Menarche: My First Period
Menarche or first menstruation means a major phase of your life is starting.
Girls first period will bring a mixture of emotions such as excitement and anxiety as well as definite lifestyle changes.
In fact in some societies, it is a cultural event! Just to mention but a few-in Japan, the family celebrates it by eating red-colored rice and beans. In North America, the Nootka Indians gave her a swimming challenge.In an ethnic group in Nigeria, four lines were cut in her abdomen.
Menarche comes with the responsibility of acquiring information about your body from credible sources. I will discuss answers to the most first period questions including the basics,changes to expect, the pitfalls to avoid and what adjustments you will have to make.
My First Period Or Menarche
Menarche(say “MEN-ar-kee”) is the first menstrual flow or menses of a woman. It marks the beginning of fertility, that is, your ability to become pregnant. Menopause marks the end of menstrual flow, usually after about 30to 40 years of monthly menses.
The appearance of the first menses is the central and the most remarkable change for a young girl in puberty. Puberty describes the entire period during which your body is undergoing changes to make you a ‘full-blown woman’ capable of having a baby. Other changes will include change in your skin, axillary and pubic hair growth, body shape, breasts and genital organs.
The first menstrual flow is just the visible sign of the hormonal changes occurring within your body, which constitute what is called the menstrual or ovulation cycle.
Age Of Menarche
Girls experience menarche at different ages. It may not be the same as your friend. However, there is a range for most girls, which is about 11 to 14 years.
A few girls may have menarche as early as age 9 or as late as the age of 15. Nevertheless, it should not be too early or too late. In general, you should see your doctor if you have your first menses before 9 or have not yet had any menses by 15 years.
Why different age of onset? People are just different, and so are you too! The timing of the first menses is influenced by genetic and environmental factors such as nutrition. In fact what is more interesting is that the age of onset has declined persistently over the last century. The reasons for this decline remains a heated debate amongst the experts. You can think for yourself what societal changes have occurred over the years that can affect the development of young girls!
Most young girls or older women have an interesting story about the menarche experience. You may use the form at the bottom of the page or click here to share your story with other women
What Processes Are Behind Menarche
Your first menses is only the tip of the iceberg as concerns the changes occurring in your body. There are physiologic( or normal) processes occurring within which give rise to the first menstrual flow.
The important processes involved are
- Acquisition of the right body mass. There
must be sufficient body mass( about 17% body fat) to have menses. Some adolescent girls may not have their menses because they do not have the minimum weight required!
- Hormonal changes.Puberty is driven by hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers produced by one organ of your body telling another organ to act in a particular way. For example, the hormone estrogen produced by the ovary tells your breasts to grow and they obey and start growing! For menses to occur the following hormones come to play:Gonadotrophin Releasing Hormone produced by the hypothalamus of the brain and the acts on the pituitary gland to produce two other hormones. Luteiniszing hormone and Follicle Stimulating Hormone( Gonadotrophins) are produced by the pituitary gland and act on the ovaries ‘telling’ them to produce the female hormones.Estrogen and progesterone are the two female hormones produced by the ovaries which cause the female body changes at puberty and are the main players behind the menstrual flow.
- Body changes. The body changes, especially the outflow of menstrual blood is a visible manifestation of the internal changes taking place in the body.
Menstrual cycle basics to know
The menstrual or ovulation cycle is a cycle of events that will be repeating approximately every month in your body.
In brief, the cycle length is usually within 21 to 35 days( average 28), and most girls will have their cycle length within 25 to 30 days. Menstrual bleeding itself usually last for about 3 to 7 days. An important point to note here is that you may not have the same durations or cycle length as your friend or relative or even your mom. All that is important is that your cycle length should fall within the acceptable range.
Also note that the cycle will be irregular for the next year or so as the system gets ‘mature’. If your have not yet familiar with the ovulation or menstrual cycle, I strongly suggest you read my web page on the ovulation cycle to get the right facts at this very initial moment.
The first menses will come with you noticing a spot of blood on your panties or when you go to use the bathroom. It may come with some other discomfort such as feeling of bloating, mild lower abdominal cramps, some weight gain, mild pain in your breasts or some pimples on your face.
Menarche Already, What Next?
OK, I have had the first menses already, what next? Not many things, anyway. There are however some important issues to consider
- The menses will be very irregular but will stabilize with time.
- Know that you cannot really predict the first day of your flow. In fact neither will you be able to predict the next menses because you do not even know what length is yours. You can simply use the general average length of 28 days as a guide until you figure out what is your cycle length.
- Menses mean more responsibility for personal hygiene. You will have to get familiar with the use of menstrual products such as the pad or tampon to soak the menstrual blood.
- Yes,the first menses mean you have entered your fertility phase, that is, you can be pregnant! See below for more on pregnancy issues.
Menstrual flow is different from ovulation, which is the release of the egg. No egg, no pregnancy.Ovulation does not always occur in every cycle. A cycle without ovulation is called an ‘anovulatory’ cycle. About 80% of girls have such cycles within the first year after their first menses. As the body ‘matures’ in it, ovulation begins to occur and the cycle also gets regular.
But note also that not every girl follows this rule. Some may ovulate with the very first cycle. If they engage in sexual activity around that moment, they may get pregnant, and not even see the first menses but a pregnancy! Though this is rare, it is a possibility and therefore attention must be giving to it.
Some myths have emerged about becoming pregnant around your first menses. These include
- You cannot get pregnant the first time you ever have sex.
You will definitely not want to learn this by experience! Whether the first or the fifth, pregnancy requires only an egg and a sperm and does not bother if it is the very first sexual encounter or not.
- You cannot get pregnant if you’re very young.
You may be a child, but menses make you a potential mother even in childhood! In fact you can become pregnant before you even have your first menses as noted above. Pregnancies have been reported in children as early as 9 years.
- Pregnancy cannot occur if you have sex during your period.
Though pregnancy during menses will be a strange and rare occurrence, an allowance must still be given for iT. The body is quite complex and women are very different.
- Pregnancy cannot occur if you have sex while standing up or in a hot tub. These are just not true.
Bottom line, assume you can get pregnant anytime.
The age of onset of the menarche may be abnormally early or late. When it occurs very early, even preceding other puberty signs, it is called early menarche. When it fails to occur by the age of 16, it is also a disease called primary amenorrhea.
Where To Learn
The advent of the menstrual cycle requires knowledge and psychological preparation. Many parents have made the error of leaving this in the hands of the young girl or just suppose it will be taught in school.
Though friends will be more that willing to discuss and teach you on this topic, they are hardly going to be the best source of menstrual cycle information. Do not rely on them!
Trust guides are your doctor, the school nurse and especially your parents( moms often do it better!). Of course, you are now on a trusted site which can also help answer some questions you may have! Use it as an opportunity to learn about sexually transmissible infections also.
Menarche for most women leaves behind a story to tell. What is (was) your experience?
The age of menarche varies from one woman to another. What (is)was your case? Even more interesting are the circumstances surrounding the first menses- fears,parent’s reactions, myths, friends etc. Got some story to tell? Share on!