The world of periods and menstruating can be weird, wild, and wonderful. You might think you know what to expect when it comes to your teen's first period, but you both might be surprised when the moment arises. Some teens might suddenly find themselves dealing with a very heavy first period. Sound familiar? Keep reading to find out why your teen is experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding and what you can do about it.
What to expect for your teen's first period
Most people get their first period, also known as the “menarche,” between the ages of 12 and 15.
When your teen starts going through puberty, their body begins to ready itself for reproduction (i.e. making and having babies). Before they get their period, they'll start noticing other physical changes, such as growing breast buds or body hair on their legs, pubic area, and underarms. They might even notice some whitish or yellowish vaginal discharge showing up in their underwear in the six months leading up to their first period. To learn more about discharge, click here!
When their menstrual cycle begins, a hormone called estrogen begins to increase in their body. This causes the lining of the uterus to thicken so that it can support a fertilized egg and accommodate pregnancy.
If there isn’t a fertilized egg, the lining of the uterus breaks down and exits the body through the vagina. This is known as the period.
Is it normal that my teen's first period is heavy?
Many girls and people with vaginas experience heavy bleeding the first time around, so it’s not entirely unusual. Remember: Every menstrual cycle is unique, and the amount of bleeding can vary from person to person.
The reason your teen might experience heavy menstrual bleeding is because the uterus is shedding the built-up lining that has been accumulating for some time. Many adolescents don’t ovulate during their first few periods, which means that menstruation occurs as a way for the body to get rid of the uterine lining. This can lead to heavy bleeding and longer menstruation cycles for the first couple of cycles. The uterine lining isn’t always just blood—sometimes it can be thick chunks, leading to a period that feels (and looks) heavier than normal.
“[Periods] might be a little bit heavier and might last a little bit longer than usual. This is very common the first three to five years after periods start,” explains Kimberly S. Huhmann, M.D., pediatric and adolescent gynecologist at Norton Children’s Gynecology.
What causes a heavy first period?
Heavy bleeding can be caused by a number of factors. As we mentioned above, sometimes the first period is heavy because the uterine lining that’s being shed is thicker than it normally would be as it has been building up for a while.
Other factors that could contribute to a heavier period include imbalanced hormones, a poor diet heavy in salt and fat, and certain medications that act as blood thinners. These can all contribute to a heavy first period.
If your teen is experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding and is worried about period leaks at school, here are some tips on how they can avoid these accidents.
When should I be worried about my teen's heavy period?
Think your teen's heavy periods are a cause for concern? We hear your worries.
Oftentimes, heavy periods are just a one-off experience, but sometimes, a heavy period is a sign that something else is wrong. If your teen's menstrual bleeding is partnered with extreme cramps and severe pain that continue past their first period, or if their period lasts for more than seven days, it might be time to see a doctor. Heavy bleeding during every period could be a symptom of something serious that requires medical attention.
Lots of factors can contribute to ongoing heavy periods, including hormonal imbalances, stress, certain medications such as some antidepressants or forms of birth control or underlying medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, polyps (growths on the uterine lining) or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
If your teen has anemia, or has a history of bleeding excessively after surgeries, or your family has a history of bleeding disorders, your teen should see a doctor if they are noticing heavy menstrual bleeding during their first period.
What is considered "too heavy"?
If your teen is fully bleeding through a tampon or pad in less than two hours for a full day, it may be time to reach out to a medical professional. When abnormal menstrual bleeding is left unaddressed for too long, it could lead to anemia, a bleeding disorder that could make your teen feel weak and tired.
If your teen isn't bleeding through their pad or tampon every two hours, but they are experiencing prolonged menstrual bleeding that lasts more than seven days, don't hesitate to see a doctor. Prolonged menstrual bleeding could be a sign of hormone imbalance that could affect your teen's quality of life.
Remember: When in doubt, ask for help if you notice any symptoms of abnormal menstrual bleeding. If you’re feeling concerned about the heaviness or length of your teen's period, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your teen deserves to feel confident, comfortable, and at peace with their menstrual period.
Did your teen just experience a heavy first period?
Sometimes, a heavy first period is totally normal. For many girls and menstruating people, a heavy first period is a sign that they haven’t ovulated yet (which is totally normal for many adolescents) and simply means their body is just shedding more uterine lining than normal.
However, a heavy first period can be a sign that something else is going on in their body.
If your teen is bleeding heavily with every period or having prolonged bleeding lasting more than seven days and they're experiencing painful menstrual cramps at the same time, it could be a sign of abnormal menstrual bleeding, which could lead to bleeding disorders like anemia. It is considered excessive bleeding if your teen is bleeding through a tampon or pad in less than two hours for a full day. If this is this case, it's time to consult a doctor.
Heavy menstrual periods can be caused by excessive uterine lining for the first few months. It can also be affected by stress, diet, and certain medications such as birth control pills. To maintain a healthy menstrual cycle, make sure your teen is staying active, eating healthy, whole foods, and keeping hydrated.
Remember: Periods vary from month to month. Even if your teen had a heavy first period, their next one could be much lighter.
Want to know more about teen periods?
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