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Getting your period is an exciting milestone, but it can also be kind of scary. Don’t freak out—here’s what you need to know.
Step 1: Know the basics
Somewhere between 8 and 14, you’ll start to go through puberty, a process where your body matures. If you’re a girl, part of puberty is getting your period, also known as menstruation. Once a month, your uterus will shed a mix of blood and tissue that will exit your body through your vagina. On average, a period lasts for 3 to 7 days each month.
Everyone’s different, so you may be older or younger than the average age range when you first start menstruating. Your period may also last for a slightly longer or shorter time.
Step 2: Understand the cycle
Each month, your ovaries release an egg that travels through your fallopian tubes to your uterus. While this is happening, the lining of your uterus thickens. If a sperm fertilizes the egg, it can attach itself to that thickened lining and begin to grow into a baby. If the egg isn’t fertilized, there’s no need for the extra lining, so your body sheds it.
The first day of your period also counts as Day 1 of your menstrual cycle, which usually lasts between 28 and 30 days, but can take as many as 45 days.
Step 3: Watch for physical signs
Be on the lookout for physical signs. If you’ve started developing breasts, curves, & pubic hair, your period isn’t far away. In the days leading up to it, you might start experiencing discomfort: stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, bloating, headaches, or mood swings. These are all completely normal symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, and may also continue during your period.
Common over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen can reduce the symptoms of PMS.
Step 4: Get some supplies
Once you have an inkling the big event is on its way, start carrying some thin maxi pads, pantiliners, or tampons—and a spare pair of underwear—with you wherever you go.
Using a tampon for the first time can be tricky. Don’t be afraid to ask an adult or an older friend about it before trying to insert one.
Step 5: Know how to recognize it
When your period finally arrives, it may be a lot less dramatic than you expected. You’ll probably see some light spotting—just a few drops of blood—or a brown stain in your underwear.
Mark the start and end of your period on a calendar. After a few months, you’ll be able to measure how long your cycle is—and predict within a day or two when your next one will start.
Step 6: Avoid swimming
Unless you use tampons, avoid swimming. Maxi pads are designed to absorb liquid, so they swell like a balloon the minute they hit the ocean or pool.
Step 7: Talk to someone
Don’t hesitate to get any lingering questions answered by talking to someone you’re comfortable with. Your mom, a close female friend or relative, a school nurse or counselor, or even one of your parents’ friends can provide great help and guidance.
Did You Know?
Girls usually weigh a minimum of 100 pounds before they start menstruating.