Going With The Flow: What every girl should know about getting her period
Q: "When will I get my period? I need to know!"
A: There is no way of knowing when it will hit because every girl is different. Most girls get their first period around 11 or 12. However, some girls get their periods as early as 9, and some as late as 16. The one thing we can assure you is that, you will almost definitely get it sooner or later.
Q: "What does it feel like to have your period? Does it hurt?"
A: As most girls who have their period will tell you, it doesn't really feel like anything at all. In fact, many girls feel absolutely nothing. Still, there are some side effects girls feel just before or during their periods-abdominal cramps, sore breasts, bloating, lower back pain, zit outbreaks and low energy. For the first three problems, most girls suggest popping one or two Midol tablets as soon as you start feeling crampy. Aleve and Tylenol were also mentioned more than a few times. For low energy, a handful of raisins (high in iron) often does the trick. As for the breakouts? It's best to avoid heavy-duty acne cleansers and medicated pads if your skin behaves normally the rest of the month, just dab some drying lotion on the spot and try not to pick at it.
Q: "How long will it last?"
A: Your period could last up to eight days, it may only last two. Be prepared, say most girls, for it to flow about three to six days. "Also," says one e-mailer, "know that it can change every month. You might have it for two days during one month, and then five days the next month."
Q: "Will I get really cranky, like my older sister does? She blames everything on PMS!"
A: Some girls have definite mood swings because of the hormones surging through them. A few days before getting their periods, many say they get some effects of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome, which, yes, is very real). Some girls feel cranky or irritable. "When I have PMS, I get real snippy," admits Cassie, 12. Other girls feel a little blue and weepy. "The day before my period, I sometimes cry for, like, no reason," says Jill, 14. The good news is that the swings are temporary and pretty tolerable. Girls who feel severe mood swings or experience extremely painful cramps, not just uncomfortable, should see a doctor because help is available with prescription medication.
Q: "Once I get it, how will I know when it's coming next?"
A: For the most part, girls get their periods every 28 days or so. While some can predict the exact day of their next period, other girls have irregular cycles, and may be off by a week or more. You may be even more irregular when you first start getting your period, skipping a whole month or two. This is perfectly normal-nothing to panic over. Says Jerry, 12, "When you first start getting it, you can never predict when it will strike. I once got mine twice in one month."
Q: "I'm terrified I will be caught totally off guard when I get it. What can I do?"
A: This is the extreme fear for girls. Says Kristi, 10, "I always hear about girls going to dances in white dresses and walking out with a big red spot on their dress!" First of all, of the 165 letters we received, only three girls say they were busted in public with a surprise stain. But, OK, there's certainly a fair chance you'll be surprised at least one time by your period's arrival, considering the fact that you'll be getting it 12 times a year. Your best bet (and your only real option) is to stay prepped. In your locker, keep a few pads and a sweater you can wrap around your waist, just in case. Our readers also say they keep spares for friends, which is a smart (and generous) idea; do the same with your buds.
Q: "What if it's too late and people can see a stain?"
A: If you don't have a sweater in your locker or backpack, hit the nurse's station. You can call a parent and have hom or her bring in a change of clothes. Also, nurses are entirely used to helping girls with this dilemma and have all the supplies on hand a girl could ever need. It's also helpful to know that no one ever actually died of embarrassment.
Q: "What's better-pads or tampons?"
A: There's no better or worse, just what's more comfortable for you. A lot of girls say they were nervous about using tampons at first, so they stuck with pads. "I sleep with thick pads but use thin pads when I go to school so they're not bulky," says Tara, 15. Some girls choose to never use tampons at all, which is perfectly fine. "I just don't like the idea of something being inside me," says one reader. Other girls, who swear by tampons, say they are "comfortable, more reliable, and you hardly know they're in there." Suggests one e-mailer, "If you're going to use tampons for the first time, you may want to put a mirror on the floor so you can see exactly what you're doing." When it comes to swimming, girls say, tampons are definitely the way to go. Just be sure to change your tampon every four to six hours. For info on how to insert a tampon, check the instructions in any box of tampons.
Q: "Which brands work best?"
A: There are several choices out there. As if you're not overwhelmed enough, you have to pick from an aisle full of products that look exactly the same on the box! Several readers recommend pads with wings (the cotton extends over the edges of your underwear and wraps around the outer, bottom part) for less chance of staining. The Always brand came up more than any other as "reliable and comfortable." As for tampons, you can choose between slender, regular, super, and super-plus sizes, depending on the heaviness of your flow. Several girls said "ultra-glide" is easiest to use.
Q: "What if I stain my clothes or sheets? Do I have to throw them out?"
A: No problem. Just soak the stained garment in cold water and detergent. You can then rub the stain right out and rinse.
Q: "If I am protected with a pad or tampon, will anyone be able to tell I have my period?"
A: No, the only way anyone will ever suspect it is if you tell them
outright-or scream down the hallway, "Guess what I got?!"
Q: I heard I can catch a period if my friend is having her's. Is that true?
A: No, getting your period is not contagious. However, when friends (who both have their periods) hang out a lot, they sometimes end up on the same cycle. This also happens a lot with moms and daughter, since they live together.
A: Absolutely, but it's your choice of who to tell and how to tell it. Most of our girls told their mothers. "Your mom will be a lot cooler than you think," says one reader. "If you're calm, she will be too". The majority of girls say they also told their best friends, whether the friends had gotten their periods already or not. "It's not something to be embarrassed about," says Beth, 11. In fact, L.D., 11, sums it up like this, "When you do get it, congratulations! You're a woman!"
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