Healthy New Jersey

Periods (menstruation)

What to expect

Understanding your period is an important aspect of your overall health and well-being. Periods are part of the menstrual cycle when women, girls, and people who bleed shed the lining of the uterus. This page will provide information on what to expect when you get your period.

First period tips

Prepare by: 

  • Talking to a trusted adult about your questions and concerns. They can provide guidance and support.
  • Having period supplies, such as pads or tampons, readily available. Keep some in your purse, school bag, or backpack, just in case.
  • Practicing good hygiene by regularly washing your hands and genital area with mild soap and water.
  • Changing your period products frequently during your period to maintain cleanliness.

The onset of periods is a natural part of a woman's life. There's no need to worry if your experience is different from others.

Early signs of your period

What to expect when you get your period


During your period you shed the lining of the uterus. This results in bleeding. Bleeding typically lasts around 3 to 7 days. The blood may appear bright red initially and gradually become darker as the days pass. The heaviest bleeding usually occurs in the first two days, but it differs for everyone.

Periods typically happen every 28 days. It's common for periods to start earlier or later than that, occurring anywhere between day 24 and day 38 of your cycle.

On average, you'll lose less than a cup of blood during your period, although some women bleed more heavily.

Here's more information on heavy periods.

The flow of your period can vary cycle to cycle. It may start off light and become heavier, or it may remain consistent throughout. It's common to experience some variability in flow volume and consistency over time.

Physical sensations

Common physical sensations during your period include:

  • Cramps ranging from mild to more intense
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Acne or oily skin
  • Water retention
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Constipation or diahrrea
Emotional changes

Hormonal fluctuations during your period can affect your mood and emotions. Common experiences include:

PMS is combination of physical and emotional symptoms that many people experience in the days or weeks leading up to their period. PMS is common and everyone experiences it differently. Here's more information on PMS.

Managing your period

When it comes to period products, you have options. You can select the product that works best for you. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Pads
  2. Tampons
  3. Menstrual cups
  4. Menstrual discs
  5. Period underwear

Here's more information on choosing the right period products for you.

When will my period start?

Periods start during puberty. Puberty usually begins between ages 9 and 16 in girls. If your period hasn't started by age 16, it's a good idea to see a health care provider. However, a delay in starting periods isn't usually anything to worry about.

When you first get your period, it might not happen every month.

Here's more information on irregular periods

What is a "normal" period?

Everyone experiences their period differently, but it's important to know what's considered "normal."

A normal period usually:

  • Lasts between 3 and 7 days.
  • Has a flow varying from light to moderate to heavy (it's common for flow to be heaviest during the first few days and taper off gradually).
  • Occurs every 21 to 35 days.
  • Has common mild symptoms such as cramping, breast tenderness, mood changes, and bloating.

Your period shouldn't stop you from doing your usual activities, like going to school, work, or participating in sports.

Keeping track of the dates of your period and symptoms using a calendar, diary, or app can be helpful when discussing your period with a health care provider. They will determine if any tests or treatments are necessary.

If you're visiting a health care provider, it's good to write down the following information and bring it with you:

  1. The first day of your last period (when it started).
  2. How many days your period usually lasts (how many days you bleed).
  3. The shortest time between your periods (from the first day of one period to the first day of the next).
  4. The longest time between your periods (from the first day of one period to the first day of the next).
  5. How often you need to change your period products on a heavy day.
  6. If you're over 25, when you had your last Pap smear.

If a health care provider suspects a health condition may be causing your symptoms, they will discuss it with you and may recommend tests or treatment.

Period pain

Many people experience mild pain and discomfort during their periods.

To lessen the pain, try:

  1. Placing a hot pad or water bottle on your lower abdomen to help relax the muscles, reduce pain and cramping.
  2. Engaging in gentle exercise like walking or stretching to promote blood flow and release endorphins.
  3. Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen – always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  4. Relaxation techniques like taking a warm bath, deep breathing or meditation can help alleviate stress and reduce pain.

Here's more information about period pain and how to manage it.

Useful resources


It's important to take care of your emotional well-being and practice self-care during this time. Each person's experience with their period is unique. If you have concerns, questions, or experience severe pain or unusual symptoms, it's recommended to consult with a health care professional for guidance and support.

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