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What happens during a period? Does it hurt? Should you choose tampons or pads? In this article, we answer questions girls often have about their first menstruation.

The first menstruation is a huge milestone in most girls' lives, and you know it will happen sooner or later. You may have heard about getting your period from your mom, older sister, from friends or at school, but you are probably still curious about what to expect — and when to expect it.

Here, we answer the questions girls usually have about getting their first period, from what menstruation really is to how to use tampons and pads, and what to do about the weird symptoms that can come before and during your period. 

What Is Menstruation? 

Most girls get their first period between the ages of 11 and 14, but you can start menstruating when you are as young as nine, or you may not start until you are 15. The first period a girl has is called menarche

You will usually already have noticed other signs of puberty — like breast growth, pubic hair, and pimples — before you get your first period. 

What exactly is menstruation? You already know that you bleed from your vagina when you menstruate, usually between three and six days, and that it happens in monthly cycles.

To understand the whole story about menstruation, you also need to know what happens before you get your period. 

The start of a period marks the beginning of the menstrual cycle — the time from one period to the next. The first half of the menstrual cycle is called the follicular phase, and it gets your body ready for ovulation or the release of an egg cell from one of your ovaries. If an egg is fertilized, it implants into the uterus (womb) where it needs a cushy place to implant so it can grow. So during the follicular phase of your cycle, the lining of your womb gets thick with tissue and blood. 

When you don't get pregnant, your body cleans the womb out again to prepare for the next menstrual cycle. Some of the blood and tissue is reabsorbed by the body, but some is expelled through the vagina. That's menstruation. 

People often say that a girl becomes a woman when she gets her first period, and that's because she can get pregnant if she has sex from that point.

You're not going to have a baby any time soon, but your body is definitely preparing for that to happen in the future! 

Young girls often have irregular periods the first few years after menarche, meaning their menstrual cycles don't always last the same number of days. You probably won't ovulate (release an egg) every month either yet. Your periods will normally become more regular later on, but you don't need to panic if your periods are quite unpredictable in the beginning. Regular menstrual cycles can last between 21 and 35 days, with an average of 28 days. 

You'll want to see your family doctor or a gynecologist if you haven't started your period yet by age 15.
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