Getting your first period is one of those things that, before it happens, doesn’t feel all that different from an incredibly popular urban legend. People call it by code names, like the “crimson wave” and “shark week.” You read stories about it online, where it seems that there is no shortage of embarrassing first period horror stories involving blood leaking through gym shorts and projectile-bleeding on your crush. You talk about it at sleepovers, analyzing who it has and hasn’t happened to yet, and when it might happen to you.
Still, for all the preemptive discussion there is in regard to periods, you’ll likely feel a little surprised as to what happens when you get your first one. When it finally does happen, it’s as underwhelming as it is surprising, the main “shocking” part being that you are surprised, somehow, despite all the predicting and speculating you’ve put into imagining what your first period will be like.
Still, one more Internet speculation as to what happens when you get your period can’t hurt, right? If you haven’t gotten your period yet, check out these things that no one ever tells you about getting your first period–you might be surprised:
1. You won’t expect it.
Sure, there are signs that tell you when your period is on the horizon–breast buds, pubic hair, vaginal discharge–but, chances are, your first period will strike when you aren’t really expecting it. And happen to be totally without protection, for that is the way life goes.
2. It actually won’t be as bloody as you expect.
People act like every period looks like a Grey’s Anatomy outtake in your underwear, but in all likelihood, it’ll be a slower, lighter period.
3. Or, it might not look like a period at all.
Lots of first periods start off as a dark brown (as opposed to a brighter red that you’re used to with blood), so don’t panic if you see something in your underwear that looks like rust.
4. You might feel like you’re wetting your pants.
Lots of girls say that their first period feels like they’ve accidentally peed themselves–so, if you feel like you’ve had an accident in class, it’s probably your period.
5. It might not come the next month.
Don’t freak out if you get your period doesn’t show up the next month. Your body is adjusting to its changes, so it’s normal for things to be erratic at first.
6. Or, if it does, it might not come at the same time of the month.
If it does come, it’s possible that it’ll be at a totally different time–say, six weeks after you got it rather than four. This is also totally fine–it could take up to six years for your body to a get onto a normal cycle.
7. Expect a vague mixture of pain.
Not everyone has painful periods, but there’s a wide variety of things that you might feel–some girls have a cramping pain in the lower stomach or back and/or breast tenderness throughout their periods. Other girls get headaches or feel dizzy, and some get nausea or diarrhea. The good news? Since your first period is usually lighter, you probably won’t feel all of this (at least, not at full force).
8. You’ll either want to eat everything in the world…
Period hunger pangs are real–you’ll probably crave things that are sugary and fatty, like a large serving of fries followed up by some ice cream.
9. Or no food at all.
During my periods, I go back and forth between wanting to eat everything all the time always and not being able to even look at food. If you find that the latter is happening to you, just make sure that you’re eating something light, even if you’re not super hungry. You need energy to keep you going!
10. Overall, you’ll feel more oh. That’s…it? rather than a grand sense of Purpose and Womanhood.
Despite all the fanfare that you might expect upon getting your period–and, hey, maybe your family is the kind that bakes “first period” cakes, giving you all the fanfare you need–it’s usually a little more womp-womp than anything else. You’re still you–you just have your period now.
11. In fact, you may feel a little more bummed out than anything else.
Getting your period for the first time might make you feel vaguely sad. Even if you’ve been hoping for it, actually getting it usually isn’t as exciting–it’s something that marks the change from But it’s important to remember that, fundamentally, you haven’t actually changed. Like I said above, you’re still you–you just have your period now.
12. You can’t compare your period to anyone else’s.
If you get your period and it turns out that nothing really sounds like what your friends are experiencing or what you’ve seen on this list, don’t panic. Your body is totally unique, so don’t try to match up with your friends or anyone else–what’s normal for them doesn’t mean normal for you, and vice versa.
Have you had your period yet? What was it like? Let us know in the comments!