I’m 16 and My Period Hasn’t Started. What Do I Do?

The first step is not to panic. Read on to learn more about late periods and what to do.

If you’re 16 and haven’t had a period yet, you’re probably wondering what exactly is going on with your body. Especially if all your classmates have gotten their menstrual period, you might be feeling left out, or left behind. This is completely understandable. But first menstrual periods aren't like clockwork and everyone gets theirs at a different time. If you’re still waiting for yours to start, here's what you need to know.

Teen wearing rainbow period underwear

16 year old hasn't started period - What should I do?

It's important to remember that even if the situation is a bit worrying, it's not something to panic over just yet. If you haven’t had a first period by the age of 16, you may have a condition called primary amenorrhea, which is defined by an absence of menstrual cycles despite the presence of other normal signs of puberty. (Primary amenorrhea is different than secondary amenorrhea, the term for a person who has already had a period not getting one for three months or longer.)

Try your best not to stress yourself out, as stress will only make your problems worse. You might feel confused because you don’t know what’s happening with your body and there are so many questions running through your head. But remember: things will work themselves out eventually if you give them enough time, and there are professionals who can help.

Book an appointment with your primary care doctor, who can help you figure out what is going on. And in the meantime, take care of yourself by exercising, eating healthy foods and doing plenty of self-care.

Teen wearing rainbow period underwear

How late is too late to start your period?

According to WebMD, by age 15, 98% of teens have started their periods. If you're a girl or non-binary person who is 16 years old and hasn't gotten her (or their) period, there are many reasons why this may be the case.

It’s possible that you have a hormone imbalance, or may have mental barriers like stress, or physical barriers like being underweight, that are preventing you from getting a first period.

It might also be the case that you're pregnant. You might not know if you are pregnant yet because it takes 7 days after sex for pregnancy to show up on a home pregnancy test—and some doctors advise waiting until your period is late by 2 weeks before taking one.

Talking to a doctor

However if none of these situations apply to you, you’re going to want to talk to your doctor to figure out what is going on. Primary and secondary amenorrhea are serious conditions that should be diagnosed quickly. They will ask you questions to determine the potential causes of your lack of menstrual cycle. In the meantime, try not to worry yourself too much about it.

Back view of rainbow period underwear

Why do some teens get their periods later than others?

There are three main factors that can affect when a girl or AFAB person’s menstrual cycle starts: genetics, weight, and physical activity. While the exact timing of your period depends on your body and how it develops, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

Key considerations:

  1. First off, if you have a close family member who started their period late, for example around the age of 16 years old, then chances are good that this is normal for you too.

  2. Genetics also play an important role in determining whether a person goes through puberty early or late. Taller girls tend to start earlier than shorter ones; those who exercise regularly tend to reach puberty later than those who don’t, and teenagers who are overweight tend to reach puberty earlier than those who aren’t.

  3. Being aware of these factors can help parents understand why some girls develop faster or slower than others.

Teen wearing rainbow period underwear

Should I talk to my doctor about starting my menstrual cycle?

Absolutely yes. It is important to talk to your doctor about your concerns. Your doctor can help you understand what's going on with your body and diagnose you with any potential conditions that may be preventing your first period from arriving.

Your doctor is always ready to help you understand what's going on with your body. If your period hasn't started, or if you're having other problems with menstruation, visit your doctor for an exam and some tests. Your doctor can help you manage any symptoms that might be bothering you. They'll also be able to tell whether there is an underlying medical condition causing these issues.

Your doctor will likely ask you questions about:

  1. Your medical history, including any past illnesses or other conditions

  2. Any physical activity or exercise you do, such as sports or dance classes

  3. Your diet and eating habits

Teen wearing rainbow period underwear

How can I manage the symptoms that come with starting my period?

The first step to managing your menstrual periods is to be prepared. Make sure you know how to insert a tampon before your period arrives, and learn more about period kits and how to make your own period emergency kit.

If you experience the moodiness of PMS take deep breaths and practice mindfulness. Once you get your period it’s a good idea to take a hot bath or relax in bed with a heating pad under your back; both of these can help relieve cramps.

Doing healthy things like eating well, getting enough sleep, and staying away from stressors will all help you feel better during your period.

Teen wearing rainbow period underwear

Next steps if you're concerned about primary amenorrhea

Your doctor is always ready to help you understand what's going on with your body. The best thing you can do is make an appointment and talk to them about what's happening with your menstrual cycles. You want to get your amenorrhea diagnosed right away. They can give you advice on how to manage any physical problems, like cramping or headaches. And if they think it's something serious, they'll be able to help you figure out what needs more attention right away.

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