Getting Your First Period: A How-To Guide

First periods can be a tricky topic, but they don't have to be. We're here to help prepare you for puberty and the signs and symptoms of your first period. 

Having your period is a very normal but nerve-wracking part of growing up. It's totally understandable if you're feeling worried or scared before you've had your first period–after all, this is a brand new experience. 

Consider talking to someone you trust to guide you through your questions, such as how to use a tampon. If you're feeling shy, keep reading for some tips on how to handle your first period, and download our free period guide for even more information.

What is a period?

Menstrual cycles are part of the natural process of a body preparing for pregnancy. Your ovaries release an egg each month and if that egg isn’t fertilized, the lining of your uterus will shed and that is why you bleed.

Your first period is called a “menarche.” This comes from the Greek word “men,”  meaning month, and “arkhe,” meaning beginning. A lot of people, places, and publications use different words and euphemisms to talk about the menstrual cycle. If you see any of thesetime of the month, shark week, Aunt Flo, on the ragthey’re usually discussing your period.

Click here to learn more about other period slang and euphemisms, and why we don't like to use them. 

Signs your period is coming and symptoms you may experience on your period

Bodies go through some major changes when puberty hits–like getting your first period. However, there are a ton of other hormonal changes that will happen around this time too. If you’re unsure of when your first period is coming and want to get a better idea, here are some signs to look out for.

Signs

1) Breasts: Breasts will typically be the first hint that puberty is starting. They can take up to four years to fully develop. Your period usually comes one to two years after breasts begin developing.

2) Pubic Hair: Around the same time as your breasts start growing, you will most likely start to grow pubic hair. Your period should arrive one or two years after you start to grow pubic hair. 

3) Discharge: Vaginal discharge (which is white or yellowish in color and completely normal) means your period is on its way! If you’re noticing some new substances in your underwear that’s definitely thicker than pee, no need to panic. This is a sign from your body that changes are happening, and your period will most likely start in a few months.

Symptoms

Every body is different, and, therefore, so is everyone’s reaction to their period. Lots of people who get periods experience mild to intense cramps in their lower abdomen or back, or sometimes both. If you do feel them, there are many ways of relieving the pain, both natural and with medication. Try exercising, take ibuprofen or Motrin (talk to your parent/guardian before doing this), or herbal remedies. 

There’s also premenstrual syndrome– also known as PMS. PMS can involve uncomfortable bloating before or during your period, tender or swollen breasts, and irritability/ mood swings. It can also take the shape of cravings– for sweets like chocolate, or salty treats. Everyone's experience is different however, and you might not even experience PMS until well into your teens or early adult years. 

Typically, once your period starts, your tender breasts and bloating will go away. Physical symptoms aside, you may experience sudden mood swings. Suddenly, everything bothers you and you don’t know why, or you might find yourself more tired or emotional than usual, tearing up at random things, and crying over commercials. You’re not losing it–it’s all natural, really.

When will I get my first period?

While we can't give you a specific answer, we can provide a time frame. After you have all the signs of puberty (breasts, pubic hair, and discharge), it is normal for your first period to start. People can get their first period as early as 8 years old and or as late as 16 years old. (The average age for is 11 to 14 years old.) For more information on when you will get your first period, read hereIf you're worried that it hasn't arrived yet, talk to your doctor about the concerns you have.

Extra reading: Can you make your period come faster?

What will my first period look like?

When you first get your period, it will most likely be brownish-red. It might come as a shock to see blood in your panties for the first time, but rest assured that you’re not dying–it’s totally normal. Your flow won’t be very heavy at this time, so a light period or spotting is fairly common for your first period. Click here for more info on the color of period blood and what it means.

How long will it last and how much blood do I lose?

A person’s first period typically won't last very long. It may be very light, and it's very common for your cycle to be somewhat irregular for the first year or two.Your body is adjusting to a new normal. After this stage, periods typically last from three to seven days.

It might look like you’re losing a lot of blood, but it’s usually only a few teaspoons at the beginning and around three to five tablespoons once you’ve been menstruating for a few years.

Remember: This is your uterine wall shedding, so in addition to liquid blood, you may experience a few “chunks.” These are blood clots and they are totally normal. If you experience watery grey discharge or bleed for longer than seven days, be sure to consult a family doctor.

How often will I get my period?

A typical menstrual cycle is 28 days long, but this can vary from person to person and it is normal for yours to be irregular for the first few years.

There are many ways of tracking your period. You can mark it on your calendar, download Kt's printable period tracker or use a period tracker app. Click here for our blog post all about the best tracking apps.

Will anyone know I am on my period?

Nope! That is, unless you tell them. The best way to avoid period leaks is by having a period emergency kit on hand. (Or  make sure you’re wearing a pair of period underwear for teens.)

Kt by Knix makes leakproof period panties that can save you from a potentially messy moment, and help you feel more comfortable about getting your period especially if you’re nervous about the first time. Our period panties are available in a variety of absorbency levels, including SUPER. They're about to be your period BFF. 

Remember, your period is a natural part of life – it may feel strange at first, but over time, as you start to feel more comfortable, you'll know exactly what to do.

Disclaimer: Everyone is different, so if you have questions or concerns, please contact your doctor.

To download the guide in Canada, click here.

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