Your first menstrual period is called menarche (say "MEN-ar-kee").
It usually starts sometime between ages 11 and 14.1
But it can happen as early as age 9 or as late as 15. If you are a teenage
girl, see your doctor if you have not started having periods by age 15.
Menarche is a sign you are growing up and becoming a woman. Along with starting
your period, your body is changing. You've begun to develop breasts, pubic
hair, and underarm hair. And your hips have begun to widen. Menarche also means
that if you have sex, you can get pregnant. You can even get pregnant in the
month before your first period starts.
Starting your period
In the days before you start
your period, you may feel tense or emotional. You may gain water weight and
feel bloated. You may have pain (cramps) in your abdomen, back, or legs that
lasts a few hours or more. Your breasts may be tender, and your face may break
When you start your period, you'll notice a spot of blood on
your underwear or when you use the bathroom. The flow of blood from your vagina
is usually light at first and may get heavier for a few days before tapering
off. The blood may be a brownish color at first and then turn brighter red.
Your period will usually last 3 to 7 days each month.
mom, a doctor, or a woman you trust for advice on using feminine products for
the bleeding, such as tampons or pads. A tampon fits inside your vagina and is
good to use when swimming or doing other physical activities. A pad has
adhesive strips that help it stick to your underwear. You'll need to change
tampons and pads regularly. Having a period won't prevent you from doing any of
the activities you normally do. And no one will be able to tell when you're
If you have cramps with your period, regular
exercise, a heating pad, a warm bath, and
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as
ibuprofen or naproxen may help. If you are younger than 20, do not take aspirin. Aspirin raises the risk of
Reye syndrome, a disease that affects the brain and
liver. If these treatments don't help, talk to your doctor about prescription
For more information on managing menstrual cramps, see:
- Menstrual Cycle: Dealing With Cramps.
Your menstrual cycle
Your period is part of your
menstrual cycle, the time from the first day of your period to the first day of
the next period. A normal menstrual cycle for teenagers can be anywhere from 21 days to 45 days.2
For the first year or two, your cycle may not be regular and you may not have a period sometimes. If you are
underweight because of dieting or exercise, have a lot of stress in your life,
or are overweight, your periods may be hard to predict.