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Dear Dish-It: Is This Normal?

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Dear Dish-It,

When will I get my period? I’m so prepared! I have a purse that I carry with me everywhere I go, with a pad and a change in case I’m in public when it happens. I’ve read about 10 books on it and I still have no idea! Is it normal for an 11-year-old not to have her first period yet?

Miss Period Panic

Dear Miss PP,

Most girls start to go through puberty between the ages of 8 and 13 – not many start earlier, but some definitely do start later. Trust me, you WILL get your period – and it’s great that you’re prepared for when you do. All you need to do is relax, be patient and realize that every body is different, and yours will start to menstruate when it’s ready – not before, not after. In the meantime, here’s some advice and info about your first period …

Pre-Period Signs

About six months or so before you get your first period you may notice an increased amount of clear discharge. It’s common and nothing to worry about unless it has a strong smell or makes you feel itchy.

Your First Period

The start of your period is called menarche. It doesn’t happen until all the parts of your reproductive system, which is made up of two ovaries, fallopian tubes and a uterus, have matured and are working together. As you mature and enter into puberty, hormones are released that stimulate your ovaries. Then, about once a month, a tiny egg leaves one of the ovaries and travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus. To prepare for the egg, your uterus starts to build up its lining with extra blood and tissue. Your period happens when the blood, tissue and unfertilized egg leave the uterus and come out of your body. This cycle happens almost every month for a few decades, until you reach menopause and your ovaries no longer release any eggs.

Every Month

The amount of time between a girl’s periods is called her menstrual cycle (the cycle is counted from the start of one period to the start of the next). Some girls will find their menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, while others might have a 24-day cycle, a 30-day cycle or longer. Irregular periods are common in girls just starting to menstruate. It may take your body a while to sort out all the changes going on, so you may have a 28-day cycle for 2 months, then miss a month, for example. Usually, after a year or two, your cycle will become more regular.

Pads & Tampons

Once you start menstruating, you'll need to use something to absorb the blood. Most girls use a pad or a tampon. There are so many products out there that it may take some experimenting before you find the one that works best for you. Some girls use only pads (particularly when they first start menstruating), some use only tampons and some switch around – tampons during the day and pads at night, for example. If you have questions about periods, pads, tampons, ask a parent, health teacher, school nurse or older sister.

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