Periods mark the beginning of womanhood. It is a signal by the body that now it is getting ready to carry a baby in the future. In medical terms, this condition is known as menstruation. The duration of the menstruation cycle varies from woman to woman, and can be anywhere between 21-40 days. Once a woman starts menstruating, she will continue to get them every month till about the age of 50 or so, that is, till she enters the menopausal phase.
A girl can expect to get her periods as early as when she is 8 years old, to as late as when she turns 15 or 16, the average age being 12 and 13. As each and every person's body is different and grows at its own pace, the ages when girls get their first period (known as menarche) varies too. Difference in body weight, height, race, and cultural background, has an impact on the age when a girl will start menstruating. Some studies show that girls who develop fast physically, get their periods earlier than those who are thin. Nevertheless, all girls should be aware of the symptoms of the onset of the first period so that they don't get scared or confused upon experiencing them.
Signs and Symptoms of First Period
Puberty starts with the girl experiencing some physical changes in her body. One of the first signs is development of breasts. Typically, the breasts start developing around two years before a girl gets her first periods. When the breasts start developing, medically this stage is known as thelarche. The other indicator is the appearance of hair growth in the pubic region as well as under the arms. It takes about a year for full hair growth to appear on the girl's body. Once a girl experiences these two signs of puberty, it can take anywhere more than six months for her to get her first period.
Clear Vaginal Discharge
When a girl is about to experience her periods, usually six months before it, she can expect to get a white discharge from her vagina. In some girls, this discharge may be accompanied by symptoms such as mild cramping, headache, and stomach bloating. Sometimes, none of these symptoms, except for the vaginal discharge, are visible, and it is very likely that a girl actually misses to notice this as well.
Vaginal Blood Discharge
When the periods start, the girl will have a blood discharge from the vagina. It is generally observed that in the first period, a very small amount of blood comes out of the vagina. The color of the discharge is either brown or bright red.
Cramps, Pain, and Bloating
During a girl's first period, along with the blood discharge, she may experience a number of other symptoms. Cramping and pain in the lower abdominal region is one of the commonest symptoms. Some amount of bloating and discomfort in the stomach might also be felt due to water retention. Breast tenderness during puberty is pretty common, as the breast tissue is still growing, and there are lots of hormonal fluctuations taking place inside the girl's body. Sometimes, backache, leg ache, and headache may also be experienced.
Fatigue and Mood Swings
As hormones are wreaking havoc within the girl's body during puberty, she might experience mood swings, anger, and stress due to the periods. A feeling of tiredness, fear, and sadness is commonly seen in girls during, before, or after their first period.
Initially, when the periods start, they may not be regular. A girl should not get worried if she does not get her periods for a month or so. Also, to reduce the discomfort, she can rely on pain medicines such as Tylenol, or take hot compresses. This should do the trick, and will relieve the girl of pain and cramping caused by menstruation. As for the vaginal blood discharge, she should keep tampons or pads handy as soon as she experiences the symptoms of the onset of periods.
Crying, excitement, fear, getting emotional, and feeling overwhelmed, not to mention the physical discomfort; all these symptoms of the first period can be daunting for any girl. However, knowledge of all these signs beforehand, will in a way prepare the girl to deal with them in the best possible way.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and not intended to replace the advice offered by a medical expert.