Managing Your Period as a Teen

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If you're going through puberty you might have period questions. This normal part of adolescence can be both scary and exciting, so it's helpful to know what to expect.

The First Time

When you get your period for the first time, chances are you'll be between the ages of eight and 17. Everybody has a different body and while some girls start their periods early in puberty, others must wait until later. There is nothing wrong with you if you are the last person you know or the very first.

The average age for a girl having her first period is 12 years old, but everyone goes through these stages at various times.

What's Happening Inside the Body

The first time you get your period, it's known as "menarche." This simply means your reproductive system has matured and you're releasing hormones that stimulate the ovaries. One of the internal signs of maturity is that your ovaries release an egg about once a month-a process called ovulation. During this time, the egg waits to be fertilized and the uterus builds up a lining of blood and tissue to cushion the egg.

If the egg doesn't get fertilized, the lining in the uterus starts to break down. This typically happens about 10-15 days after ovulation. This is when your period usually starts. The blood that comes out is the lining from your uterus.

What to Expect

Now that you know what goes on inside your body, here's what happens on the outside. The first time you get your period it might be a huge surprise. You might feel a "wetness" down there and discover blood on your underwear. Typically, the blood can be anywhere from a dark rust color to bright red. Luckily, it doesn't rush out of your body and you really only lose a couple tablespoons to a cup over the course of your period.

Just like there isn't a right time to start your period, girls have periods of various lengths, ranging from about two to seven days. It's also common to have irregular periods, especially when you're first starting them.

Mood changes are sometimes apparent in the days before and during your period. You might also experience cramps, bloating, and pimple outbreaks. All of the physical and emotional changes during puberty are the work of your hormones.

Gear for Your Period

If you're having regular periods or suspect you might start soon, you'll want to have some supplies on hand. There are two ways to absorb the blood from your period: pads and tampons. Pads are easy to use and worn outside the body on your underwear, while tampons are inserted inside the body. For first timers and early on, you'll want to use pads. They stick to your underwear, are easy to use, and are made of highly absorbent material.

Another good thing to have on hand is medication to help with cramps. While not everyone gets cramps, sometimes they cause a slight discomfort, kind of like a stomachache. There are various brands of medicine you can buy at the grocery store or a drugstore that will help alleviate discomfort. A heating pad is another good thing to have on hand in case you need it. Most girls can function like normal during their period, play sports, and find that cramps are not that big of a deal.

Talk to your parents about the supplies to have on hand when you get your period and let them know when it happens the first time. You want to make sure you're covered.

Rite of Passage

Getting your period is a part of life and questions are normal. Make sure you are prepared for your first period and don't be afraid to talk to your parents and friends about it. This rite of passage will be happening for a long time, so get comfortable with it.

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Managing Your Period as a Teen