What Are the Symptoms of Having Your Period?

New to getting your period? Here's what to expect

Calendar: PMS or Menstruation Cycle
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In most cases, it is pretty easy to determine whether or not you have your period. Menses is typically indicated by the presence of menstrual blood. However, sometimes you can bleed without having your period –– known as spotting. Spotting can occur in between periods, especially if you are taking birth control pills or other hormonal therapies. 

If you have not yet gotten your period and are wondering what having a period feels like, it's important to know that your period might be different at first.

It can take several months, or longer, for your period to establish a routine. Try to be patient with your body while it's entering this new phase of your life, and ask your doctor or school nurse any questions you have. 

Common Period Symptoms 

Your period may come with cramps. Some women never get cramps with their periods, while others experience severe pain and fatigue every month. Cramps are caused by your uterus contracting as it works to shed its lining. Some cramps are normal, especially if you are new to your period. Debilitating cramps that affect your day to day functioning are not. Severe cramps may be a sign of endometriosis, a reproductive health condition that causes painful periods, fatigue, and in some cases infertility. If you have severe cramps, speak to a doctor or a medical professional you trust. 

You may also experience premenstrual syndrome, also known as PMS. PMS is a collection of symptoms that some women get around the time of their periods.

PMS can include headaches, back pain, irritability or moodiness, feeling sad or emotional, bloating, and breast tenderness. Some women don't have any of these symptoms while others have them all. There are over the counter medications that can help lessen PMS symptoms. If your symptoms interfere too much with your daily life, ask your doctor about other things you can do to feel better around your period.

Helpful Hints for Dealing With Your First Period

Pay attention to your flow so you'll get a sense of how often you need to change your pad or tampon. Using tampons labeled "extra absorbent" are not a good idea. It's better to use a tampon designed for lighter flow and change it more often. You may also wear a mini-pad while using tampons to protect your clothing in case of leakage.

Many types of tampons and pads (sometimes you'll see them called feminine hygiene products) are available on the market. With all the choices, it might be hard to know what is right for you. Generally, you can tell how absorbent (how much blood it can hold without leaking) a product is by how it's labeled on the box. Try to match your normal flow and your need for absorbency with the product label. Also read any special recommendations the company has for how to best use their product. After trying a few different types, you will likely find a product that works well for you.

Keep a personal calendar where you can mark the first day of your periods and how long they last.

You'll get a sense of your cycle and can make sure you have pads or tampons with you around the time when you think your period will start. You might want to have some pads or tampons in your backpack or purse just in case your period starts when you're not home. Even if you haven't had your first period yet, you'll feel good knowing you're ready when your period does start. And if you have a friend who needs a pad or tampon, you'll have one they can use.

Also, It's best to use pads or tampons that are unscented. The chemicals used in these products may be irritating. Normal blood flow from your period should not cause a bad odor. If you do experience an odor, try to make sure you wash regularly during your period and try changing your pad or tampon more frequently. Ask your doctor about it if it continues. 


Adapted from the Women's Health Information Center

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