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What are the signs of a girls' first period?

Pointing out that the teenage years can be fraught is like telling a new mum she's going to have to change a nappy or two. As puberty starts to take hold, menstrual cycle hormones begin to make teens more irritable, which combined with the changes to her body, could mean you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Changes She's Going Through

Some girls see all of this as a positive sign that they’re becoming a woman. However, many girls wonder if they’re normal, especially if they’re the first or last in their class to see signs of puberty appearing. One of the most important pieces of advice we can give you is to keep reassuring your daughter that everyone is unique, so she may experience the signs of her first period and other changes at different times or in a different order to her friends. For most girls, puberty starts around the ages of 11 and 12, but it can start as early as eight. The first signs tend to involve breast development and hair growing under the arms and between the legs. It’s then usually a couple of years later that the first period arrives. Again, they could start as early as eight though, or in some cases not until she's 18. It’s impossible to predict when she’ll start spotting her first period signs, but it can be really helpful to provide lots of guidance as your little girl grows into a young woman.

Some of the first period signs your daughter will display include:

  • Breasts starting to develop
  • Discharge in underwear
  • The body has started to change shape and size
  • Pubic and under arm hair has started to grow
  • Body odour may be more noticeable
  • Hair often becomes greasy
  • Mood swings begin to be noticed
  • Spots may start to appear on the face, chest, and back
  • Stomach, lower back, and groin cramps can be experienced

More info on puberty changes

Breast development

More often than not, this is the first sign of change and can start two years before her first periodYour daughter may become conscious about how she looks and wonder when she’ll need to wear a bra. She may also be too embarrassed to ask you about it.

She will appreciate some guidance on this, so turn it into a positive experience by taking her on a shopping trip to be fitted for her first bra.

Don’t be surprised if your daughter declines the bra fitting offer though. Often girls find this conversation very awkward. If she says no, offer again in a few months’ time.

Discharge in underwear

This is something lots of girls worry about, so we know how sensitive this subject can be for teens. However, it is one of the clearest signs that a period is going to start soon. Menstrual discharge can vary in colour throughout the month from clear to creamy yellow. You might want to suggest your daughter uses panty liners as this may help her feel fresh and clean. Lil-Lets have designed panty liners for teens, which are smaller in length and narrower. They come in re-sealable pouches so they can be discreetly stored in their school bag.

Body shape and size

Weight and the worry about weight gain can be part and parcel of puberty. During this time, hips may become wider and the tummy a little rounder. It’s important your daughter knows these changes are a sign that she’s normal and healthy, so they should be celebrated.

Puberty is a very busy time for the body, it is vital that your teen eats a healthy diet. If she feels the need to snack a lot between meals, consider increasing the portions at mealtimes.

Pubic and under arm hair

Any kind of body hair can make her feel self-conscious and you may find she wants to remove it as soon as possible. Nowadays girls as young as 10 want to know how to remove hair from their legs, under arms, and pubic area. If you find your daughter is one of them, the decision about whether she removes any hair must be yours. If you say no, rather than close the door on this subject altogether, offer to discuss the matter again in six months’ time.

Personal hygiene and skin care

Get ready for your bathroom to become an extension of her bedroom for the next few years as her beauty regime becomes an essential part of her daily routine.

She’ll probably sweat more, need to wash her hair more often, and potentially have a few spots on her face or back. To make this time special (and stop her stealing all of your stuff), allow your daughter to select some toiletries that can be just hers and offer advice on the best methods for a skincare routine, reassuring her that the odd breakout of spots may still occur.

Mood swings

Those pubescent years play havoc with you, both physically and mentally.

If you’ve forgotten what it was like, she’ll be feeling happy one minute, then sad or angry the next, with no control over what she’ll be feeling next. We suggest you let her know that you understand what she’s going through. Although, maybe wait until everyone has calmed down a bit!

Her first period

Your little girl is growing up! You may have noticed she is displaying some of the other signs of puberty, so have a quick chat with her (nothing too heavy). Let her know what to expect and offer some products for her to keep in her drawer at home or in her school bag.

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Frequently Asked Question: Teens & Puberty

What are tampons?

Most tampons are made from a cotton like material, which is compressed into a small cylinder shape. Tampons are worn inside your vagina to absorb menstrual fluid. There are two different types of tampon, known as applicator and non-applicator and these give you a choice about how you insert them.

Why is period blood different?

Menstrual blood is not the same as the blood you see when you cut yourself elsewhere on the body. Menstrual fluid lines the walls of your uterus and is called endometrium; this is a mixture of blood, tissue cells and natural secretions from the vagina and cervix and is not toxic or harmful in any way.

How long will I have periods for?

On average you can menstruate for up to 40 years, with 13 periods each year, that’s a whopping 520 periods in a lifetime! So now you can see why it’s important to understand your menstrual cycle and use the correct products for your flow.

How much blood is in a period?

It can look like there is an awful lot of blood being lost but don't worry! You’ll be surprised to learn that for people with an average menstrual flow, no more than 2.5 tablespoons or an egg cup full of blood is released each month.

What colour is a period?

Menstrual fluid is not always red in colour – it can vary from very light brown to dark red (almost black) and this is perfectly normal. Your period may be lighter in colour at the start or you may only experience a lighter colour on the last couple of days... It all depends on your individual flow!

Will my period stop if I go in water?

You may have heard the rumour that periods stop in water due to water pressure, or depending on how cold the water is and therefore you don’t need to use any protection at all. This is NOT TRUE, menstrual fluid is released when the muscles surrounding your uterus contract and they can do this anywhere and anytime, even in water. So make sure you're always protected - a tampon is the best option because it's worn internally.

What do I do with used tampons?

Don’t flush your used tampon down the loo! Instead roll it up in tissue and pop it in a bin in the toilets or with other household waste.

When am I going to get breasts?

Breast development can start from the age of 7 -15 with the average being around 9-13, so don’t worry if your friends start developing or wearing bras before you, we are all different and it’s not a competition!

Have more questions on puberty?

Got a question you’ve been too embarrassed to ask? Wondering if what you are experiencing when starting your period? 

Join our Lil-Lets Talk community to hear from teens just like you

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