Your First Period, or Menarche (pronounced: Men-ar-kee)
Okay, so it’s happened, or it’s about to. You’ve started your first period.
Feel all the things, take all the time you need to process it. What does it mean? How do you manage it? Who do you tell? Do you feel embarrassed about it? Empowered? Yucky? Excited!? Terrified? Confused? Yep, go ahead. Feel all of it. You’re allowed. But most importantly, just breeeeaaathe. It’s going to be okay. Periods are totally normal, and we’ve got your backside covered with some great tips, education, and advice. ;-)
It’s called ‘Menarche,’ but you can call it “Aunt Flo”
Yeah, so–the technical term for your first period is “menarche” pronounced: “men-ar-kee.” Probably no one in your circle of friends is going to call it that. So now that the nerdy medical term is acknowledged, we can just call it what it is. Your first period. Unless you want to rename it: “Aunt Flo,” “Margaret,” “Jason.” Jason you ask? Yeah, ‘cause of the villain in all the Friday the 13th horror movies… now you’re getting it. So, what are you going to call yours?
Who can you talk to about it?
That’s a question only you can answer. Look to a safe adult you can get the facts from first. If you haven’t already learned the facts about your period, look to a parent, school nurse, older sibling, or teacher who you can trust. Look for information that is unbiased and factual. You can read about the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle to help educate you more about your body and period. It’s okay to talk to your friends about your period if you're comfortable with that. If you’re not yet, that’s okay too. Follow your gut, but remember, sooner or later many of your friends will also start their periods (if they haven’t already). Bringing it up first might be a huge relief to a friend who really wants to talk about it. 💖
Is it weird to talk about it?
Whether or not it’s weird to talk about your period is up to you. If you act embarrassed to talk about periods, then others around you might act embarrassed too. But nine times out of ten, if you’re comfortable talking about your period, the person listening to you will be as well.
Traditionally, periods have been one of those things that have been taboo to talk about openly. Here at Saalt, we believe that no one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable about your body or your period. We are trying desperately to bring periods out of the dark ages and eradicate the stigmas and shame surrounding periods. Periods help perpetuate the human race and deserve to be elevated and talked about, not censored.
We know that not everyone feels this comfortable (yet) talking about their period or periods in general. So first, start with yourself. Knowledge is power, and having more information about your body, what a period is, and how to manage it will help you feel comfortable talking about it.
Why am I having a period?
In a nutshell, you’re growing up. Getting your first period is a signal that you can potentially grow a human embryo into a baby within your uterus.
Each month, the lining of the uterus thickens to prepare the uterus for fertilized egg implantation. When no fertilized egg implants, you are not pregnant and your period starts. During your period that thickened lining sloughs off through the base of your uterus (called your cervix) and leaves your body through your vaginal canal. The fluid leaving your body can be varying colors of red and brown. It does contain blood, but also other tissue, like endometrium or bits of uterine lining. Some people can experience clots of blood in their period flow.
Along with period flow, some people also feel cramping, lethargy, or fatigue during their period. For most people, their period lasts anywhere from 3-7 days. After the end of the period, the next part of the menstrual cycle starts and the process begins all over again. While an average cycle is 28 days, this too can shift for many people - either shorter or longer. It’s very common to have an irregular cycle when you first start getting your period - that means it might be hard to predict when your period will start.
All of this is normal, however, if you’re ever concerned about your reproductive health, please have a safe adult help you find a doctor to talk with. No one else is going to advocate for your health like you are. It’s okay to listen to your body, take notice of changes, and ask questions.
How Do I Manage My Period?
It’s all new… tampons, pads, liners, menstrual cups, menstrual discs, period underwear… you’re going to get so many varying opinions of what’s the “best” way to manage your period flow. At the end of the day, what you’re comfortable wearing and using is what’s best for you. The only way to know if something works well for you is to try it.
Many people are only introduced to pads, liners, and tampons as they navigate through their first few periods, but reusable options like menstrual cups, menstrual discs, and period underwear are becoming a little more well-known. Reusable period care can have a little bit more of a learning curve when you first start. Mastering period cups and period discs comes with the opportunity to fully understand your internal anatomy as well as your external anatomy. Yes, that means you’re going to put your fingers up there. But guess what? It’s YOUR body. When you’re ready, it’s okay to put your fingers up there to understand your own anatomy. Remember the “knowledge is power” part? Yep, you get it.
Some of the things that make menstrual cups and menstrual discs better options for many people are:
They help you save money over time; one period cup or period disc lasts 10 years
They hold more fluid than a pad or tampon which means a longer wear time and fewer trips to the bathroom
You can wear them for up to 12 hours at a time. Yes, that’s much longer than a pad or tampon.
When you’ve mastered your learning curve and have them properly inserted, you can’t feel them. (Sorry but you can’t say the same thing about a pad or dry tampon).
We get it though, you might not be ready to try a period cup or period disc. Period underwear is also a great reusable option! Period underwear is like your regular underwear, but with a gusset (the crotch part) that absorbs period flow and locks it in to prevent leaking. They do have a wear time like a pad; you will have to change them when the gusset gets full, but unlike a pad they are washable and reusable! Great for the planet and your pocketbook, plus they’re stylish, cute, and comfortable! While you’re learning your flow, the best period underwear might be styles with a gusset that can hold a heavy flow (3 pads worth, or 4 tampons worth of flow)… you know, just to be sure.
You got this! 💪🏼
Navigating your first period can feel overwhelming. You may or may not feel emotionally ready to take on this new responsibility of managing your period every month, and the implications of what it all means. It’s okay to feel like that! Or maybe you’ve been waiting a while for your period and you’re really excited about it and want to have a period party with your friends. That’s totally cool too! However YOU are feeling about your first period is right for YOU. Remember to not participate in conversations that period shame others. Everyone deserves a safe place and person to talk with about their period. This is why it’s nice to have a safe adult you can talk to about it. Ask questions, find facts, learn your options to care for your period, and give yourself some grace to embrace your new you. You’ve got this!