First period- Things to expect

Did you know in some parts of India the first period of a girl is celebrated like an auspicious occasion?

Almost every one of us has first heard about periods from television advertisements. 

Isn’t it?

And oh my god! I still can’t forget the curiosity about what that blue liquid was.

I am sure every kid has experienced this inquisitiveness from then and there only.

Periods are an important milestone of a female’s life. It is a transition period where you are on your way to becoming an adult.

The first period can be overwhelming for girls who are not prepared.

So to prepare you, this section is designed to give all the information you need as you approach getting your period for the first time.

Why do periods happen?

As girls get older, their body change and they begin to have their menstrual cycles.

The uterus is a part inside the body where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant.

The inner lining of the uterus supports and nourishes the developing baby. If there is no baby the lining is shed during her period.

During menstruation, blood and tissue from the uterus leave the body through the vagina.

You may have heard about the menstrual cycle, this is the time from one period to another. 

A menstrual cycle is usually of 28 days. Day 1 of the cycle is your first day of the period.

Eggs are released from a woman’s ovaries, they are super tiny, probably one-tenth the size of a poppy seed.

A woman has two ovaries, one on each side. The fallopian tubes leave from each ovary to the uterus.

In the middle of the menstrual cycle that is around day 14, one of the ovaries releases an egg. This process is known as ovulation.

After ovulation, the egg travels down the fallopian tube. It takes a few days to complete this journey.

Meanwhile, the lining of the uterus gradually gets thicker so can support the development of a fertilised egg.

If the egg is fertilised it will implant in the uterus and the woman is said to be pregnant.

If the egg is not fertilised, a woman is not pregnant and the egg will begin to dissolve.

As the woman is not pregnant the lining of the uterus is not needed and it is shed in the form of monthly periods and the cycle begins again.

When will I get my first period?

Waiting for your first period is a weird time. You are probably excited and impatient for it to start especially if some of your friends have started theirs but also a little nervous or scared about what it will be like.

Isn’t it?

There is no way to exactly predict when you will get your first period because actually there is no fixed age. 

Most girls start their periods between the age of 10-14.

Usually, it is said that two years after you see the first signs of puberty, you can expect your first period to come.

You don’t have to panic if your friends have started menstruating earlier than you or you have started menstruating earlier than your friends. Either way, it is absolutely right.

What are the signs before starting my first period?

There are some signs which indicate that your first period is near. However, due to lack of awareness we fail to notice these and often the period comes to us as a shock.

Here are some noticeable changes that occur before your first period arrives.

Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Well, this term may sound unfamiliar to you but by definition, it is nothing but a set of symptoms that occur before menstruation (as the name suggests).

Symptoms of PMS include

  1. PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Backaches or muscle pain
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Constipation
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Fluid retention and weight gain
  • Painful uterine cramps 
  • Headaches
  • Food cravings (especially for salty or sweet foods)
  • Acne breakout
  • Low energy or fatigue

      2. BEHAVIOURAL/ PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Aggressiveness 
  • Increased appetite
  • Forgetfulness
  • Changes in sexual desires
  • Tense or anxious
  • Emotional outbursts 
  • Insomnia or sleeping for more than 15 hours a day
  • Feeling of loneliness
  • Less concentration

Other changes that happen before the first period are as follows.

  • Breast size increases
  • Hair starts growing all over your body
  • Clear or white vaginal discharge
  • Abdominal pain
  • Light brown or red spotting 

[Read more: What is PMS? Complete guide]

If you notice these symptoms, it is better to discuss them with your parents and prepare your period kit.

You are supposed to carry this period kit every time you step out of your house for school, shopping, vacation etc.

The period kit will help you to deal with the unexpected arrival of your first period when you are out of your home.

Things to keep in your period kit

  • Sanitary pads
  • Extra underwear
  • Tissue paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Polybag 
  • Painkiller for period cramps

Which period product should I use?

You have four options to choose from

1. Sanitary pads

FIrst period- sanitary pads

You must have seen these in TV advertisements. Sanitary pads stick on the inner surface of your underwear and absorb the menstrual blood. It comes with wings so that it stays in place.

Ask your mother to give you a demo of how that works.

It comes in a variety of sizes and thickness.

Not sure how to choose the right sanitary pad for yourself?

[Check this: Best sanitary pads for teenagers]

2. Tampons

first period- tampons

Tampons look something as shown in the image above. 

It needs to be inserted into the vagina. It may come with or without an applicator. 

Tampons absorb the menstrual blood before it even comes out of your body.

3. Menstrual cups

first period- menstrual cup

Menstrual cups are a hygiene product for females that are to be used during their periods.

Unlike pads and tampons, a menstrual cup does not absorb, rather it collects the menstrual blood.

They have to be inserted into the vagina where they collect menstrual blood. After the cup gets filled you can take it out, throw the blood in the toilet, rinse the cup, and put it right back in your vagina.

Menstrual cups are reusable and can be used for up to 10 years.

It is made of medical-grade silicone which is safe to use.

[Read more: Beginner’s guide for using a menstrual cup]

4. Period panties

first period- period panties

Period panties are a special type of underwear that absorbs menstrual blood. Its fabric is such that it can be easily washed, doesn’t get stained and can be reused.

It can also be worn with pads or menstrual cups for extra protection against leakage.

Each of the products has its own pros and cons. 

Having said that, I think that for a beginner sanitary pads are the best option to start with because a menstrual cup and tampon needs practice and more than practice you should be mentally prepared. Many grown-up girls and women still feel sceptical about using cups and tampons. So personally, I feel sanitary pads will work for you as a beginner and slowly when you get used to the period game you can switch to any product.

How can I get relief from cramps?

The worst thing about periods is cramps.

However, cramps are inevitable so you should know few tips that can help you to relieve period cramps.

  • Apply a hot water bag to your abdomen
  • Exercise during periods
  • Over the counter painkillers
  • Massage your tummy with essential oils
  • Ask your mum to make herbal tea for you that soothes pain
  • Eat healthy food
  • Avoid foods that are too salty, spicy or sweet

[Read more: 7 Home remedies to cure period cramps fast]

How much blood will I lose?

According to Healthline on average, a girl loses between 30-50 ml, or two to three tablespoon of blood during her periods. 

Although the first few periods are going to be lighter and slowly it will become heavier.

As a newbie, you must also know what a heavy period is?

How heavy is normal and when should you ask for help?

Different girls experience different types of flow but if you experience any of these symptoms, know that it’s time to go for a doctor’s checkup.

  • You are changing pads very frequently 
  • You are passing clots
  • You are experiencing painful periods 
  • You are constantly feeling dizzy
  • Your body shows signs of iron deficiency
  • You are bleeding for more than 10 days

These are symptoms of menorrhagia (heavy periods). It is important to address these issues because they may indicate some other problems related to your menstrual health.

[Read more: What you need to know about heavy periods, 8 ways to manage a heavy period flow]

How long will my first period last?

Your first period may last somewhere between 2- 8 days. It varies from person to person so don’t compare your period days with your friend’s periods.

Will I have periods forever?

No, you are not going to have periods for the rest of your life but certainly, you are going to have it for long.

The onset of periods is called menarche (happens between 10-14 years of age).

The end of the periods is called menopause (happens between 45-55 years of age).

See, the ovaries contain a fixed number of eggs.

Once, a girl hits puberty, each month one egg is released by one of the ovaries. This process goes on till the eggs in the ovary finishes. 

So once eggs are finished, a woman is said to undergo menopause, which happens around the age of 45-55. This embarks the end of her menstrual journey.

Once a woman has undergone menopause she can no longer get pregnant. 

What if my clothes get stained?

Before I tell you what you can do, I just want to let you know that leaks are common and believe me when I say this, every girl has gone through this situation. You don’t need to feel ashamed or bad about it.

So moving on to stains, if you are at home change your clothes and wash them as soon as possible with detergent and cold water.

If you are at school, ask for help from your teachers. Most schools keep extra skirts just in case any girl ends up in this situation. 

Trust your teachers, they have been trained for these situations and they will guide you. 

Can I play sports or do swimming while on my period?

Of course, you can play. Periods does mean you are handicapped.

In Fact, you should remain as active as you can during periods.

Talking about swimming, you can do it but not if you are using a sanitary pad.

If you are using a menstrual cup or a tampon then of course you can go for swimming as well.

Can other people tell that I am on my period?

No, just be seeing you nobody will know that you are on your period because no menstrual product can be seen from outside.

Having said that, leaving your sanitary pads unchanged for several hours can result in a bad smell that is noticeable from outside.

You should change your sanitary pads every 4-6 hours.

Menstrual hygiene is must once you start having your periods.

[Read more: 7 Tips to maintain menstrual hygiene]

When will I get my next period?

During the initial years expect irregular periods. Your body will take time to get used to hormones and regulate your menstrual cycle.

Typically a menstrual cycle is of 28-35 days, again different for different girls.

The first day of your period is the first day of your menstrual cycle.

So you should get your periods within 28-35 days after the first day of your last period.

Also, observe symptoms of PMS, it usually indicates that your periods are coming.

Keep your period kit ready with you.

Always! 

You might try some period tracker app. I will list some of them below.

How should I prepare for my first period?

  • The first thing you need to do is prepare yourself mentally.
  • Get some knowledge about what to expect during periods.
  • Prepare your period kit.
  • Make two-period kits, one for your school bag and one for another bag which you probably take outside. 
  • Do not panic when you finally see some red spot on your underwear. 
  • Never forget to take your period kit to school. 

To know more about managing periods at school,

[Read this: 5 Tips to manage periods at school]

Is pregnancy possible?

The whole point behind the menstrual cycle is pregnancy. 

It is very much possible to get pregnant once a girl starts having her periods.

When to see a doctor?

Here are some symptoms that call out for a doctor’s visit. Do not hesitate to tell your parents if you observe any of these abnormalities.

  • You are 15 and yet not started having your periods.
  • You have had your period for about two years and it is still irregular.
  • You are having extremely painful periods which restricts you from doing any activity.
  • Your flow is so heavy that you have to change your pads every one to two hours.
  • You are bleeding in between your periods.
  • Your periods are longer than 8 days.

Conclusion

Waiting for your first period can be exciting, scary or both. 

Don’t stress yourself too much because you are going to be alright. We all have learned from our mistakes and experiences and so will you do. 

This is an important milestone and you will get through it.

Just keep your knowledge updated, be vigilant and observe the signs and symptoms your body is giving and you will be perfectly alright.

Lots of love and wishes as you awaits your womanhood.

I hope this will help you in some way.

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