Our teenage years can be summed up in one phrase… ‘What the hell is going on? Is this normal? Am I normal?‘ It’s the stage of our lives that is often full of firsts; First job, first time driving, first drink, first break-up, first sexual partner, and your first period. So let’s get down to the stuff we wish we were told, other than how to put a condom on a banana and use a tampon. Like understanding what is normal and what’s just common.
What is a Normal period?
There is no real one size fits all. However there are some general guidelines to what a normal period is like:
- 21-35 days: Anything outside of this time is abnormal
- 2-7 days: Your period should last around 2-7 days.
- Pain? There may be slight pain on the first day, however it should never be debilitating
What is a Normal First period?
Your periods can often be irregular in the beginning and for some of us, it can take up to 5 years before ovulation happens in the majorities of our periods. It can also be a bit painful and dark brown in colour. Having your period is a great thing, it means you have a window into what all of your hormones are doing, so next time your P’diddy comes to town, take a look and see what you find…
- Brown- This is old blood and typically present on your first period. It’s due to low progesterone from cycles where you don’t ovulate… This is very common when you have only just began your menstrual cycles
- Purple- This is a sign of high oestrogen, it often means you will have heavier periods also and can be more common if your BMI is higher. You may experience more PMS symptoms like depression.
- Cherry read- Congrats! This means your hormones are more than likely balanced
- Light red/pink- Your oestrogen levels are most likely too low, this is typically not common early on as you need adequate oestrogen levels to trigger your first menstrual cycle. However it may be common for you if your BMI is low.
- Painful- Often a sign that you are more inflamed. Typically your diet might not be ideal. Removing inflammatory foods and processed sugars can help.
- Heavy- Higher oestrogen, more typical in women just beginning their menstrual cycles and have a higher BMI
- Light- Low oestrogen, more typical in women with lower BMIs
- Long- If your period is longer than 7 days, it often means your oestrogen levels are higher. This is more normal in the beginning, particularly because ovulation isn’t regular and our progesterone and oestrogen isn’t there.
- Short- A normal period is around 4-7 days. If it is shorter it means your oestrogen levels are most likely lower.
- Irregular- Often our periods can be irregular when our body is just starting out with our periods. It’s a sign that you’re not ovulating. It can take sometimes up to 5 years to become regular. **Remember: Going on the pill, doesn’t make your periods regular, instead it gives you a withdrawal bleed, that’s not a real period**
When should I Get my first period?
Every girl is different, typically you will get your first period around 12-13 years of age. Or typically 1-2 years after the onset of pubic and armpit hair. After you have had your first period, girls typically grow another 7cm on average.
It’s also different for different ethnicities and countries. In developed countries earlier breast development and menarche (first period) are seen. African girls in the 1970s noted that pubic hair occurred before breast budding, which is the opposite for most caucasians.
What happens if i haven't got my period yet?
Every girl is different and it’s true you may be a late bloomer, however there are somethings to look out for, to make sure your health is in tip top shape. Remember your period is a vital sign, just like your pulse or body temperature.
- If your period hasn’t come before the age of 14 with a history of an eating disorder, male pattern hair growth (chin, nipple hair) or symptoms of an issue with the flow of blood coming out (ie. an imperforate hymen–> Something you’re born with and need a doctor to take a look at, often easily fixed with a minor surgery)
- Absence of your first period by 15 years of age.
- There should be some breast development by age 13.