Find over 200 print-friendly fact sheets about heart disease and related health topics.
Your first menstrual period is called menarche (say "MEN-ar-kee").
It usually starts sometime between ages 11 and 14.1
But it can happen as early as age 9 or as late as 15. If you are a teenage
girl, see your doctor if you have not started having periods by age 15.
Menarche is a sign you are growing up and becoming a woman. Along with starting
your period, your body is changing. You've begun to develop breasts, pubic
hair, and underarm hair. And your hips have begun to widen. Menarche also means
that if you have sex, you can get pregnant. You can even get pregnant in the
month before your first period starts.
In the days before you start
your period, you may feel tense or emotional. You may gain water weight and
feel bloated. You may have pain (cramps) in your abdomen, back, or legs that
lasts a few hours or more. Your breasts may be tender, and your face may break
When you start your period, you'll notice a spot of blood on
your underwear or when you use the bathroom. The flow of blood from your vagina
is usually light at first and may get heavier for a few days before tapering
off. The blood may be a brownish color at first and then turn brighter red.
Your period will usually last 3 to 7 days each month.
mom, a doctor, or a woman you trust for advice on using feminine products for
the bleeding, such as tampons or pads. A tampon fits inside your vagina and is
good to use when swimming or doing other physical activities. A pad has
adhesive strips that help it stick to your underwear. You'll need to change
tampons and pads regularly. Having a period won't prevent you from doing any of
the activities you normally do. And no one will be able to tell when you're
If you have cramps with your period, regular
exercise, a heating pad, a warm bath, and
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as
ibuprofen or naproxen may help. If you are younger than 20, do not take aspirin. Aspirin raises the risk of
Reye syndrome, a disease that affects the brain and
liver. If these treatments don't help, talk to your doctor about prescription
For more information on managing menstrual cramps, see:
Your period is part of your
menstrual cycle, the time from the first day of your period to the first day of
the next period. A normal menstrual cycle for teenagers can be anywhere from 21 days to 45 days.2
For the first year or two, your cycle may not be regular and you may not have a period sometimes. If you are
underweight because of dieting or exercise, have a lot of stress in your life,
or are overweight, your periods may be hard to predict.
Keep a calendar, and mark the
day you start your period each month. This can help you predict when you'll
have your next period and is also useful when you talk with your doctor.
menstrual cycle makes it possible for you to get pregnant. Sometime around the
middle of each cycle, you will
ovulate, which means one of your ovaries will release
an egg. You may have a slight discharge from your vagina or some spotting of
blood when you ovulate.
You are most likely to get pregnant if
you have sexual intercourse on the day of ovulation or on any of the five days
before it. For more information, see:
You should assume you can get
pregnant any time of the month. The timing of ovulation is different for
everyone, especially those who have periods that don't start at the same time
Don't rely on your friends' advice about how and when
you can get pregnant. Talk to a health professional—your doctor, school nurse,
or nurse practitioner—and parents, if possible, for reliable information about
preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
following is a list of myths about sex and pregnancy:
You can't get pregnant the first time you
Getting pregnant has nothing to do with how
many times you have sex. If you are near the time of ovulation when you have
sexual intercourse, you can get pregnant.
You can't get pregnant if you're very
If you have started your periods, you can
get pregnant, even if your body is not mature enough to handle the stress of
pregnancy. Girls age 10 or 11, or even younger, have become pregnant. You can
also get pregnant in the month before you start your first period.
You can't get pregnant if you have sex
Position has nothing to do with getting
pregnant. The egg and sperm can move no matter what position your body is
You can't get pregnant if you have sex
during your period.
Although the chance of getting pregnant at
this time is less for most women, if you have short cycles (less than 28 days)
or irregular periods, you may be able to get pregnant if you have sex during
You can't get pregnant if you have sex in a
If you have unprotected sex, you can get
pregnant, regardless of where you are.
CitationsSperoff L, Fritz MA (2005). Abnormal growth and puberty problems. In Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 7th ed., pp.361–399. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Academy of Pediatrics (2006, reaffirmed 2009). Menstruation in girls and adolescents: Using the menstrual cycle as a vital sign. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 349. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 108(5): 1323¬–1328.Other Works ConsultedAmerican College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Academy of Pediatrics (2006, reaffirmed 2009). Menstruation in girls and adolescents: Using the menstrual cycle as a vital sign. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 349. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 108(5): 1323¬–1328.
March 22, 2011
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.