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Info For Teens

Your First Period

Getting your first period is a normal, healthy part of life. Here are some answers to common questions about your period.

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    When will I get my period?

    About half of girls get their periods by the age of 12, and half are older.

    There may be signs to tell you when youíre about to get your first period. But no one can tell you exactly when your period will start. One day, you'll begin to bleed from your vagina. It will be your period ó the first of many you will have in the course of your life. It's a sign that you're growing up and it means that your body is healthy and normal.

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    Why do I get a period?

    Girls have two ovaries. Each one holds hundreds of thousands of very tiny eggs. Each one is smaller than the head of a pin. Girls are born with all the eggs they will ever have. An ovary releases one egg about once a month. This is called ovulation.

    The egg moves through a tube toward the uterus. Most of the time, the egg breaks apart before it gets to the uterus. But that doesn't always happen. If a sperm from a man's penis meets the egg on its way to the uterus, they can join together. The joining of an egg and a sperm is called fertilization. Pregnancy begins if a fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus.

    Before the egg is let go, the uterus begins building up a lining. It is made of tissue and blood like almost everything else inside us. The lining is like a nest for the egg if pregnancy happens. If it doesn't happen, the egg breaks apart, and the lining of tissue and blood isn't needed. It flows out of your uterus, through your cervix, through your vagina, and out of your body. This is called menstrual flow. When this happens to you, itís called ďhaving your periodĒ.

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    How long will my period last?

    Periods usually last from three to seven days. The number of days can change from month to month. The heaviness and color of the menstrual flow often change from the beginning to the end of the period.

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    How often will I have my period?

    Eventually you will have a period about once a month, although most teens don't get their periods regularly at first. The menstrual cycle can be as short as 21 days or longer than 35.  For most girls, itís between 25 and 30 days long. Changes from month to month are also normal. Some months you may have no period, especially during the first year or two. Your health can make a difference. Too much exercise or very strict dieting, for example, can use up all your body fat. You might not have periods if that happens. Stress can make a difference, too.

    Many girls mark the days they bleed on a calendar. Keeping a calendar will help you predict when you will bleed again. It will help you know when you are going to need sanitary pads or tampons. Also, you'll be able to know if your period is late or early. And you'll have a record if you need to see your health care provider about any health problem.

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    Will I feel weak when I lose blood during my period?

    No. Usually, there are only four to six tablespoons of blood in the whole flow. This is a small amount. The rest is bits of the unused lining and other fluids. By the time your period ends, the flow will have amounted to between half a cup and a full cup of liquid.

    Women who have a very heavy flow and change maxi pads or super tampons every few hours should see their health care provider.

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    How do I keep the flow from staining my clothes?

    Most women use either sanitary pads or tampons to absorb the flow. You can buy pads and tampons in drugstores or supermarkets. Every package has instructions in it. They come in different sizes and varieties. Some are for lighter flows, and some are for heavier flows.

    Pads stay in place by having a strip of adhesive on the back that sticks to the inside of your underwear. Tampons fit inside the vagina. The strong walls of the vagina hold them in place. They cannot get lost inside you and move to another part of your body. They stay inside your vagina until you remove them. Each tampon has a string that hangs out of the vagina. Slowly pulling the string removes the tampon easily.

    Using a tampon or pad takes a little getting used to. Try different types until you decide what you like best.

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    What do I need to know about tampons and pads?

    Here are some tips to make using pads and tampons easier:

    • Slide the tampon into your vagina using the applicator or your finger, depending on what kind of tampon you have. A string is attached to the tampon for easy removal.
    • Putting a tampon in your vagina shouldn't be painful. But it may hurt if you are not relaxed. Using tampons with soft, tube-shaped applicators may make it easier. You can also put a little bit of Vaseline on the applicator to help it slide in.
    • If you’re still not comfortable, have someone you trust show you how to correctly place it in your vagina. Ask your mother, older sister, or another woman you trust to help you. 
    • Change your tampon or pad every three or four hours to prevent odor and stains on your clothes.
    • Don't use "high absorbency" tampons throughout your whole period — check the label for how absorbent the tampon is. Only use high absorbency tampons when your flow is heavy, and change them often.
    • Don't flush pads down the toilet. They'll clog it up. Wrap them in toilet paper and put them in the trash.
    • You can flush tampons but not applicators. Throw applicators away in the trash.
    • If you are sensitive to chemicals, stay away from scented or deodorant tampons and pads.
    • Use a pad overnight.
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    How can I tell if my periods are normal?

    You are different from every other girl in the world. Your periods and menstrual cycles will be different, too. What will be normal for you may not be normal for anyone else. Your cycles may not always last the same number of days when they first begin. Your first few periods may not all be the same either.

    It may take a while for your body to get things going smoothly and regularly. You may have a light flow or a heavy flow. You may even skip some months. Your period may be late when you get sick. It may be late when you worry about things like taking a test at school. It may be late for no reason at all. Most likely your periods and cycles will become more regular as you grow older.

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    How can I tell when my period is coming?

    There may be signs. There may not be. For some girls, the signs that their periods are going to start are: tender breasts, feeling tense, and swelling of the abdomen or other parts of the body. Sometimes there's a crampy feeling in the back, legs, or abdomen. Some girls get pimples a few days before. As you get older, you will become more familiar with signs that your period is coming. This will help you be prepared.

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    What do I do if I get cramps?

    Some girls have cramps with their periods. They usually get fewer and fewer cramps with time. Regular exercise may help prevent cramps. Get enough rest. Drink plenty of water.
     
    You can use a heating pad on your back or abdomen if you get cramps. There are also many kinds of pain relievers for menstrual cramps. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist for information. Talk with a parent or school nurse if heating pads and pain relievers don't help your cramps. You do not need to suffer with cramps ó nurses and doctors can help.

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    What if my period starts in school?

    You can carry a supply of pads or tampons in your bag when you think your period is coming. Ask your school nurse or teacher for them if you forget. Don't be shy. Remember, all women have had periods. Some schools have machines that sell tampons or pads in the girls' bathroom. Public bathrooms often have them, too. If your clothes get stained, you can wrap a sweater around your waist or ask to go home. You can also keep a change of clothes in your gym locker.

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    Can other people tell when Iím having my period?

    No one can tell by looking at you that you have your period. You don't look or act any differently. People will only know you're having your period if you tell them. You can still swim, play tennis, bathe, and do all the things you usually do.

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    Will I have a period all my life?

    Periods stop temporarily while women are pregnant. When you're older, your period will stop for good. Usually, it stops when a woman is between 45 and 55 years old. This is known as menopause.



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