So you got your first period! Congratulations! No really, congrats! I know it might feel a little scary or startling. For some it might feel like, how can this be happening already? For others of you it could be a sigh of relief, like finally! My friends have had theirs for forever! Wherever you’re at, I’ve put together a little something for you on everything you need to know: what’s happening in your body, who you should talk to about it, should you use tampons, pads (or something else!?), what it means to have a period, and ways to actually celebrate it like we were meant to!
What’s Actually Going on In my Body? The Medical Side:
The hormones estrogen and progesterone have increased in your body. These are the two hormones that regulate an adult woman's menstrual cycle, and the same ones that decrease as a woman ages and goes into menopause. Usually, when a young woman has started her period, it means that her estrogen has gotten high enough to grow the lining of her uterus. Tissue grows with blood vessels on the inside of the uterus so that a baby could be supported by the nutrients from the woman if she were to get pregnant. Sometimes in your first periods you ovulate, and sometimes you do not. Ovulation is the release of an egg for fertilization to create a baby when combined with sperm.
Should I Use a Tampon?
Sure, you can! There are so many options! Here are a few tips for using tampons....
- Don't leave it in for more than 8 hours, and try to change it more often if you aren't bleeding enough to soak it completely. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. There is a bacteria called staphylococcus aureus that can cause toxic shock syndrome if your tampons are left in too long.
- Inserting tampons for the first time can be tricky if you haven't ever explored your body. Here's a helpful little picture to help out.
Here are some great other options for your period bleeding!
- Diva Cup- this is a little silicone cup you insert in your vagina and remove to dump out the blood. The great thing about it is that you just wash and reuse it- Mama Earth loves that there isn't a ton of trash!
- Pads: There are all sorts of pads with different thicknesses. Pantyliners may be appropriate for someone who is just spotting a little (barely bleeding), and pads can be a great option for people, especially if they don't want to put anything inside their vagina.
- Reusable cloth pads: I have to say, this is a new one for me...but it looked pretty cool...use 'em and wash 'em....but they do require presoaking in cold water...
Who Should I Tell?
Whoever you want to! This should be a time of celebration....its a transition for you into becoming a woman! If you have a good relationship with your Mom, consider telling her. Even if things are rocky between you sometimes, she's most definitely been there (otherwise you wouldn't be here) and may be able to guide you. You can even let her know that you want to do something special with her to celebrate...maybe go out on a date with her to lunch, have a little ceremony, get your ears pierced, anything that symbolizes an honoring of this change for you.
You could also tell an older female you trust or your friends! Welcome to becoming a woman! Women are great at finding community with each other and helping each other through hard times and celebrating when there is a cause for celebration!
Ceremony and Celebration:
In many ways, we are in a society that doesn’t respect and honor our moon cycles (our periods), but they used to be considered sacred! Women would be honored on their moon. People recognized that when a woman was on her moon, she was very connected to her intuitive nature. They would go into special moon lodges and vision for their communities. You also have this power of connection with Spirit and all that is- don't forget to listen to your intuition- especially during this time!
Also recognize that you are entering into a place of great a beautiful change. Women have the power of ebbs and flows, or changing nature. (Related: Ebb and Flow of the Feminine).
Here are some ceremonial ideas. Take what feels true to your heart, and leave the rest.
- Research some Goddesses and make a connection with one. Read and learn about their life. You will know when the right one sticks out for you or what you are drawn to.
- Go to a shop with some gems or stones and let one draw you in. This stone holds meaning for you. You can research its meaning and take it with you wherever you go to give you strength, and whatever other gifts it may offer you personally. Recently, I saw a big amethyst in my dream, and my dream was telling me to find it for a ceremony I was about to enter into. It turns out it was crucial to my experience on that journey. Now that stone caries the power of the sacred ceremony as well.
- Throw a dance party! Invite your friends over and put together your favorite play list on the next new moon.
- Go out to lunch or dinner with your Mom or a trusted older female. You could also go to a spa, get a massage, or anything else that is nourishing to you!
- Here is a more traditional ceremony you can do: Gather women at the new moon soon after you start menstruating. You or an elder woman can call in the four directions, Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Great Spirit. Place an altar (a small collection of sacred items) in each direction.
- East: Place something white and a feather on the altar and ask for pure thoughts and inspiration. Thank the east for the new journey that is starting.
- South: Place something red and a candle on the altar. Call upon the light and flame, the place of passion and healing, and ask for courage, innocence, and power to be present in this new part of your life.
- West: Place something blue and a bowl of water in that direction. Feel the core of your intuition move through you and honor the waters of your sacred womb.
- North: Place something yellow and a little earth in that direction (unless its time for the earth to rest (see Soyal). Feel the earth beneath your feet and ask for stability, abundance and groundedness.
- Next you can thank Father Sky for the sacred Masculine, which each of us hold within us, and ask that good, true and beautiful energy to flow into your heart space and meet the sacred feminine there. Kneel down on Mother Earth and thank her for the beautiful opportunity to be woman. You can come to her, and if you just ask, she will answer your questions about being a woman, at any time in your life. I like to kiss her sweet earth before I get up to thank Great Spirit for my life and the opportunities I have in this moment.
Remember that being a woman is a great gift. We are powerful, compassionate, connected, and intuitive. If you need guidance during this beautiful time, reach out! You can see your Naturopathic Doctor, Counselor, Spiritual Advisor, Elders, and anyone else you trust. Creating these connections with other women is part of what becoming a woman is all about!
Dr. Jen Riegle is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) who practices in Santa Rosa, CA. Dr. Jen specializes in women's health, infertility, and oncofertility. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to make an appointment, you may schedule on our website or by calling (707)-243-8998.