A girl's first menstruation, known as menarche, typically occurs between the ages of 12 and 13. You may be a few years younger or older, however, when you experience your first menstrual period. What you can expect from the first menstruation may not be a flow of blood typically experienced with a monthly cycle. The first time you menstruate, light spotting of blood may be noticed on your underpants or any tissue when you use the bathroom. This first menstruation may occur without any prior symptoms, or you may experience some slight discomfort.
What you can expect from the first menstruation may not be exactly what you imagined. You may have heard older women speak of experiencing menstrual cramps, or heavy bleeding. It's important to note, however, that not every girl's body follows the same general rule. This is especially true for menarche.
The first time you experience your menstrual period, you might not even notice until you change your clothes. What you can expect from the first menstruation might be mild cramping in the lower abdominal area or a lower backache, or you may not feel any discomfort at all. You might feel a little bloated due to water weight gain, but this is not typical with the first menstruation.
Spotting or a very light flow of blood is common to expect from the first menstruation. You'll have the choice of using a sanitary pad, which adheres to your underpants, or a tampon, which is inserted into the vagina. Either of these disposable materials will absorb the flow of blood and should protect your clothing. Your mother or older sister can help you learn how to correctly use these products.
Another concern you may have is how long your monthly period will last. This first period probably will last about four to eight days, although it may vary a few days more or less. For the next few months, as your body adjusts to this new cycle, your periods may not be regular. It's not uncommon to skip a month or two during the first year of menstruation. Usually within a year or two, a girl's monthly cycle will occur regularly and you can expect this to happen approximately every 28-30 days.
If you do experience cramping, headache, or backache during your first period, you can expect it to subside within a day or two. There are over-the-counter medications you can take to ease the symptoms. Pain relievers may help, but there are also medications formulated especially for menstrual discomfort. A hot water bottle may help relieve cramps as well.
After beginning menstruation, you might want to keep a change of clothing and underwear in your locker at school. This could be helpful in the event of any accidents involving stained clothing from leakage during your period. Always keep a supply of pads or tampons on hand as well so you will be prepared.
Speak with your mom or an older female relative about menstruation who can offer guidance. Also, if you are uncertain of what to expect from the first menstruation, there are resources, such as guides and booklets, available for you to read. Check with your local library for reading material. You might also want to ask your health teacher at school for reading material that can prepare you.