Wouldn’t it be great if you got a letter delivered to you that gave you notice: “Congratulations! Your first period is due to start next week on Wednesday at 5:30pm” so you could make sure you’d be home, have pads to hand, and someone to hold your hand or to celebrate with – or a good book to quietly snuggle up with under your duvet? You’d be prepared.
Seeing blood in your knickers for the first time can be a shock because until now blood has meant pain and that there’s something wrong. In time your monthly bleed can be a reassurance, your body’s way of showing that everything is right. It also reminds us that we are special. Girls and women who are menstruating can nurture life. Your first period is an important event – and a time to feel proud.
It is quite normal to feel a whole mixture of feelings when it comes – fear, excitement, nervous, unsure, embarrassed, proud, grown up, relief, tearful, happy. Some girls can’t wait to start, others are more reluctant. Whether you feel ready or not, it is good to make sure that you are a bit prepared. Get some pads and carry one in a little purse in your bag. Talk to older girls or women to find out about what to expect, or read about it.
When you start, if you don’t feel like telling your parents straight away, find someone else to talk to. You are joining a very large club – of all the girls and woman around the world who bleed monthly. It is the most natural thing in the world and lots of women remember what it was like to start and would want to support you.
You can have some idea of when your first period will come because it will be roughly two and a half years after the first signs of puberty. Anytime between eight and sixteen years old is normal and around thirteen is average. So if you first noticed breast buds at the age of ten, then you’re likely to be around twelve and a half when you have your first bleed.
The first time you may just find dark brown stains in your underwear or it may flow more and be bright red. We bleed only about two to three tablespoons of blood each month, the rest is lining shed from the uterus, which still only amounts to about a third of a cup (maximum one cup) dribbling out over 3 to 8 days. Although your period will end up coming monthly, sometimes you can have one and then not another one for a while, and it may take some time before it comes regularly.
You have a number of choices for how to catch the blood - reusable or disposable pads, tampons, and cups or sponges for the more adventurous. If you are caught out, you can always wrap toilet paper several times around your hand to make an absorbent wad to put in your underwear.
Many girls and women find their monthly bleed to be a good thing, a cleansing, creative time of knowing more clearly how they feel. Some experience cramping, or moodiness, and need to find out about what to eat and how to take care of themselves to ease this.
So, even without the letter giving you advance warning of your first period, you can still get yourself ready. Even if what you’d like to reply is, “Actually, Sunday afternoon at 3pm would be better.” or “I’d like to postpone to next year.” think about how you would like to celebrate your first period – it could be a special meal with family, or a gathering of close friends, or a private treat by yourself in your bedroom. It’s something to feel proud of.
Photo: 123RF by Ragnarocks