This month at LOLA we launched our First Period Kit. It’s filled with everything a girl needs for her first period including tampons, pads, and liners made with organic cotton. We also included a carrying pouch and stickers for cycle tracking. As we developed the kit, we talked to teens, parents, doctors, and teachers and a common thread became clear: many girls don’t feel prepared for their first period. Through April, we’re tackling some of the most requested first period topics on The Broadcast. Want more first period tips? Check out our e-book: LOLA’s personal, honest, real-life guide to your first period, co-written with leading pediatrician, Dr. Lisa Stern.
I remember the day clearly: I was in seventh grade, and was taking a bathroom break before lunch. After doing a silent cheer in the bathroom, I walked back to my lunch table, sat down, and worked up the courage to share the news. “I just got my first period,” I whispered to my friends.
Nowadays, I have no qualms about screaming “does anyone have a tampon?” in a crowded room or having candid conversations with friends about the exact length, heaviness, color, and texture of our periods. But that’s not always the case when you’re younger — and conversations held mostly through whispers and mostly with friends your own age can lead to a lot of misinformation. Keep reading for some common period myths you should stop believing ASAP.
MYTH: Tampons hurt
THE FACTS: One myth that pediatrician Jasmine Zapata, MD hears often is that tampons hurt. “If they are placed correctly, they do not hurt at all,” says Dr. Zapata. You may just need a little bit of practice and patience. “A common thing that happens with young ladies first learning to use tampons is that they place them incorrectly and experience pain. I advise speaking with your doctor or trusted caregiver about how to properly place tampons. Once you get the hang of them, they are actually painless and work very well!”
MYTH: PMS is all in your head
THE FACTS: With your first period often comes your first experience with premenstrual syndrome. The cramps, the moodiness, the cravings, the nausea, the diarrhea — there’s no mistaking it. So what’s up with some people denying PMS exists? Not every woman get PMS (though about 85 percent do experience at least one symptom) and not everyone experiences it in the same way, but don’t let that affect how you see and treat your own symptoms. If your PMS is severe enough to interfere with school or social life on a regular basis, ask your doctor about premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS that affects 3-5 percent of menstruating women.
MYTH: You can’t swim when you have your period
THE FACTS: Cannonball away! There’s no evidence supporting the myth that you shouldn’t swim on your period. It’s completely sanitary, you won’t attract sharks, and no one will be able to tell you’re on your period if you’re wearing a tampon or menstrual cup (since pads are worn outside the body, they’re less comfortable in the water).
MYTH: You should get your period by age (whatever)
THE FACTS: The median age for a first period is between 12 and 13 years old, but don’t worry if you’re older or younger — some girls start menstruating as early as nine years old, while others start as late as 15 years old. If you haven’t gotten your first period by the time you’re 15, tell your doctor so you can rule out any underlying issues.
MYTH: Each menstrual cycle should last 28 days
THE FACTS: You hear of the 28-day cycle often because it’s about average — but that doesn’t mean it’s the only normal cycle length. The average length of your period during your first year of menstruation is actually about 32 days, but anywhere from 21-45 days is typical.
MYTH: You shouldn’t work out when you have your period
THE FACTS: It’s totally okay if you just want to curl up with a heating pad and some chocolate — but if you want to work out, don’t let your period stop you. Not only is it perfectly fine to exercise during your period, research shows it can actually help alleviate both physical and emotional PMS symptoms.
MYTH: A heavy flow means there’s something wrong
THE FACTS: Period flows are like snowflakes — each one is different. Your estrogen levels are actually higher when you’re a teen, so a heavy flow isn’t unusual. That said, if your periods are lasting longer than 7 days and you’re changing your pad or tampon more than once every one or two hours, check in with a doctor.