How Long Before Period Do You Get Cramps
Preparing For The First Period
The start of menstruation is a major event in a girls life. Some girls greet those first drops of blood with joy or relief, while others feel bewildered and scared. Whatever the reaction, the arrival of the first period holds the same meaning for every girl: Its proof that shes becoming a woman.
On average, most girls start their periods when theyre 12 or 13 years old . But if you wait until your daughter gets her period to talk to her about menstruation, thats too late.
So, how do you discuss menstruation and offer education, as well as guidance and support, before the big day arrives? Or, what do you tell your son? Before you can discuss menstruation, its important to have a good understanding of how the process works.
Menarche And The Teenage Menstrual Cycle
Menarche is a girl’s first menstrual period. A first period usually happens after breasts, pubic hair, and underarm hair have begun to grow. Menarche is a sign of growing up and becoming a woman. It can happen as early as about age 9 or up to age 15. The first few periods are usually light and irregular. About 2 out of 3 girls have a regular pattern of menstrual periods within 2 years of menarche.footnote 1 During the teen years, periods may become longer and heavier. For more information, see Menarche.
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Using Tampons And Pads
Tampons and pads are available at many stores. There are a few types and, with all the choices, it might be hard to know what is right for you. Generally, it is recommended to begin with a sanitary pad because they’re easy to use. Tampons are a popular choice, especially for active people.
Each product offers different levels of absorbency, which indicates how much blood it can hold without leaking. Try to match your normal flow and your need for absorbency with the product label.
Be sure to read any special recommendations the company has for how to best use their product. After trying a few different types, you will likely find a product that works well for you.
Pay attention to your flow so you get a sense of how often you need to change your pad or tampon. With either option, it should be changed at least every four to eight hours. With pads, this is primarily for sanitary reasons. For tampons, it is also to prevent health conditions such as toxic shock syndrome .
Using tampons labeled extra absorbent is not a good idea. It’s better to use a tampon designed for a lighter flow and to change it more often. You can also wear a mini-pad while using tampons to protect your clothing in case of any leakage.
What Controls The Menstrual Cycle
Your hormones control your menstrual cycle. During each cycle, your brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland send hormone signals back and forth with your ovaries. These signals get the ovaries and uterus ready for a pregnancy.
- Estrogen builds up the lining of the uterus.
- Progesterone increases after an ovary releases an egg at the middle of the cycle. This helps the estrogen keep the lining thick and ready for a fertilized egg.
- A drop in progesterone causes the lining to break down. This is when your period starts.
A change in hormone levels can affect your cycle or fertility. For example, teens tend to have low or changing progesterone levels. This is also true for women close to menopause. That is why teens and women in their 40s may have heavy menstrual bleeding and cycles that change in length.
Other things can change your cycle. They include birth control pills, low body fat, losing a lot of weight, or being overweight. Stress or very hard exercise also can change your cycle. Pregnancy is the most common cause of a missed period.
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How Long Does A First Period Last
Of course, this differs for everyone, but your first period may only last a couple of days. In fact, your first few periods may be very light with only some spotting of reddish-brown blood. It might take a while for your hormones to stabilize and for your period to get on a consistent schedule. Once it does, the average period can last anywhere from four to seven days or longer. Many of the first several periods that a has are not ovulatory, so it is not unusual to see bleeding that seems to go on for weeks, Meltzer says.
What Counts As Severe Cramping
Many women hear that stomach cramps before periods are normal, so they try to power through their pain. This common misconception may be keeping you from getting the help you deserve. When asking Is it normal to have cramps 5 days before period?, you need to distinguish between light and severe cramping. Truly bad cramps before period are never normal. Light twinges of pain are common, but intense discomfort is not.
Signs that you have severe cramping include:
- Your cramps dont improve if you take over-the-counter pain medication.
- You cannot focus, talk normally, or breathe easily during a cramp.
- Youve quit doing certain daily activities due to cramping.
- Your cramps are worse than your usual level of period cramping.
- Your cramps are accompanied by pelvic pain, especially during intercourse.
- You experience vomiting, dizziness, abnormal discharge, or fever alongside your cramps.
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Reason For Painful Cramps: Ectopic Pregnancy
The fertilized egg didnt travel to the uterus to attach to the endometrium of the uterus. Instead, it is attached to the fallopian tube, most often in ampulla, ovarian, isthmus parts, fimbria site of the ovary or cervix.
Very often ectopic pregnancy is mistaken for appendicitis. The symptoms of the ectopic pregnancy are severe pain and bleeding. Shall you develop any of the symptoms, dont hesitate to address your healthcare provider.
What Is A Period
A period, also called menstruation, is when your body removes the buildup of the lining of your uterus. This buildup of menstrual blood and tissue flows out of your vagina. The day your period starts is the first day of your menstrual cycle, which lasts until the first day of your next period.
Recognizing the signs that your period is coming helps you prepare to deal with the symptoms your body goes through during your menstrual cycle.
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What If Nothing Helps My Menstrual Cramps
If your menstrual cramps are not relieved by over-the-counter medicine, make an appointment to see your health care provider. Use a period and symptom tracker for 2-3 months and then bring it to your next medical appointment. A record of your symptoms can help your health care provider figure out the best treatment choices for you.
Kat A Former Clue Intern Shared Her Personal Experience Of Waiting To Get Her First Period Below
“Periods can be frustrating, messy and sometimes downright painful. Nevertheless, I couldnât wait to get mine. When I was nine, my mom taught me about periods, but stressed that I shouldnât expect mine to start any time soon since she had gotten hers later than average. Still, I was determined that that wouldnât be the case for me.
When I was 10, I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, looked down, and finally, a little spot of blood! The wait was over! I was a grownup now, ready to tackle anything! I rushed down the hall to tell my mom who gave me a pad with an unconvinced look on her face. That night I was almost too excited to sleep, knowing what I could tell all my friends in the morning. You can imagine my despair when there was not a hint of red to be seen, only a small cut on my upper thigh. False alarm.
Throughout elementary and middle school I had to sit through various puberty talks and was given countless handfuls of pads and tampons from sex ed teachers âjust in case.â I had to watch all of my friends come into school ready to spill the details of where they were and how they felt now that they were âa real woman.â I wasnât as physically mature as they were but I felt absolutely sure that this milestone would make me fit in again. Days, months and years passed. I watched everyone develop, claim that they had âsynced up,â and relate to each otherâs symptoms. I felt excluded.
Let’s support one another.
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What Causes Menstrual Cramps
Menstrual cramps are caused by uterine contractions . The lining of your uterus releases special chemicals called prostaglandins. These substances can increase the intensity of the contractions, especially if the levels rise. High levels of prostaglandins may also cause nausea and lightheadedness.
*Some or all of these problems may start a day or two before your period and can last for part or all of your period. These signs could be caused by other medical conditions and therefore it is important to talk with your health care provider about your symptoms.
What Will It Look Like
If a period is made of bloody fluid, you would expect it to look like blood, right? Well, sometimes period flow can look thinner or thicker than ânormalâ blood. First periods sometimes show up as a thick dark âsmearâ in your underwear. Dark? Yep, the color can definitely be different than you expect, ranging from deep red, to maroon, brown or even black. That happens because blood changes color over time. Sometimes your period blood has been waiting in your uterus or vagina for a while before it comes out, so it isnât the color of âfreshâ blood like youâd see if you cut your skin . The color doesnât mean anything about your health, so just know that if you see brown stuff in your underwear , itâs probably your period.
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What Are The Signs My First Period Is Coming Soon
The best way to predict your first period is to notice the changes happening to your body during puberty. The body changes that predict your first period most accurately are your breasts, pubic hair, and height. Most periods start 1Â½ to 3 years after breasts first start growing, when the pubic hair has filled in, and about 6 months after your fastest growth in height. Obviously, that doesnât tell you the day, the week, or even the month it will start, so you will just have to accept that your first period will be a bit of a surprise. Thatâs why itâs so helpful to be prepared â just in case!
What Are Implantation Cramps
There is no evidence that implantation causes cramps or pain. When someone claims to have implantation cramps, its much more likely that the cramping is due to other physical processes that lead to mild cramping.
The hormone progesterone can cause bloating and abdominal discomfort. Progesterone levels are increased during early pregnancy and during the end of your menstrual cycle. Its impossible to tell the difference between cramping that is caused by your upcoming period, or cramping that is caused by pregnancy, since the same hormoneprogesteroneis responsible for both.
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Managing Menstrual Cycle Symptoms And Bleeding
Keep a calendar and mark the day you start your menstrual period each month. If your cycle is regular, it can help you predict when you’ll have your next period.
If you’re trying to figure out whether you have a pattern of premenstrual symptoms, it may be helpful to keep a premenstrual daily symptom diary .
You can improve your body’s ability to handle menstrual changes by getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, and reducing stress. Non-prescription pain relievers can also help reduce some symptoms.
Your Daughters First Period: Help Them Be Ready
Many women probably remember when and where they got their first period. A lot of us probably also wish wed been a little more prepared.
If your daughter is approaching their first period, how can you help them be ready without embarrassing them — and yourself? Make an action plan so youre both ready.
Confront concerns. Your daughter is probably wondering what her period will feel like, how long it will last, and how she can take care of herself each month. Let her know that asking questions is OK, says pediatrician Cara Natterson, MD.
You can start with the basics: Explain that their first few periods will most likely be light, and they might not be regular in the beginning. The blood might be red, brown, or even blackish, and they should change their pad every 4 to 6 hours.
Dads, if this topic is outside your comfort zone, ask an older daughter or female relative to bring it up. Your daughter might be just as uncomfortable talking with you about their period as you are.
Make a period kit. Many girls fear theyll get their first period at school or when theyre away from home. To help your daughter feel ready, buy a small zippered pouch and stock it with a couple of teen-size sanitary pads and a clean pair of underwear, Natterson says. Tell your daughter to keep the pouch with them at all times, and keep one with you, too, just in case.
See a doctor sooner if:
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Further Reading For Girls
- “Susan’s Growing Up” is a picture book about periods that has been specially developed for people with learning disabilities. It’s from the Books Beyond Words series from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
- “The Period Book: Everything You Don’t Want to Ask “ by Karen Gravelle, and published by Piatkus, is a well-known book for any girl approaching puberty. It explains what to expect and how to cope with periods.
Page last reviewed: 05 August 2019 Next review due: 05 August 2022