Menarche
Having Your First Menstrual Period

first period in teenagers

Signs of a Girls First Period

Menarche

Contents

What Is Menarche?
When Does It Occur?
What Factors Can Delay It?
What Causes Early Menarche?
What Are The Signs?
What Happens To The Menstrual Cycle After Menarche?


All About Periods
Guide to Menstruation

What Is Menarche?

Menarche is a young woman's first menstrual cycle and bleed. Throughout history, menarche has been an important social rite, marking a girl's passage to adulthood. Usually however a young girls first menstruation cycles are different to those of adults in that she usually does not ovulate. About 80 percent of menstrual cycles within a year of menarche are anovulatory (no egg is released). This reduces to 50 percent in the third year and 10 percent by the sixth year. That said, some girls can ovulate on their first period. If you are a teenage girl who has not started her periods by the age of 15, you should see your doctor.

Age Range: When Does It Occur?

A girl usually has her first period between the ages of 9 and 15. In 5 percent of cases menarche occurs between the ages of 16 and 18. Menstruation which starts before 9 is either precocious puberty or a symptom of endocrine disease. About a hundred years ago middle class American girls had their menarche on average at the age of 15.5 years old. Today, it is about at about 12.5 years. Improved nutrition may explain this drop in age. Scientists suspect that proportions of body fat to lean muscle tissue is an important factor and is triggering menarche earlier. Possibly because body fat triggers the production of certain hormones, and teenagers today have higher proportions of body fat. Generally a period starts about two years after the breasts first start to develop in puberty.

What Factors Can Delay It?

If body fat levels fall to below 15 to 22 percent of total body weight, as can happen in a growth spurt, menarche and menstruation may be delayed. The relationship of body fat to menstruation also explains why female athletes often stop menstruating, or develop light or irregular periods. By the time menarche appears, most girls have completed their growth spurt and are within one or two inches of their adult height. Additionally girls with type 1 diabetes may also have delays, recent studies show a difference of up to 8 months.

What Can Cause Early Menarche?

Some social and environmental stress factors have been associated with early menarche in young girls. These include:

1. Childhood obesity and lacked exercise growing up.
2. Tension in the home, parental arguments or absence of father from home.
3. Girls born at a low birth weight.
4. Girls who were exposed to smoking.
5. Mothers experienced preeclampsia when pregnant.

What Are The Signs Of Menarche?

Your body starts to change one to two years before menarche. The hips widen, hair appears under the arms and the breasts start developing. This is known as puberty.

1
. In the days before you start your first period, you may feel a little emotional or moody for no apparent reason.
2
. You may feel bloated, like there is a lot of gas in your tummy. These are typical premenstrual syndrome signs (PMS). See PMS treatment for some ideas on how to deal with it.
3
. You may notice a spot of brownish fluid on your underwear when you go to the bathroom. Blood flow normally starts this way, becoming heavier and redder in color during the period. A period usually lasts 3 to 7 days. See also, what causes brown spotting?

Ask your mom or a trusted friend for help on buying your first pads or tampons. You may find pads are easier to use to begin with as tampons take a little practice. If you have a menstrual cramp (a pain in your tummy or lower back), have a soak in a hot bath or apply a hot water bottle to the area.

What Happens To The Menstrual Cycle After Menarche?

Timeframe: The average monthly cycle lasts 28 days and is calculated from the first day of your last period to the first day of the next. However, after menarche, it may take a couple of years before your period develops a regular pattern. Your cycle may range from 21 to 45 days; this is nothing to worry about. Irregular periods (medical term oligomenorrhea), even missed periods (amenorrhea) are very common in the 5 years after menarche. If you are overweight or underweight for your height, this can affect your menstrual cycle. Stress, excess exercise or dieting can also have an effect.

Related Questions
When should my periods start?
How can I relieve period cramps? - Tips for reducing menstrual aches.

  Related Articles on Menarche

For more information on reproductive issues, see the following:

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Heavy Periods (Menorrhagia)
Toxic Shock Syndrome

• Homepage, see: Womens Health Advice


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