Information for Preteens: For Preteen Girls,
Understanding Your Period
When you first get your period, you may feel happy about entering womanhood, scared about how to deal with it, relieved or worried about the timing, or all of the above. This is perfectly normal.
Usually, girls start getting their period (menstruating) between ages 10 and 13, or at the same age their mom or other relatives got theirs – though it can also be younger or older than this. If you have an older sister, it can give you a clue about when you'll get yours.
If you are worried about when you got your period or when you will get it, you should talk to your mom and/or your doctor.
Your menstrual cycle usually lasts about 28 days, give or take a few. This means that you should get your period about every 3 1/2 or 4 weeks.
When you first get your period it can be a little wacky, like skipping a month or coming after only 21 days. After a while, your cycle will probably become more predictable.
Quick Facts About Your Menstrual Cycle:
- Your cycle technically begins on the day you start bleeding
- This "bleeding" is your body shedding the lining of the uterus, which was not needed because you were not pregnant.
- The bleeding (your period) lasts on average two to seven days.
- The second day is sometimes heaviest.
- You only lose about 1/4 cup blood during your period (although it can seem like more).
- During your cycle, between your periods, your ovaries release an egg. If the egg isn't fertilized (pregnancy), it is released during your period and your cycle starts all over again.
- About 28 days after you got your period, you'll get it again
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PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
PMS can include:
- Cramps in your lower stomach and/or back
- Feeling nauseous
- Migraines or headaches
- Oilier skin or more acne
- Feeling moody or irritable
- Bloating – feeling puffier or heavier than usual (because your body retains more water before your period)
- Exercise – you'll feel better, even if you have cramps or don't feel like exercising
- Eat fewer foods with salt, caffeine, or sugar (salt makes you retain more water; sugar and caffeine just give you more highs and lows – which can make mood swings worse)
- Try yoga, stretching, or massage
- Take a warm shower, bath, or just rest and relax
- If you feel really bad and the tips above don't help much or at all, talk with a parent about taking painkillers
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While you have your period, you want to absorb the flow of blood in order to stay clean. There are different options and your mom, sister, or other older female friend/relative can help you decide what's best for you.
Pads (sometimes called sanitary napkins) stick to your underwear and absorb the flow of blood once it leaves your body. The come in many sizes, thicknesses, and widths – you may have to experiment to find the best one for you.
Dried menstrual blood can start to smell after a while, so, depending on how strong your flow is, you should change your pad every few hours (just use a thicker one at night and it should last you all night).
Tampons are inserted into the vagina with a plastic or cardboard applicator or with a finger. They absorb the blood before it leaves the body. Tampons have a string attached so they can be pulled out. When you insert a tampon, you shouldn't be able to feel that it's there. If it's uncomfortable, you probably inserted it incorrectly. It usually takes a few tries, but it's okay to ask your sister, mom, or older female friend/relative for help.
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Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)
Tampons have a few advantages over pads – you can swim with them in, they are less messy, and there's less odor. It is very important to change tampons often – meaning every few hours – or when they are full. You shouldn't sleep in a tampon.
Leaving a tampon in for too long can cause bacteria to grow inside your body and lead to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), an infection that can feel like the flu but become dangerous. It can be deadly if you don't get treated right away.
The symptoms of TSS include:
- Peeling skin
- Feeling like you have the flu (nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, feeling confused, or disorientation)
- Body aches (muscle pain, headaches)
- Sore throat
- Pale skin
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In conclusion, your period will probably come when your body is ready, which is different for everybody. You can know when to expect it and how to deal with it when it comes by talking with your friend(s), parent(s), sister(s), relatives, or doctor. It is important to ask someone if you are worried or concerned.
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