Do you remember your first period? If you’re like many women, your period probably came at the most inconvenient of times – perhaps it came during a maths exam, during hockey practice or (as it did for a member of the &SISTERS team) during a cinema date with a secondary school crush. Or, perhaps you’re still patiently awaiting the day you’ll find blood in your pants and officially enter womanhood. Whatever your story, a woman’s first period, or menarche as it’s known in the medical community, is more than just a physical change – it’s an emotional change, too, and the best way to prepare is to arm yourself with knowledge (and in our opinion, a selection of &SISTERS period products, but more on that later).
Just as no two women are alike, no two periods are alike, and each woman’s experience is entirely her own. You’ll likely feel a range of conflicting emotions, and it’s ok to feel ‘not ok’ about your first period – but rest assured that with your first period comes access to a sisterhood of women who can not only relate, but who’ll always have your back (tampon in hand, in the ladies loo, when you need it most).
What the science says
While it may seem like everyone experiences their first period around age 12 (we have TV and films to thank for this misconception), according to the NHS, the average age of first period is actually between ages 10 and 15 years old. And this is only the average – in fact, some girls get their first period as young as 8, or as old as 18 (many members of the &SISTERS team didn’t get their first period until their late teens, either!) If you’re wondering when your first period might make an appearance, the NHS says that this happens about two years after you notice your breasts starting to develop, or about one year after you first notice discharge in your knickers.
When your period does arrive, you may notice painful cramping in your abdomen, or no pain at all; you may notice very faint ‘spotting’ in your knickers or your bleeding might be heavy enough to require a period product. To help relieve some of the anxiety that comes with anticipating your first period, we recommend carrying a spare liner ‘just in case’, and leaning on the women around you. Talking to your mum is a great place to start – she experienced a first period, too, and learning about her experience might help you to prepare for your own.
What the sisters say
Every woman remembers her first period, and each experience comes with a mish-mash of feelings and emotions. We’ve asked a number of women to share their memories to help you understand that no matter your experience, it’s perfectly normal.
Alexandra, 24, spoke about her first period, “I went to my mum crying in pain… she couldn’t understand why… until I explained I’d inserted the tampon and left the applicator inside!” For this one, we’d recommend starting slow with liners or pads before attempting tampons.
Sophie, 29, felt more prepared, “I didn’t start until I was 16, all my friends had started and I was so jealous, I used to practice putting in tampons all the time… when it finally came I was so happy and prepared.”
Ellie, 29, had her first period arrive at a D of E exhibition when she was 14. She explained, “I had some pads on me luckily, but had to hide my knickers and then throw them away when I had the chance, it was mortifying!”
Amy, 23, and her mum thought her first period called for celebration. She said, “I called my mum to tell her and she drove to [my] school, and bought me flowers.” Flowers are lovely, and we think every girl or young woman should treat herself on the day of her first period. Your body and mind are working hard to transition from girlhood to womanhood, and that’s something worth celebrating!
How to prepare for your first period
What to expect
On the day of your first period, you might feel some cramping pain in your abdomen, and you might feel a sensation of ‘wetness’ coming from your vagina. If you’re worried that you’ll bleed through to your clothing without realising, rest assured that this is an uncommon experience. Most girls and young women have light bleeding on the first day of their first period. More likely, you’ll notice it when you use the loo.
What to remember
Bear in mind that (nearly) all women and people with periods have been through this experience, too. You’re not alone, so talk to the women available to you, whether that’s your mum, a teacher or a friend. You may also wish to download a period tracking app to help you better understand your cycle when your period does arrive. At &SISTERS HQ, our favourites are Clue, Flo and Ovia.
What to use
If you’re nervous about inserting a tampon at first, it may help to know that there is a range of products available, many of which don’t involve inserting anything into your vagina. There are also quite a few vaginal options available for when you feel ready, to help keep you leak-free even when playing sport or swimming. Applicator tampons, non-applicator tampons, liners, pads, period cups and period knickers can all effectively protect against leaks during your period.
What’s inside our ‘my first period’ box
We designed our ‘my first period’ box to help you prepare for your first period in the healthiest, most comfortable way possible. Designed by the mother-daughter duo behind the &SISTERS brand, each colourfully designed box comes complete with ‘my first period’ informational cards, a compact mirror to help with tampon insertion, a canvas zip bag to take to school, and a range of our 100% organic cotton period products, perfect for a gentle introduction to period care. What’s more, we’ve vowed to donate 10% of all profits to charities tackling period poverty around the world, so your first period will do some good for your fellow sisters, too.