Getting your first period -- known as “menarche” (US National Library of Medicine, 1995) -- is a pretty significant life event for many women. I got mine on picture day in seventh grade and I’ll never forget it. I remember every single detail of that day even down to what I was wearing (flared jeans and a maroon v-neck sweater). While your first period is certainly a very important occasion, once we’ve become seasoned “period pros”, if you will, I think we tend to take our cycles for granted until our lifestyles and life choices begin to change (i.e. family planning; TTC or TTA). For me, once I adjusted to having a regular period, it became something that just happened: something I didn’t look forward to every month if I’m being completely honest. I wanted to get it over with, you know? Now that I’m in my early thirties, my health and wellness has become much more of a priority. I want to be mindful of what my body is trying to tell me.
Your period evolves during every stage of womanhood. As we get older, our cycle continues to adjust based in part to normal age-related hormonal changes. In an exclusive interview with Redbook Magazine, Alyssa Dweck, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, confirms “There's an unspoken rule among doctors [https://www.redbookmag.com/body/health-fitness/a39093/surprising-period-facts/] that a woman's period tends to change through the decades." Dweck adds that "Your cycle is often an indicator of what's going on in your health and in your life, and there are many transitions between your 20s, 30s, and 40s."
Let’s learn more about what’s common about menstruation, what might be cause for concern and why it matters at every stage - beginning with the adolescence age.
Nationally, the average age for a girl to get her first period is 12 years old (Mayo Clinic Tween and Teen Health, 2017). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides these conclusions and recommendations for girls in this age category:
What May Be Cause for Concern
According to the Lehigh Valley Health Network, many menstrual conditions can affect adolescent girls, requiring the clinical care and attention of a physician or other health care professional:
Menstruation for American girls typically begins around age 12, but periods are possible as soon as age 8 (Mayo Clinic Tween and Teen Health, 2017). That's why it's important to discuss this topic early and often to prepare girls for what to expect. The Mayo Clinic suggests children are interested in and more likely to understand practical information as opposed to biological details and medical facts. Parents and doctors are advised to explain when menstruation is going to happen, what it's going to feel like and what to do when the time comes (Mayo Clinic Tween and Teen Health, 2017). The Identification of abnormal menstrual patterns in adolescence may improve early identification of potential health concerns for adulthood. It is critical for clinicians to have an understanding of the menstrual patterns of adolescent girls, the ability to differentiate between normal and abnormal menstruation, and the skill to know how to evaluate the adolescent girl patient (ACOG Committee Opinion, 2015).