Articles, Health, Puberty

Navigating the Menstrual Journey: A Guide to Your First Period

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It’s a big moment in every teen’s life – the arrival of her first period. However, while it can be an exciting time, it can also be filled with uncertainty and anxiety. But managing one’s period doesn’t have to be intimidating or stressful. You can find ways to make these experiences fun (yes, really!), empowering, and even educational. The key is understanding the basics of menstruation and learning about how to deal with discomfort or confusion. So, read on, gain information, and be prepared for the exciting journey ahead!


First, what is menstruation?

Menstruation is a natural bodily process that marks the beginning of fertility among females. Menstrual cycles typically last between 28-35 days. Popularly referred to as a period, it involves four distinct stages: 


1. The Follicular phase


This phase, which usually lasts 7-10 days, prepares the body for ovulation. During this time, the uterine lining thickens to create a hospitable environment for a potential fertilized egg. 


2. The Ovulatory phase


Next comes the ovulatory phase, when ovulation occurs, and the ovary releases an egg. This usually happens in the middle of the cycle (around day 14) and is marked by a spike in estrogen levels.


3. The Luteal phase


Then follows the luteal phase, lasting approximately 10-14 days until one period ends and the next begins. At this stage, hormones like progesterone are released to prepare the uterus for implantation if fertilization were to occur.


4. The Menstrual phase


Finally, one goes through the menstruation phase, where endometrial cells shed off as a result of decreased hormone levels. The amount of bleeding during this stage varies, as does its duration. It can last between 3-7 days, depending on each individual’s cycle length and hormone levels.


Why is menstruation important?

But why is menstruation so essential? Aside from signaling the start of childbearing potential, it also serves as an indicator of one’s overall health. For example, irregularities or changes in menstrual patterns often pinpoint issues like endometriosis. It’s also an integral part of different cultures and informs the ways that people relate to each other, whether through moments of celebration or avoidance.


How do you know that your first period is coming?

The average American girl gets her period around the age of 12. However, one’s first menstrual experience can happen anywhere from 10 to 15 years old. So, it’s around this time that you should watch out for these signs: 


  • Vaginal discharge
  • Cramping
  • Breast tenderness
  • Acne breakouts
  • Mood swings
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Back and abdominal pain


It’s important to remember that each girl’s body is different. Some might experience all of these symptoms, while others may hardly feel anything at all. That’s why it’s a wise idea to keep track of other potential signs, such as changes in cervical mucus (which may become thinner and clearer), waking up more often during the night, increased hunger and cravings for certain foods, or feelings of bloatedness.


Managing your first period

To prepare you for when the “magic” happens, check out these top tips: 


1. Pick your menstrual products wisely.

When it comes to finding the best product for your needs, don’t be afraid to experiment from the available feminine hygiene paraphernalia like tampons, pads, panty liners, cups, and even period underwear. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Take some time to understand each option’s differences in comfort level and absorbency. This can help you make an informed decision about what works best for you.


2. Track your monthly cycle.

Monitoring your periods can help empower you to understand what’s going on physically and emotionally during your menstrual journey. There are many smartphone apps and journals out there specifically designed with tracking cycles in mind. So, try a few out until you find one that fits! By doing this regularly over time, you’ll get better at recognizing patterns that will help you anticipate and prepare more adequately when your next period arrives. 


3. Get relief from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.

Experiencing cramps or other first-period symptoms is completely normal. But this doesn’t mean they should be ignored! To reduce abdominal and back pain, consider using hot compresses that can relax your muscles and provide relief. There are also over-the-counter medications that you can take. Ask your doctor for meds they can recommend. 


4. Exercise!  

Exercising during your period can help reduce cramps, regulate your mood, and keep you feeling energized. It is safe to continue your regular exercise routine, but if you’re feeling extra sensitive or fatigued, it may be best to adjust the intensity. Low-impact activities like walking, yoga, and swimming can be beneficial while avoiding high-impact exercises like running. Remember to stay hydrated and take it slow if needed!


5. Get support. 

Most importantly, if you’re feeling uncertain or scared about any of the changes your body is going through, talk to an adult you trust, like a teacher or health care professional. They can provide answers and even give you period hacks they’ve learned from their own menstrual journeys! 


Celebrating your body’s changes

Your monthly period shouldn’t be something to dread. Instead, celebrate it as a wonderful moment that marks your transition into adulthood! So, arm yourself with the tips we shared! You can also get dressed up for yourself or hang out with friends, especially on days when you’re under the “crimson weather.” All these things can go a long way toward boosting self-confidence and helping create positive associations with menstruation each month! For more savvy tips on navigating the beautiful journey called girlhood, check out the blog of GirlSpring, an online community created by girls for girls. Get in touch!

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