First periods: at what age do they arrive? How do you manage them?

The arrival of the first period is often seen as a major milestone in a young woman's life. Their arrival can raise a lot of questions in pre-adolescent children, and this is perfectly normal, although it's nothing to worry about.

What is the first period?

From puberty onwards, between the ages of 10 and 16, the cycle is set in motion, causing menstruation to appear. The first menstrual flow generally occurs two years after the development of breasts and the appearance of body hair. Puberty is a gradual process, so don 't compare yourself to others- every body is different!

The 1st menstrual period corresponds to the start of bleeding from the uterus. On average, they last between 3 and 7 days, depending on the woman.
On average, they occur every 28 days, for about forty years, until the menopause. When your period arrives, it means you're fertile and can get pregnant!

What is the average age at which I start menstruating?

There's no precise age, set for all women, at which menstruation begins. However, the figures are between 10 and 16 years of age, and the average is around 12. It can happen much earlier, as early as 8-9 for some girls, and much later for others (up to 16). Everyone goes at their own pace, and there's no need to worry. On the other hand, if by the age of 17 you still haven't had your period, you may want to consult your doctor to make sure that all is well.

There are a number of factors that can influence when your period arrives:

  • diet
  • physical activity
  • genetics
  • body mass
  • ethnicity
  • geographic location
  • certain pathologies

Please note that there is also infant bleeding, also known as metrorrhagia. This is bleeding that occurs at birth, generally at the start of sex hormone secretion. These flows are weak and short, and are not the first period!

How can I tell if my first period is coming soon?

It's impossible to know exactly when your period will arrive. The arrival of menstruation for the 1st time is often preceded by other changes, such as breast development and hair growth. It takes about a year for the breasts to reach their definitive size. Menstruation generally starts two years after breast development. Hair growth appears on the legs, armpits and pubic area.

Another early sign of their arrival is the appearance of white vaginal discharge. In fact, a few weeks or months before, you may notice white traces at the bottom of your panties. This discharge, also known as leucorrhoea, cleans and lubricates the vagina.

Finally, pain in the lower abdomen a few days before may be a sign of their imminent arrival! When in doubt, wear menstrual panties as a preventive measure: they can also be used as conventional underwear.

Which sanitary protection should I choose for my first period?

There are many different types of sanitary protection, all with their own advantages and disadvantages.

  • External devices such as disposable pads, reusable pads, panty liners or menstrual pants.
  • Internal devices such as tampons and the cup. These may be of interest if you're a swimmer or need/want to bathe, but they carry a higher risk of developing toxic shock. What's more, teenagers are sometimes less comfortable with their bodies than adults when it comes to using tampons or cups.

Generally speaking, disposable solutions contain numerous chemical substances that are harmful to health. It's important to choose protection that's respectful of your body and safe for your intimate area, since the latter is very sensitive to external factors that can upset its balance.

Also, when it comes to choosing sanitary protection for the 1st time, we can only recommend menstrual panties. Choose certified organic cotton, which is gentle on your intimate area and highly breathable. You can wear them for up to 12 hours, depending on your menstrual flow.

How do I tell someone about my first period?

Menstruation shouldn't be a taboo subject. It's a natural phenomenon that occurs in all women, and it's normal to talk about it openly.

You can talk about it with your family or someone you trust, whether it's your sister, brother, father, mother, aunt, your girlfriends or boyfriends, or even the nurse at your secondary school.

In all cases: feel free to talk about it, to women and men alike. It's a subject that affects everyone, from near and far. And half the population has been through it!

How do you deal with the first period at school?

It can sometimes seem complicated to manage school and the onset of periods: often, the first cycles are rather anarchic: you don't really know when they're going to arrive, and you want to avoid blood stains on your pants or chair at all costs! In this case, you can keep a sanitary protection of your choice in your bag, or wear menstrual panties as a preventive measure.
If your period arrives and you have nothing to protect yourself, don't hesitate to ask the nurse or a teacher to provide you with disposable protection. Once again, bleeding is nothing to be ashamed of: it's normal.

We answer your frequently asked questions about the first period!

How long does my first period last?

On average, the flow lasts from 3 to 7 days. This depends on the month, as several factors can affect their duration. As a general rule, the first two or three years of menstruation are rather irregular, whether in terms of appearance, duration or flow.

When will my next period arrive?

As the first few months/years after the onset of your period are complicated to predict, we encourage you to download a cycle-tracking application or to note the date of your period to predict when your next one will arrive. The average female cycle lasts 28 days, and between 21 and 35 days (depending on the individual). If they're late or early in the first few months, that's normal, but don't worry: the body isn't like a clock, especially at the beginning when the cycle is regulating itself. On the other hand, if you've had a risky sexual encounter and your period is taking a long time to arrive, it's a good idea to take a pregnancy test.

PMS, or pre-menstrual syndrome, can also help you to know when your period is due to arrive, since symptoms such as chest pain, stomach cramps, fatigue and irritability appear a few days before it does.

Is it normal to feel pain?

Pain is often most severe in early adolescence, as menstrual cycles become established. Most often, they are characterized by cramps in the lower abdomen and back, but you may also experience headaches, sensitive breasts and digestive problems.

It's common to feel some discomfort during menstrual losses, but they should never prevent you from living your life normally, going to school or working.
If you feel too much pain, talk to your doctor to find out what's causing it.
Some natural remedies can help you get through this period better, such as herbal teas, a hot water bottle, regulating your stress or adapting your diet. You can also carry painkillers in your bag to relieve symptoms.

Pain is not normal!

Do periods smell bad?

Blood has a metallic smell, but it's almost imperceptible. In fact, it's the use of sanitary products containing chemicals (disposable tampons and pads), or leaving them unchanged for a long time, that causes bad odours. If you use good sanitary solutions that don't contain chemicals and let the intimate area breathe, along with proper feminine hygiene, there won't be any odor.

Can I continue to play sports?

Of course you can! Having your period doesn't mean you're sick, and you can go on living your life as you please. On the contrary: sport has very good benefits, especially against menstrual cramps, since it provides endorphins and helps oxygenate the muscles.

Do I need to consult a doctor?

If you've just had your period, there's no need to consult your doctor. However, you should consult your GP or make an appointment with a gynaecologist if you are experiencing symptoms such as :

  • particularly long, heavy periods (lasting more than 7 days for more than 3 months), which can be regularized by taking the pill
  • extreme pain not relieved by anti-inflammatory medication
  • if your cycles are not regular after 2 years
  • bleeding between periods
  • if you lose large blood clots
  • pain in the lower abdomen and pelvic area, unrelated to your measurements
  • if you haven't had a menstrual bleed for 6 consecutive months.

Finally, don't hesitate to consult a healthcare professional if you have any questions or need advice.

First period FAQ

How do you deal with a girl's first period?

A girl's first period can often be a source of stress, but with some listening and the provision of sanitary protection, everything goes very smoothly.

What's the earliest age for menstruation?

Some girls start menstruating as early as 8 or 9. It really depends on the individual and on a whole host of factors. Perhaps you've already heard of infant menstruation. In reality, this has nothing to do with real menstruation: it's just a vaginal discharge following the establishment of the hormonal axis, a week after birth.

Is it normal to menstruate at 11?

There's no normal age for menstruation: some girls start at 10, while others start at 16.

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