• Your First Menstrual Cycle

    It’s very normal for your first menstrual cycle (aka menarche) to be a little scary. You’re not sure what to expect from your body or in terms of the discomfort you’ll feel–and you don’t know how long that discomfort will last. The more information you have, the better you’ll be able to navigate both your first period and the ones that follow.

    For most individuals who menstruate, the menstrual cycle will become simply another aspect of your daily life. For some, your period may be more severe and intense; others may hardly notice it. Periods can be very consistent or frustratingly dynamic (heavy one month and light the next). Everyone’s periods will be slightly different, and your first menstrual cycle may not necessarily be predictive of what you will experience to follow.

    As you navigate your first menstrual cycle, it’s important to know that this is a normal part of life–and that you can develop habits or find therapies that will make your future periods easier to handle.

    What Happens During a Menstrual Cycle?

    Menstruation is the result of normal processes within the uterus. When you’re young, the uterus has only a very thin lining. But as you approach puberty, your body begins producing more estrogen. This estrogen does many things, one of which is helping the uterine lining grow thicker. This thicker lining is intended to help fertilized eggs attach to the wall of the uterus to enable a pregnancy to begin. When that fertilized egg does not result in a pregnancy after a period of time the lining of the uterus is shed–and a new lining grows to replace it to prepare for your next menstrual cycle and possibility of pregnancy.

    The shedding of the old lining is what causes menstruation–the broken-down lining is moved out of your uterus, and this results in bleeding and cramping. The duration of a menstrual cycle varies–not only from individual to individual but also from month to month. In most cases (and without other interventions), periods will be a normal and semi-monthly part of your life from puberty to menopause. 

    Your Period vs. PMS

    Your menstrual cycle may often be preceded by something called “premenstrual syndrome,” or PMS. These symptoms could include:

    The number of these symptoms you experience–if any–could vary from month to month or be a fairly consistent signal that your period will arrive shortly. 

    Common Questions After Your First Menstrual Cycle

    It’s very common for many people to have questions about their menstrual cycle–whether it’s their first or fiftieth. Some of the most common questions about your first menstrual cycle usually include the following:

    How to be Prepared for Your Next Period

    It’s easy to be surprised by your period, even if it’s not your first one. That’s why many people will create what they call a “period kit.” This is a small kit of supplies that you carry with you wherever you go; you can keep it in your backpack or locker. A typical period kit may include:

    If your period catches you unawares, there are some things you can do. For example, you can create a temporary pad out of several layers of toilet paper. Placing that temporary pad in your underwear can help absorb blood just until you are able to replace it with a pad or tampon. 

    If you’re in school when your first period occurs, ask to talk to the nurse. It’s okay–we can guarantee your nurses have been asked about this before! And they’ll likely have spare pads or tampons for you to use.

    Other Changes in Your Body

    For many, the first menstrual cycle is both a rite of passage and a metaphor for starting to grow up. So every family may celebrate differently (or not celebrate at all). From a medical standpoint, once your period occurs, you may want to talk to your doctor about your reproductive health. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that adolescents visit with a gynecologist for the first time between the ages of 13-15. 

    As you grow up, you can discuss the changes in your body as well as how best to control your symptoms.

    Talk to your OBGYN

    Your first period can be exciting–and more than a little intimidating. But it’s important to remember that just around half of the world’s population of adults has gone through exactly what you’re going through. 

    Talking to your OBGYN or Midwife can help you manage menstrual symptoms and associated discomfort. And talking about your reproductive health can also ensure you are able to prioritize your long-term wellness. For most, the first menstrual cycle transitions easily into a monthly period that you can manage and fold into your life.

    If you have questions about your first menses–or your child’s first menses–schedule an appointment with an OBGYN or Midwife to discuss what to expect. Contact our Wilmette or Glenview offices today to schedule an appointment.

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