What Are the Symptoms of Having Your Period?

Helpful hints for dealing with your first period

Teenage girl sitting on bed, embracing pillow
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In most cases, it is pretty easy to determine whether or not you have your period. Menses, as it is called medically, is typically indicated by the presence of menstrual blood. You may also experience cramps or moodiness (known as PMS) in the days before your period. When it is your first period, it is called menarche.

If you have not yet gotten your period and are wondering what it feels like, it's important to know that it 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. Be sure to ask your parents, doctor, or school nurse any questions you may have as well. 

Common Period Symptoms 

The main sign of menstruation is vaginal bleeding. This is a result of hormonal changes that prepare a woman's body for pregnancy. It happens on average every 28 days and lasts for anywhere between two and seven days. This is the menstrual cycle and it is slightly different for every woman.

It's good to keep in mind that menstrual blood is not always a sign of your period. Sometimes, you may bleed without having your period and this is known as spotting. Spotting can occur in between periods, especially if you are taking birth control pills or other hormonal therapies. In younger girls, it can be a sign of something serious which you should see a doctor about.

Your period may come with cramps and this is known as dysmenorrhea. These are caused by your uterus contracting as it works to shed its lining. Some women never get cramps, while others experience severe pain and fatigue every month.

Some cramps are normal, especially during your teen years. 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. It 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.

Helpful Hints for Your First Period

Tampons and pads (sometimes called "feminine hygiene products") are available at many stores. There are a few types and, with all the choices, it might be hard to know what is right for you. Generally, it is recommended to begin with a sanitary pad because they're easy to use. Tampons are a popular choice, especially for active girls.

Each product offers different levels of absorbency, which indicates how much blood it can hold without leaking.

Try to match your normal flow and your need for absorbency with the product label. Also, be sure to 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.

Pay attention to your flow so you get a sense of how often you need to change your pad or tampon. With either option, it should be changed at least every four to eight hours. With pads, this is primarily for sanitary reasons. For tampons, it is also to prevent health conditions such as toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

Using tampons labeled "extra absorbent" is not a good idea.

It's better to use a tampon designed for a lighter flow and to change it more often. You can also wear a mini-pad while using tampons to protect your clothing in case of any leakage.

It's a good idea to keep a personal calendar where you can mark the first day of your periods and how long they last. This will help you track your menstrual cycle, a practice you'll probably use throughout your life. It can help you make sure that you have pads or tampons with you around the time when your next period will start.

It's also a good idea 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 that you're ready. Plus, if you have a friend who needs one, you'll have that one she can use.

Try to avoid pads and tampons that are scented because 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 wash regularly during your period and change your pad or tampon more frequently. Ask your doctor about it if it continues. 

A Word From Verywell

Your first period can seem like an intimidating experience, but this is a normal feeling that every woman has gone through. Rest assured that the symptoms like cramps and PMS will pass and do your best to wait them out. If you have any concerns, don't hesitate to ask your parents, an adult your trust, or your doctor. Having questions is perfectly normal as well.

Source: 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ049: Your First Period (Especially for Teens). 2015.

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