5 Common Questions About a Girl's First Periods

When you start getting your period, you're likely to have an endless stream of questions about everything from the amount of flow (what's normal and what's not) to the best types of protection (pads or tampons or something else).

Here are basic answers to some of the most common questions about menstruation during the early years. Keep in mind that it never hurts to talk to a parent, caregiver, family friend, or a doctor about anything regarding your period that concerns you.

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Am I Old Enough for Tampons?

If you are having your menstrual period, your body is mature enough for using tampons. While many girls get their first periods between age 12 and 14, you may have your first period at a younger or older age. Whether to use tampons or not is a personal decision, there is no age restriction. You will need to learn how to insert a tampon, which can be tricky when you are new to using one.

You must be sure to change it every four to six hours to lessen the risk of toxic shock syndrome. Use the lowest absorbency available and start with those that have a smooth plastic applicator with a rounded tip (rather than cardboard). You may want to also use a pantyliner in case there is a leak. If you're active or want to be able to swim during your period, then tampons may be a good choice. You can also consider different kinds of underwear for that time of the month.

How Long Do Periods Last?

Typically, your first period will last from two to seven days and it may be very light, perhaps just spots of blood.

See a Doctor If:

  • Your period lasts more than seven days
  • If bleeding is so heavy you have to change a pad or tampon every one to two hours

Is It Normal to Skip a Period Sometimes?

Skipped or irregular periods are common during the first few years after you start menstruating. It will take at least that long for your newly fluctuating hormones to settle down.

See a Doctor If:

  • You go three months without a period
  • Your period comes more frequently than every three weeks
  • It comes less often than five weeks

Will Exercise Stop My Period?

Being active can cause menstrual abnormalities, but it takes a lot of very intense exercise. Usually, only women who compete professionally experience changes in their periods. Why this happens isn't clearly understood, but is likely a combination of extreme exercise, an increase in lean body mass, not eating enough or getting the proper nutrients, and stress related to competition.

See a Doctor If:

  • You're concerned about changes in your period after you start exercising more

Are Clots in Menstrual Blood Normal?

It can be scary to discover clumps of brown or black tissue in your menstrual flow, but it's rarely something to worry about.

Blood isn't the only thing that comes out during your period—your uterus also is shedding its lining, so what looks like blood clots is really endometrial tissue.

See a Doctor If:

  • Clots are larger than a quarter or there are a lot of them
  • You could be pregnant
  • You also have severe cramps or abnormal periods

Do Periods Sync?

Women who live together sometimes report that their menstrual cycles sync up. Some research states that this is a myth.

Still, many women still believe this happens. One hypothesis is that odorless chemical signals called pheromones given off by women can trigger their periods to come at the same time.

It could just be the women in your family happen to have similar cycles. Regardless, the most important thing to know is when to make sure you've got plenty of pads and tampons on hand for everyone.

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Article Sources
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  1. Nazem TG, Ackerman KE. The female athlete triadSports Health. 2012;4(4):302-11. doi:10.1177/1941738112439685

  2. Sriprasert I, Pakrashi T, Kimble T, Archer DF. Heavy menstrual bleeding diagnosis and medical management. Contracept Reprod Med. 2017;2:20. doi:10.1186/s40834-017-0047-4

  3. International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. Period Syncing Myth Debunked. Published April 13, 2017.

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