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A woman's first period is something every woman experiences at one point in their life. The first menstrual cycle is an exciting event as it signs the definitive passage from childhood and adolescence to womanhood. Even though they may not be emotionally mature, girls who have their first period become able to have children of their own, which physiologically makes them women.

The first period may be frightening for a girl, but it is important to be informed on what to expect and what a period really means.

Menarche is the term used to denominate the first period. When it happens, there is usually some blood in spots on underpants after going to bathroom or changing clothes. The color may vary from dark brown to bright red. Tampons and sanitary pads are used to pick up the blood and prevent stains.

Menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman. One woman may get her period every 21 days, another every 40 days. Period, or menstrual bleeding, marks the beginning of each cycle. Bleeding usually lasts from three to seven days, during which time the amount and the color of blood change. Periods usually start lighter, get heavier and then gradually stops.

In the first two years after the first period it is not unusual that a girl skips a period or that they come at irregular times. Body needs time to adjust and to develop a steady rhythm.

Menarche normally occurs two years after the breasts start to develop and four to six months after the pubic and underarm hair starts to grow. For most North American women the usual age of menarche is 12 or 13, but the age may also range from 9 to 16.

Many factors can affect the age of menarche, like genetics, culture, ethnicity and race, so if the menarche does not occur in the age considered “normal” in one culture, it does not mean there is something wrong. Each girl and each woman are different.

First period may be accompanied by symptoms like headache, pain in lower back, in upper legs, and of course, by menstrual cramps. The pain can be relieved with over-the-counter drugs like Advil or Tylenol.

In the days preceding the period, a girl may experience changes in mood, like irritation, mild depression, anger and lethargy. This can be annoying but it is completely normal, as it is a reaction to the hormones the body is releasing.

The first period is certainly an important event that marks the start of a new period in a women’s life. In some cultures, it is celebrated within the family as a joyous event and today more and more mothers and daughters have their little celebrating rituals to welcome a young girl into womanhood.

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