Getting your first period is both exciting and worrying. Some girls look forward to it or are generally neutral about the whole thing. Some may be fraught with anxiety because they are not quite sure what’s going to happen and do not feel ready for it. Whichever category you fall into, know that your period is a normal and very important event in your life.
When will I get my first period?
You will get your first period after you hit puberty. You can tell that you have reached puberty when you suddenly have a growth spurt, i.e., you gain a few inches and get taller and your breasts may start to bud. Another obvious sign of puberty is the development of pubic and underarm hair. Usually, you’ll get your period about a year after this happens.
However, if you do not get your period that soon rest assured that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Some girls get it right away while others have to wait for it, in some cases for years after puberty. There is nothing at all you can do to get your first period faster or to make it come later. Your body knows what it is doing –trust it.
Symptoms of First Period
- The most obvious period symptom is bleeding from the vagina. You may have heard a lot about heavy bleeding but this will most likely not happen on your first period or even over the consecutive periods. The blood may be bright red, pinkish or rust colored. Rest assured that the bleeding does not hurt.
- The period pains that most women talk about have nothing to do with the bleeding but with the period cramps that accompany it. Not all young girls will have period cramps during their first period but it helps to be prepared for it. Period cramps are characterized by tight spasms in your lower belly. They may not be very strong at your first period and will usually go away within a day or two.
- Breast tenderness is another common symptom of a first period. The intensity will differ from girl to girl. Your breasts may feel a little sore or heavy, as if someone punched you in the chest.
- About 6 months before you get your period, you will notice a clear discharge on your underwear. This is completely normal and is a sign that your period is due soon.
- When you get your first period, it will most likely be accompanied by a pimple or two. This is a normal occurrence even in some women who are 40. The pimple will go away in a few days so do not try to pick it or stress yourself out about it.
Choosing period protection
There are mainly three types of protection that are used to catch the menstrual flow – sanitary pads, tampons and the menstrual cup. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, some women find one type of protection more comfortable than the other. It’s a very personal choice and no method is right or wrong – it’s all about comfort and viability. For example, if you are an athlete or are into sports then a tampon is a better choice for you, although it does not have to be. However, tampons are also associated with higher incidences of toxic shock syndrome than other types of period protection so you may have to choose another option if you know that your body is sensitive to foreign substances.
Some women do not depend on one method alone. For example, they may wear a tampon or menstrual cup during the day but resort to a sanitary pad at night.
You may have to try all three methods before you decide what you like best. If you are uncertain initially, just use a sanitary pad till you figure out what you want to do. Speak to a close female relative or your school nurse about the right way to use each of them and also ask them about their experiences with their choice of protection if this is something you feel comfortable doing.
How often you should change your tampon or sanitary pad will depend on the intensity of your period flow. Usually, the first period is quite light so you may not need to change much. About twice a day for hygiene’s sake should be fine. Even though the flow is light, it is vital that you change otherwise your vaginal area may start to emit an unpleasant odor that will be perceptible to the people around you.
You may know of a lot of girls in your class who avoid gym class when they get their period. Does this mean you cannot do the fun, physical stuff when you have your period? Not necessarily. This again is something that is entirely up to you. Periods do tend to make you a little more fatigued than usual and period cramps can be a little challenging to deal with sometimes. However, if you feel up to it, indulge in as much physical activity as feels right for you. Usually, it is the discomfort of period cramps that stop young girls from partaking in physical activity. If that is the case with you, you can take a painkiller to help manage the symptoms. Sometimes, a hot water bottle or a warm bath can help too.
Dealing with the Emotional Side
This may not be very apparent but if you pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings you will notice that you are a little cranky or sad or angry just before you get your period and perhaps even during your period. As a teenager, your body is anyway going through massive hormonal changes that cause sometimes eruptive emotional states. During your period, you may find that you experience more negative emotions than positive ones. Be aware that it is simply a side-effect of your period and try not to make important decisions based on such heightened emotions.
You may also find that you are very stressed out by things which you could always take in your stride. Know again that this is simply your emotional body reacting to the changes in your physical body. If possible, try to steal a few quick naps during the day, indulge in things you like to do like hanging out with your friends or watching your favorite TV show. This can distract you from your stress and make things feel easier.
Talk to an Adult
Your first period can be confusing and difficult to deal with. It’s always nice to have someone to talk to. If you are not comfortable conversing with your mother or an older sister, consider an older female student at your school, a teacher, a guidance counselor, the school nurse or even a doctor. Having someone at hand to answer your questions and allay your fears can be very helpful.