as 21 days and as long as 45 days - it’s all up to your body’s own rhythm.
It can actually take up to 6 years for your periods to become completely regular as your body learns how to release the right hormones at the right time. These fluctuating hormones are why many teenage girls experience PMS symptoms that make them feel irritable or anxious. Remember, you can discuss this with your doctor if you feel so angry or depressed that it affects your life long-term.
It’s advisable to keep track of your periods to notice patterns in your cycle and predict when you will need to be prepared. It’s easy to do; simply mark in your diary or phone the day your period starts and ends. Nobody else needs to know that’s what you are tracking if you don't want them to, just pop in a symbol or a code word instead!
Got questions about your first few periods? Ask us over on Instagram @itsyoppie and we’ll always do our best to find you the answers you’re looking for.