As much as we’d love to be able to give you a definitive answer, there’s no way to know exactly when your period is due to start. Puberty is a process- and before your menstrual cycle begins, lots of other changes take place within your body first. Let’s talk about the signs that your period could be on the way..
What is puberty?
Puberty refers to the time right before adulthood, when lots of changes take place emotionally and physically. It’s a transition period, and it can start at any time from the age of 8. There are five stages of puberty for girls:
- Stage 1: Age 8-11 years- you might not notice any changes to the outside of your body, but on the inside hormones are starting to get to work, making your ovaries grow in preparation for periods.
- Stage 2: Age 8- 14 years- your breasts will begin to grow, and hair will appear in your pubic area.
- Stage 3: Age 9- 15 years- more hair grows on your body and your breasts will continue to grow. You’ll get a bit taller too.
- Stage 4: Age 10-15 years- your menstrual cycle starts and you get your first period.
- Stage 5: Age 12-19 years- you finally stop growing, your breasts are developed and your menstrual cycle has begun.
When do periods start?
Your period will start when your body is ready. The average age is between 10 and 15, but there’s no real way of knowing how old you’ll be. There are some signs that you can look out for though:
- Cramps in your tummy and/ or lower back. These might feel like a dull ache and can sometimes be felt in the legs too.
- Bloating. Your tummy might look and feel swollen and full, and your clothes might feel a little uncomfortable.
- Sore breasts. Sometimes your chest area can feel tender or swollen.
- Acne. Sometimes a surge in hormones can cause spots to break out on your skin before your period starts.
- Feeling irritable or tearful. It’s not just physical changes that take place when you get your period; emotional changes are common too.
- Feeling tired. You might lack energy during the day, or want to sleep longer in the mornings.
- Vaginal discharge. Some girls notice discharge in their pants before their period starts. This can be up to six months before your actual period starts.
How to talk to a parent about periods
Periods are a very normal part of growing up, and absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. If you have questions, it’s natural to want to talk about what’s happening to you. If you’re worried about when your period might appear, or you’ve already started but you’re not sure how to tell someone, you’re not alone. It can be a difficult conversation to have- but remember that all grown ups have been through puberty themselves too, so most likely they’ll be able to talk you through any concerns you have.
Here are some tips for starting the conversation:
- Write it down. Sometimes it’s easier to say what we want to say if we don’t have to say it out loud- and that’s fine! It can also be helpful to write questions down so you don’t forget them too.
- Don’t make it a big deal. Often, the thought of a ‘big chat’ can be so daunting. So keep it simple and bring the topic up casually with an opener like ‘how old were you when you started your periods?…’
- Get straight to the point. If you have a question, just ask it. Don’t skirt around the topic or you could come away disappointed and with more questions than when you started. It’s not always easy, but if you come straight out with ‘I think I started my period’, your grown up will know what to do next.
Surviving your first period
Whether you were ready and waiting for it, or whether your first period took you by surprise, we’re willing to bet that the first few days of your very first cycle will be a steep learning curve. Here are the key facts you need to know:
- The first day of bleeding is the first day of your cycle- the menstruation stage.
- Bleeding can last anywhere from 2 to 7 days in total.
- Bleeding will be heavier on the first day or two, and you’re likely to feel a few tummy cramps too.
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) has lots of symptoms and can affect anyone with a menstrual cycle. The most common symptoms are feeling tired, irritable and anxious, mood swings, bloating, acne and headaches. You might not experience them all, but it’s important to tell someone how you’re feeling as there are things you can do to ease the symptoms.
There are lots of different types of period protection that you can try to manage your flow, so knowing what’s available will be helpful.
We recommend period pants for your first period, as they’re easy to use and safe for all ages. They’re special pants that you wear like your normal underwear, and you bleed into them. You need to change these pants more regularly than your normal underwear, but they will keep you protected and safe against leaks without the need for pads and tampons.
Your period might only last for one or two days, and you might not get another one again for a couple of months; it can take some time for your cycle to regulate, and this is totally normal.
Nobody will be able to tell that you’re on your period. You won’t look any different and you won’t smell different either. If you use period pants, nobody will be able to tell as they’re just like wearing normal underwear.
If your period leaks on to your clothes, it can be embarrassing- but you need to know that it’s happened to us all at some point. Tie a jumper around your waist if you can, or change clothes if you need to. And next time, make sure you have a pair of period pants ready to save it from happening again.
Top picks to manage your period
Keep this list handy- these are the essentials that will get you through!
- Chocolate- when cravings hit, this will be appreciated!
- A copy of WUKA x Rebel Girl 'Growing Up Powerful- the Periods and Puberty Edition'- essential reading
- WUKA Teen Stretch Seamless period pants- these pants grow with you, so even if you're going through a growth spurt you won't need to keep buying new sizes.
- WUKA First Period Kit- with a free copy of our book!
WUKA hot water bottle- perfect for sleepovers when tummy cramps strike. You can wear this bottle to keep it in place, and it even has a handy pocket to keep your phone in.WUKA wash bag- to keep your pants in while you're at school.
- Period swimwear- made so you don't have to miss out- you can still swim on your period.
What are the first signs of a girl starting her period?
There are a few signs that might indicate your period is on its way. You might notice vaginal discharge in the months preceding your first period, and as your body prepares for menstruation you might noice a few physical symptoms too.
Some girls experience bloating, headache, tummy cramps and feelings of anxiety or irritability when their period is on the way. We’re all different, and we all experience periods differently too.
How long after pubic hair do periods start?
For most girls, pubic hair starts to grow between the ages of 8 and 14. The average age for your period to start is around 12, but some girls will start earlier or later than this- so there is no way to know how long after pubic hair appears that this will happen.