Menstrual Cycle Explained For Teens

Menstruation happens each month that a woman doesn't get pregnant. The uterus has prepared a thick lining to hold and nourish a baby. When pregnancy doesn't happen, the lining is "shed." It comes out of the vagina as blood and tissue. Another way to call menstruation is, "menstrual period," or just, "period."

Some girls get their periods when they are as young as 8 years old, while others get their periods at 16 years. Most girls, though, get their periods when they are around 11 or 12 years old.

Four Stages

Menstruation is one of the four "stages" of something called "puberty." Menstruation is the fourth and last stage of puberty. Though the stages don't always happen in the same order, most times, a girl gets taller all of a sudden, and then she begins to grow hair in her armpits and around her pubis—the area that is the outer front and middle sections of a girl's sexual parts, hidden from view by her underpants. The next part of puberty is the development of breasts. Around 2-2 1/2 years later, menstruation arrives.

About half a year before a girl gets her first period, she may begin to see that some clear mucus comes out of her vagina. She may see this in her underpants or on the toilet paper when she wipes herself after urination. This is quite normal.

The very first period is called the menarche (Say: MEN-ar-kee). When a girl sees her menarche, this is a sign that the parts of her body that are needed for making babies have finished developing and they can now do their job. The menarche may not last very long and there may not be more than a few spots of blood.

Normal Differences

Some girls will have their periods each month, right from the start, while other girls' periods will stop and start. A girl may skip one month and then have two menstrual periods in a row, inside the same month. Either way is fine and normal. It can take a year or so for the period to come each month as a regular happening. 

Once a girl has her period, it means she can get pregnant and have a baby. As a girl continues to grow, her brain tells her body to make chemicals called hormones, and the hormones signal her body when it's time to have a period. 

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