6 Common Questions About a Girl's First Period

A girl's first period—which typically occurs between the ages of 10 and 16—can bring up a lot of questions, not only from the child but also from you as the parent, guardian, or confidente.

Knowing how to answer them can alleviate a lot of the stress and uncertainty bout what's "normal" and what's not. It can also help dispel myths and misconceptions about menstruation and provide guidance on what form of protection (tampons vs. pads) works best in which situation.

This article asks and answers six common questions that a girl might have after her first period.

Teenage girl laying on sofa using laptop
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Gender Terminology

For the purpose of this article, the terms "girl," "woman," and "female" refer to people born with a vagina, irrespective of the gender or genders they identify with.

How Long Does a First Period Last? 

The medical term for your first time menstruating is menarche.

Typically, a first period will last anywhere from two to seven days. It may be very light, perhaps just spots of reddish-brown blood. While you generally wouldn't expect a heavy flow for your first period, it can happen.

If your period lasts for more than seven days, speak with your healthcare provider.

Can 12-Year-Olds Use Tampons?

If you are having your first period, your body has matured enough to use tampons. Tampons work just as well for girls who have just begun to menstruate as they do for a teen or an adult.

While many girls get their first periods around age 12, others have it at a younger age or in their teens. Whatever the age, it is important know to how to insert a tampon and how to use it safely.

Among the considerations:

  • Use a tampon with the lowest absorbency, usually labeled as "thin," "light," or "junior." These can be easier to insert for those just learning and are usually more comfortable.
  • Start with tampons that have a smooth plastic applicator with a rounded tip. Those that come with a cardboard applicator may be harder to insert.
  • Be sure to change a tampon every four to six hours to reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome, This is a rare complication caused when certain bacteria release toxins in the vagina.
  • If you are active or want to swim during your period, tampons are a good choice. You can also use a pantyliner or different period underwear if you are worried about leakage.

Is It Normal to Miss a Period?  

Skipped or irregular periods are common when you first start menstruating. This is due in part to the fact that the "command center" of your body's hormones—called the neuroendocrine axis—takes time to mature along with the rest of your body.

For some, it can take six years before their cycle becomes more predictable. This is not an indication of a health concern or something you should stress about.

It is more concerning if you are consistently having periods less than 24 days apart or you go more than three months without a period. In cases like this, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider.

On average, a menstrual cycle is around 28 days, although cycles of 21 to 45 days are perfectly normal.

Will Exercise Stop My Period?

Intense exercise can cause irregular periods, but this is generally limited to extreme athletes like bodybuilders or runners who train hard regularly. People who engage in regular workouts, even strenuous workouts, usually don't experience changes in their periods.

Extreme athletes are vulnerable because restricted diets, changes in body composition, and regular intense workouts put the body in a starvation state. When this happens, excessive amounts of a stress hormone called cortisol are released. This hormone, responsible for the "fight-or-flight" instinct, suppresses the production of estrogen which helps regulate the menstrual cycle.

See your healthcare provider if you're concerned about changes in your period after you start exercising.

Are Period Blood Clots Normal? 

It can be scary to discover clumps of reddish-brown 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 (womb) also sheds its lining, known as the endometrium. So what looks like blood clots are usually just clumps of endometrial tissue mixed with blood.

A menstrual clot is a gel-like blob composed of blood and tissue that can look similar to whole-fruit strawberry jam. If the clot is smaller than a quarter, it is usually nothing to worry about.

If it is larger than a quarter or there are numerous clots, see your healthcare provider as this could be a sign of a growth or obstruction inside your uterus.

Do Periods Sync?

Women who live together sometimes report that their menstrual cycles sync up. While researchers suggest that this is a myth, many women believe it to be true.

One hypothesis is that women emit odorless chemicals called pheromones as their period nears which triggers periods in others who live with them (such as a mother and daughter). Genetics may also play a role.

It is also possible that periods are synced as a result of the circadian cycle which regulates the sleep-wake pattern. The circadian cycle is known to influence the timing of the release of luteinizing hormone (LH). This is the hormone that not only helps regulate the menstrual cycle but also triggers the release of an egg from the ovary during ovulation.

It is possible that women who live together may sync simply by virtue that they have the same sleep-wake patterns.


A girl's first period can bring up a lot of questions about what is normal and what is not, or what you should or shouldn't do. By understanding how long a period is, how often it occurs, what a menstrual clot is, and how to use a tampon, you can be better equipped to manage this normal biological cycle.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.