In teen or pre-teen girls, menarche, or the first menstrual period, signals the beginning of puberty, when a teen begins to mature sexually. This can occur between ages 9 and 16, but usually takes place in the early teen years. Teen girls should be taught before menarche what menstruation is and what to expect. Some girls dread their periods, while others look forward to it as a part of growing up, but either way it is a part of normal, healthy development into an adult woman.
Hormones produced in the ovaries trigger teen menstruation. About once a month a teen ovulates, or releases an egg from her ovaries that travels down a fallopian tube to the uterus. The uterus is lined with blood and extra tissue before ovulation; if the egg were to be fertilized by sperm, it would attach to the uterus wall and develop into a fetus. When the egg is not fertilized, the uterus sheds the egg along with the extra blood and tissue. This menstrual cycle usually continues until a woman reaches menopause around age 50.
Menstruation is different for every teen. Teen menstruation is normally irregular for several years, becoming more regular in later teen years or young adulthood. Some teens have periods that last 2 or 3 days, while others have a period that lasts a week or more. Some teens also bleed more than others, though teens should not be concerned by the amount of blood – it is usually not as much as it seems to be. It is very uncommon for teen girls to bleed too much, but if a teen is concerned about menstrual bleeding she should talk to a doctor or nurse.
Some other changes that may accompany menarche and puberty include:
- Clear vaginal discharge
- The growth of body hair
- Breast development, with one breast sometimes developing faster than the other
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