First menstruation, or menarche, can be an exciting time in a girl's life, signaling entry into puberty and young womanhood. The first menstrual cycle usually occurs between the ages of 11-15. The body does not start the menarche until all of the reproductive organs are mature and working together.
The signs of the first period are basically the same for every girl. Sometimes a girl can have premenstrual symptoms off and on for a few months before menstruation actually begins and runs a normal cycle.
Spotting is usually the first sign of the first period onset. The first period may not even be a true blood flow, but rather a light brown to red spotting which can last for several days. On the other hand, the spotting may lead into the regular menstrual flow. Some girls experience a typical, heavier menstrual flow from the beginning.
A "normal" menstrual period usually occurs every 28 days, from the first day of a period to the first day of the next. However, this can vary from 22 to 36 days. Each period usually lasts from three to seven days, with the average being five.
Another sign of the onset of menstruation is tenderness of the breasts. The hormones align and discomfort for several days in the breasts may occur prior to the actual vaginal bleeding beginning. The tenderness may also extend to the underarms and side.
Uterine cramping can begin several days before a vaginal flow appears. A girl may experience light abdominal cramps, sometimes accompanied by diarrhea or nausea before her first period. Additionally, pain may be felt in the lower back. Cramps may be achy or dull, or sharp. Abdominal bloating may go along with the menstrual cramps. Taking a dose of ibuprofen will help with the cramps.
It all sounds overwhelming; however, once everything normalizes, the average girl goes along with her life as though nothing is unusual. It would be good to begin wearing a pad to absorb any more of the spotting.