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What Should I Expect from the First Menstruation?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 17, 2024
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A girl's first menstruation, known as menarche, typically occurs between the ages of 12 and 13. You may be a few years younger or older, however, when you experience your first menstrual period. What you can expect from the first menstruation may not be a flow of blood typically experienced with a monthly cycle. The first time you menstruate, light spotting of blood may be noticed on your underpants or any tissue when you use the bathroom. This first menstruation may occur without any prior symptoms, or you may experience some slight discomfort.

What you can expect from the first menstruation may not be exactly what you imagined. You may have heard older women speak of experiencing menstrual cramps, or heavy bleeding. It's important to note, however, that not every girl's body follows the same general rule. This is especially true for menarche.

The first time you experience your menstrual period, you might not even notice until you change your clothes. What you can expect from the first menstruation might be mild cramping in the lower abdominal area or a lower backache, or you may not feel any discomfort at all. You might feel a little bloated due to water weight gain, but this is not typical with the first menstruation.

Spotting or a very light flow of blood is common to expect from the first menstruation. You'll have the choice of using a sanitary pad, which adheres to your underpants, or a tampon, which is inserted into the vagina. Either of these disposable materials will absorb the flow of blood and should protect your clothing. Your mother or older sister can help you learn how to correctly use these products.

Another concern you may have is how long your monthly period will last. This first period probably will last about four to eight days, although it may vary a few days more or less. For the next few months, as your body adjusts to this new cycle, your periods may not be regular. It's not uncommon to skip a month or two during the first year of menstruation. Usually within a year or two, a girl's monthly cycle will occur regularly and you can expect this to happen approximately every 28-30 days.

If you do experience cramping, headache, or backache during your first period, you can expect it to subside within a day or two. There are over-the-counter medications you can take to ease the symptoms. Pain relievers may help, but there are also medications formulated especially for menstrual discomfort. A hot water bottle may help relieve cramps as well.

After beginning menstruation, you might want to keep a change of clothing and underwear in your locker at school. This could be helpful in the event of any accidents involving stained clothing from leakage during your period. Always keep a supply of pads or tampons on hand as well so you will be prepared.

Speak with your mom or an older female relative about menstruation who can offer guidance. Also, if you are uncertain of what to expect from the first menstruation, there are resources, such as guides and booklets, available for you to read. Check with your local library for reading material. You might also want to ask your health teacher at school for reading material that can prepare you.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On May 21, 2014

I wish, as soon as my periods stabilized, I'd started using tampons. I didn't really do it until I was a senior in high school. Tampons just make life easier, and I would pass that on to any girl just starting her periods. Don't be afraid of tampons. Use the kind with the plastic applicators, and use the lowest absorbency that handles your flow.

If you're changing tampons more than once every three or four hours, up the absorbency. Don't be afraid to talk to your mom about this. It sounds weird, but one of the "rites of passage" is that you and your mom or your girlfriends will soon start talking about this stuff as a committee. That's just the way it is. However, you can learn a lot from these hen parties, so listen well.

By Grivusangel — On May 20, 2014

And then there are girls who have menarche when they're 10. So much fun. One good reason for a girl to talk to her mom in depth about the subject is because her periods will probably be fairly similar to her mom's. Mine were. My sister was more "average." She didn't have severe cramps and her periods lasted about five days. My cramps were debilitating and my periods lasted eight days. My mom was the same way.

If a girl's mom had severe cramps, for the love of all that's holy, lay in a supply of Naproxen, if she can take it. That's the *only* over the counter drug that even touches my cramps.

Take two Naproxen at the first twinge. It's way easier to stay ahead of the pain than to have to sneak up on it. Heating pads are helpful, too. I also have had severe lower back pain, but that at least usually eased once I sat down.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

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