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What are the Characteristics of Menstruation in Girls?

Autumn Rivers
Updated Feb 28, 2024
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Many girls approaching their teen years wonder when they will get their first menstrual period. Of course, some get it before they are even considered a preteen, but either way, there are a few characteristics of menstruation at this age that differ from those experienced by older women. For example, menstruation in girls is usually preceded by a clear or white vaginal discharge that may occur for months before bleeding begins, followed by only a small amount of blood during the first period. After that, the period is usually quite irregular, as it may show up early, late, or not at all from one month to the next. Of course, the typical premenstrual symptoms are usually present in girls, such as bloating, mood swings, and cramps.

About six months before the first period, many girls may notice clear or white vaginal discharge that they did not have before. It can be thick or watery, and may range in amount, but it is typically considered normal for menstruation in girls. Once a girl notices this sudden symptom, she can be fairly certain that she will get her first period within a few months, though she can expect it to be rather light. In fact, it may just be a few drops of blood, though of course it is also possible for some girls to get a regular flow right away. As long as the flow is not heavy enough to soak two pads every hour or two, it is typically considered normal.

Of course, the first year of menstruation is usually irregular. In fact, some girls might only get a period every other month, or they might bleed twice in the same month. While the average menstrual cycle usually lasts about 28 to 30 days, the normal range is 22 to 35 days, so girls should not be alarmed if their irregular cycle still falls within this scope. On the other hand, it is usually advisable to contact a doctor if there is bleeding between periods or if it has been over three months since the last one.

Most of the symptoms of menstruation in girls are similar to the ones that adult women experience. For example, cramping is one of the most common complaints, and can usually be treated with over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen. Bloating and tender breasts are also frequent issues associated with menstruation in girls, though these ailments are often harder to treat than cramps. Of course, mood swings and food cravings, especially for sweets, are also to be expected in most girls starting menstruation. Such symptoms usually continue into adulthood, even after the period becomes more regular.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGeek, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
Discussion Comments
By cuteness — On Aug 03, 2013

@anon343388: I apologize on behalf of those silly people, one of whom should be ashamed of suggesting she is a therapist when she hasn't got an ounce of understanding and is willing to jump to conclusions.

Look, the whitish discharge she has can be very normal and you rightly pointed out that she could be starting her periods soon.

Those women who jumped at you could have at least asked you some questions before making up their minds that somehow your daughter must be having sex. They have judged, framed and condemned you without in the least bit getting their facts correct.

Our society is becoming so paranoid and even an innocent crush is misconstrued as sexual deviance and that somehow they must be punished. They don't understand that punitive and authoritarian methods fail miserably. The therapist especially, should know better.

The USA and UK have some of the strictest laws but by god, their teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates are the highest in the world. How does this happen or why does this happen even though they have such stringent laws?? Liberal attitudes and education are the key, not delegating to the government to legislate and govern sexuality in teens. Family attitudes and good strong family ties are extremely important too. Laws don't work!

I believe your daughter is going through a "crush phase" but it will be worthwhile to chat to her.

I agree if she has decided on being sexually active, nothing stops them and it is wise to make sure they are safe and for her to take precautions.

You might want to visit a gynecologist if the discharge persists.

By cuteness — On Aug 02, 2013

I can understand how many may find the post disturbing, but that person came on probably feeling apprehensive to post a comment and I cannot believe how harsh and punitive people can be.

How do you expect to be open in their comments if such methods are exercised when someone genuinely comes on and asks a question?

Whatever one's opinions may be, I think there is a decorum around replying. Such hostility to someone's post is totally uncalled for.

I feel very ashamed and I am on here only because I got an email about a post made.

Really, we have not demonstrated any maturity in the way we have handled that person's enquiry. I agree there has been a lot of jumping to conclusions here and assumptions made.

We are losing perspective. This is a debate and a way of people learning things. I cannot believe how self righteous everyone is.

By anon343642 — On Aug 01, 2013

I just can't believe what I'm reading here. @amypollick: Your comments are spot on. I am a therapist. Preteens have no business having sex. Period. I can't imagine a parent would be OK with it. Period. I can't imagine a parent would allow her pre-teen to hang out unsupervised with a 24 year old. If my opinion makes me judgmental, then I'm guilty as charged. If someone came to me with this story, I would tell them that I was ethically bound to report this to the police.

By amypollick — On Jul 31, 2013

@anon343603: The most liberal, open-minded mom I knew (she was not religious, no social hang-ups) did not condone her daughters having sex at 12. She did take her oldest, who was my friend, to Planned Parenthood when she was 16 and had a boyfriend in high school. So she was responsible. She strongly felt a 12-year-old simply was not mature enough to deal with a sexual relationship. She had three girls and was a teacher, so she knew what she was talking about.

Maybe you're not just her buddy. I'll agree that I was abrupt. Maybe it's not semen, but I don't remember having discharge thick enough on my underwear before I started having periods that my mom noticed it, and she had worked in the medical field for 20 years.

As far as the *man* she's hanging out with, you yourself expressed concerns about what they were doing when they were alone. You said there were pictures of her sitting on him when she's in her swimsuit.

And laws may be stupid to you, but that doesn't mean they are not enforced every day. And if that's what is going on, an adult having sex with a 12 year old is a felony. If this man were arrested for it, he would spend time in jail and would have to register as a sex offender. Then, if it was proven that you knew and did nothing to prevent it, your child could be taken from you and you might be arrested, too. That's how the law reads in most places.

I didn't judge you. I didn't say you were a horrible person or a bad mother, or a pervert, or anything of the kind. I said a 12 year old isn't ready for what a sexual relationship entails. I stand by that. It's not a moral judgment. Psychologically and emotionally, they just haven't developed to that point. It's not being close-minded. Numerous peer-reviewed papers and studies by experts in the field of pediatric psychiatry have been done on the subject. There are numerous articles online that discuss the emotional consequences of this.

Actually, the only assumption I made is that you're her buddy. Maybe you're not, and if not, I apologize. I read your post several times, very carefully, to make sure I got your points. You all but came out and said you thought this might be happening, and I took you at your word.

I went to college. I've been around a lot of 24 year old guys. If I or any of my friends had known any of them were messing around with a 12 year old, we would never have spoken to them again. We would have put them squarely in the pervert category.

I wasn't attempting to abuse or denigrate you or anyone. I suppose there's just no good way to tell a parent that their child could be in a very serious situation.

By anon343603 — On Jul 31, 2013

Geez Amy, I happened to see this forum by accident and I felt I wanted to ask a question. Little did I realize I would face the wrath of some stranger who has arrogantly assumed a lot of things and has decided to give her opinion without any knowledge of facts.

You are right. "you have the problem" as you have acknowledged. That's the biggest issue here!!

How dare you assume things and make assumptions without the courtesy of making enquiries first.

Semen on her undies? Wow, such a leap. Just watch out. You may crash with a huge thud and do yourself a great deal of damage.

How do you assume I am her buddy? Which planet are you from? Are you really interested in my 12 year old or is it just your insecurity that is being displayed? Stop judging. Listen first. Girls who haven't started their periods do start having thick white discharge for a few months before they commence their periods. Do you have preteen daughters? I guess you don't, but you feel at liberty to verbally abuse without searching for the facts.

The guy is a nice guy. I know she is only 12, but sexuality is something you cannot repress. Do you want me to lock her up? Or do you want me to let her go have sex with guys her own age who have no maturity and knowledge of how to treat a girl and what to do when they sexually experiment. There are more teen pregnancies in young girls from having sex with guys their own age.

If she has decided to have sex I don't condone it, but I can help with making her safe and teach her to take precautions. It is something we need to accept will happen. I am not her buddy as you have accused me of being. I am someone who looks beyond just the stupid laws. Those laws are for paranoid and insecure people. I can supervise her very well. I'd rather know what she is up to without taking any punitive steps. Crushes are common. Girls start masturbating and have fantasies which some go out and fulfill. Sex, by the way, is a natural function of your body. It is not abnormal to want to have sex. So please, be a bit more gentle with your responses. I just wanted to chat to someone with an open mind. I didn't come on to be chastised or verbally abused or judged and shot down.

Debate and discussions are good. If it is going to be abusive then maybe I will leave this forum. This is not a productive way of stating your feelings or opinion. You are too abrupt and harsh in how you make your point.

By amypollick — On Jul 30, 2013

@anon343388: If she's 12, you're not prying. If she's 19, you're prying, but you're still her mom.

At 12, she has *no* business messing around with a 24 year old, and I have to wonder about him, too. At 12, it's not even statutory rape -- it's sexual abuse of a child.

I just have a really difficult time with the cavalier attitude some people seem to have about 10-12 year olds having sex. I started having periods when I was 10. I was still a child, though. Puberty does not mean one is not a child any longer. One is merely beginning the process of becoming an adult.

If your daughter is spending a lot of time alone with a 24-year-old man, you have a real problem on your hands and you need to put a stop to it, or she's going to be a mom by the time she's 14, to say nothing of what such early sexual activity will do to her psychologically in the long run.

Bluntly, it's not normal or healthy for a little girl that age to be having sex. Be her mom and not her buddy and put a stop to this. She's going to deny it, but I think you know that what you've seen in her underwear is semen. Oh, and not only can the guy be prosecuted for sexual abuse, you can be held liable for negligence, if anyone reports anything. Stop this and do it now.

By anon343388 — On Jul 29, 2013

I stumbled on this thread by chance and I thought maybe I could ask a question similar to that which is being discussed about my daughter.

She is 12 and has the same issues with a large amount of thickish discharge which I find on her underwear that I wash. As a parent I am trying not to pry, but I feel I need to know what the tell tale signs (of sexual activity) are and I want to know so I can get her to take precautions if she has started.

She hasn't started her periods but she is quite flirty and physically close to guys she knows. She has guy friends ranging from her own age to those who are 24 (friends' brothers). I know she frequents her friends place a lot. That friend has a brother who is 24 and seems a really nice guy. My daughter talks about him a lot and has photos of him. In those photos she is sitting on him in her swim outfit or hugging him or lying on top of him when he is sunbathing. I strongly feel there is something going on between them especially when their parents aren't home.

By cuteness — On Jan 12, 2013

Yes, from what you told me, I did suspect that she was sexually active even though she is so young. Girls are starting very early these days and all we can do is to give them ways to handle situations. I don't think you can stop them from doing what they will do.

You see, when she was going to the room with that 16 year old guy, it wasn't just innocent fun.

Yes, going to the gynecologist is certainly a good idea. Good luck.

By anon312807 — On Jan 09, 2013

I had forgotten I had posted a question. I've come back to say that I've now discovered that my daughter has been having sex all along with this boy. I believed it was just innocent fun she was having.

I realize she lost her virginity a year ago and has been having sex a lot, mostly with the boy I mentioned, but I think there have been two others. Thankfully the guys have been using condoms. I am just worried about infections so I am going to take her to the gynecologist.

By cuteness — On Oct 18, 2012

So, they spend a lot of time alone in the room together. And he's 16? Are you sure they are not having sex? I feel they are. Are there any tell tale signs in the room or sheets after they leave?

Look, it could be that she is heavily aroused and stimulated and the discharge could be just that, or it could be his semen leaking out after they have had sex. Does she run to the toilet/shower after they have been together for a while?

By anon297731 — On Oct 16, 2012

Thanks for that reply, cuteness. When I said my 11 year old daughter isn't sexually active, I meant I think she isn't. I know her friends are. Her friends are of varying ages 11 to 16. Many of them stay over at my place from time to time.

I know she has a huge crush on this good looking 16 year old guy and he is quite affectionate with her. When other friends are out playing, there are many times when my daughter takes this guy to her room.

I don't think sex has happened between them, but I am sure she and he may be doing more than just heavy petting. I don't want to go into details but there are tell tale signs. That's why I am worried about infection.

By cuteness — On Oct 16, 2012

It could be an infection if she is using toys or devices that she doesn't clean properly. The discharge is most likely a sign she will start her periods soon and the fact that she masturbates so much would suggest that her hormones are very active. I was a teen mom myself. Had I known the tell tale signs of the start of my periods, maybe I would have been more cautious about using protection.

By anon297720 — On Oct 16, 2012

Could the whitish discharge be due to masturbation? My daughter is 11 but hasn't started her periods yet. She is becoming more and more aware of the pleasurable sensations of masturbation and I have seen her masturbate several times, unbeknown to her. Some of her friends are sexually active. I know she isn't. I am under no illusion she will start soon. Her underwear is heavily soiled with this thickish discharge and I know this because I wash her clothes. I just hope this isn't an infection.

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGeek, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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