We must get at least a dozen comments and emails every week from girls asking the question, “When will I get my first period?” It’s obvious that every girl has put a lot of thought into how puberty is progressing and what’s up next because we get all sorts of details. We hear about when breasts budded, how long pubic hair has been around, whether there’s discharge or not, when mom started her period, and how many friends have already started. Some girls seem worried, while others are clearly excited and impatient!
So how do you know? There are definitely some things that should happen BEFORE you start your period, but the timing is a bit of a mystery. Wouldn’t it be cool if you got a “reminder” that popped up on your cell phone? A big reveal of some sort? Even a postcard via snail mail?
Honestly, as doctors, using research and years of clinical experience, we can’t predict your first period with any great precision. “Soon” or “not yet” may be as close as we get! Your body is unique and will progress on it’s own unique timeline, but here are the best clues we can give you:
1). Your breasts will have grown past buds and should have at least a little mound of tissue that extends outward past your nipples. Periods typically start 1 1/2 to 3 years after breasts bud, so the beginning of breast development does NOT mean “soon.” Regarding breast size, some girls will still be in a size A cup or smaller, and some may be C or larger. Your breast size has more to do with your ancestors, but you will definitely be beyond buds (the hard knots that are first to form).
2.) You will have more pubic hairs than you can count, and they will cover your labia and lower mons, approaching the shape of a triangle. A few hairs down there does not mean “soon.”
3.) You will have vaginal discharge, but you will likely have it for at least 1-2 years before your period starts. So the first sign of vaginal discharge does not mean “soon.”
4.) You will be wearing women’s size shoes - like close to what your mom or older sisters wear (unless they have super tiny feet and can still wear girls’ sizes). And here’s a cool thing to know: once you start your period, your feet have pretty much finished growing! That means when you DO start your period, you probably won’t outgrow your shoes anymore! (fun fact: the only time shoe size changes for women is usually after pregnancy or with a large weight gain).
5.) You will be taller, a lot taller, than you were even 6 months ago. If you measure your height regularly (a couple times a year at least), you’ll notice that you grow about 2 inches a year up until puberty, then you start growing faster. After you’ve had a growth spurt of 4 or more inches in about 6-12 months, you are probably very close to starting your period. For most girls, the fastest growth spurt happens about 6 months before the first period starts, and that is “soon” in our book!
With technology and digital information always at our fingertips, there aren’t many mysteries left in life. but the timing of a first period remains one of them! And based on all the questions we get, it’s a mystery that drives girls crazy! Please know that we can’t answer your individual questions about when YOUR period will start, but that like all girls, it will happen for you at the right time, on your own unique schedule. Then, when it does start, we hope you’ll smile big and know that your amazing body is growing and developing just as it is supposed to.