It’s normal to be nervous about your first period. Knowing what’s normal can help you feel more prepared. But everyone’s body is different, so periods are different too.
When will I get my first period?
There's no way to know exactly when you'll get your first period. One day, you’ll see blood in your underwear or on your sheets, and boom — there it is! There may be signs of your first period (like cramps, bloating, or pimples), but this doesn’t happen for everyone.
Most people get their first period between ages 12 and 15, but some people get them earlier or later than that. Your period might start around the time it did for other people you’re related to, like your mom or sisters. If you don't get your period by the time you're 16, it’s a good idea to go to your doctor or a Planned Parenthood health center — just to make sure everything’s okay.
It’s totally normal to be anxious or curious about getting your period, but try not to stress about it too much. Everyone’s body is different, so everyone starts their periods at different times. You never know when it’s going to show up, so carrying a tampon or pad in your bag can help you feel more ready for when your first period comes.
How do I know if my period is coming?
Some people get signs that their periods are coming — like bloating, pimples, sore breasts, and feeling emotional. Many people get cramps in their belly, lower back, or legs before their period. These symptoms are called PMS. Not everybody has signs that their periods are about to start. And sometimes the signs change month-to-month. As you get older, it usually gets easier to tell when your period is coming.
Many people mark the days they have their period on their calendar or on an app. Keeping track of your periods will help you know when your next period is coming. It can also tell you if your period is late or early. It’s really common to have periods that don’t come at the exact same time every month — especially when you’re a teenager.
Keeping a tampon or pad in your bag can help you be prepared for your period, no matter when it shows up. If you start your period and don't have a tampon or pad, you can ask a parent, friend, teacher, or the school nurse for one. (Don’t be shy — almost all people with periods have borrowed a tampon or pad at some point!) Some bathrooms also have vending machines where you can buy a tampon or pad. If you’re REALLY stuck somewhere without a tampon or pad, you can fold up a bunch of toilet paper or a clean sock or washcloth and put it in your underwear to soak up the blood.
If your clothes accidently 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 locker. Again, try not to be embarrassed — everyone who has a period has accidentally bled on their underwear or clothes before. It happens!
What’s a normal period?
Normal periods are different from person to person. They can also change over your lifetime. Periods usually come about once a month. When you first start having your period, the bleeding may last only a few days or be really light (meaning not that much blood comes out).
During your period, it’s normal to bleed anywhere from 2 to 7 days. It may seem like a lot of blood comes out, but most people only lose about 1-6 tablespoons of blood and tissue during each period. Period blood can be red, brown, or pink. It’s also normal for it to be kind of clumpy at times. If your period is so heavy that you have to change maxi pads or super tampons every hour call your doctor or your local Planned Parenthood health center.
During the first few years of your period, it might not always come at the same time every month. You may bleed more or less, or have different PMS symptoms month-to-month. As you get older, periods usually get more regular and it’ll be easier to know what’s “normal” for you. Learn more about what a normal period is.
Even though it’s normal to have periods that aren’t always regular, missing a period can be a sign of pregnancy. If you’ve had penis-in-vagina sex without using birth control and you skipped your period, take a pregnancy test. Read more about what to do if you miss your period.