Menarche refers to your first period, or your first time menstruating. Most people get their periods between 11 and 14. Signs of menarche include light bleeding, cramping and mood swings. Menarche marks an important milestone during puberty when you’re capable of becoming pregnant.
Menarche (pronounced muh naar kee) is when you get your first period. Said another way, menarche refers to the first time you menstruate. Menarche is an important milestone that marks the beginning of your fertility. Getting your period means that you’re physically capable of becoming pregnant and having a baby unless you have health conditions preventing it.
Menstruation is just one part of the menstrual cycle, a monthly sequence of events that prepares your body for a potential pregnancy. You shed your uterus lining through your vagina each month when you don’t get pregnant.
Menarche refers to your first time menstruating, and this makes it unique. Your first period isn’t just the beginning of your reproductive years. It’s also a defining part of your body’s transition from childhood to adulthood, called puberty. Before menarche, you may have noticed these changes in your body:
Your body may continue growing after menarche. But you will have gone through most of the changes puberty brings by the time you get your first period.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
You get your period based on your reproductive parts and hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Anyone with reproductive anatomy associated with being assigned female at birth (AFAB) — vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries — can menstruate. Cisgender girls, transgender boys and nonbinary people with AFAB parts can get periods, too.
You’ll likely get your period between ages 11 and 14. In the U.S., most people experience menarche around 12 and 12 ½. Another way to predict when you’ll get your period is to think back to when you noticed changes in your breasts (chest). Menarche usually happens 2 to 2 to 2 ½ years after your breasts begin to develop.
You can get your period as early as 9 or as late as 15. Many factors influence when menarche begins, but it’s common to get your period at around the same time your mother or birthing parent did.
Your first period means that you can potentially become pregnant if you have penis-in-the-vagina sex (intercourse) unless you’re regularly using birth control. You can get pregnant at any time if you have intercourse, even when you’re on your period.
Getting a period isn’t just about pregnancy. Menstruating each month requires adjusting to changes in your body. These changes involve figuring out what products to use to manage your blood flow and, in some cases, dealing with period-related symptoms.
Leading up to your first period, you may notice these symptoms:
During your period, you may notice red or brown blood on your underwear or in the toilet after using the bathroom. You may bleed so little that you only see a few spots before your period ends. Or, your bleeding may start light, get heavier, and then become light again before it ends.
Everyone experiences periods differently. And first periods are especially unpredictable. Don’t worry if your symptoms or your period are different from someone else’s.
You get your first period when your body has matured enough to support your menstrual cycle. Each month, your ovaries produce an egg, and the lining of your uterus thickens. If you have intercourse, the egg can become fertilized. A fertilized egg travels to your uterus and implants in your uterus lining, where it grows into a fetus. If the egg doesn’t get fertilized, you shed the egg and your uterus lining through your vagina. The material you shed from your uterus each month is called period blood or menstrual blood.
Genetics and environment both play a role in triggering menarche:
You don’t have to stop regular activities just because you get your period. And no one has to know that you’re on your period unless you want them to. Products to manage your blood flow include:
It’s a good idea to begin tracking your periods on a calendar. Tracking your periods using a calendar, planner or app can help you learn what’s normal — and what’s not — for your period. A normal menstrual cycle happens every 21 to 35 days (28 days on average) and lasts for three to seven days (five days on average). But everyone’s period is different.
For the first year or two, your periods may be unpredictable. You may have months when you skip a period as your body adjusts to a regular menstrual cycle. As your period gets more predictable, you can learn what normal menstruation means for you. And you can spot when your bleeding or your schedule are different. Abnormal bleeding is a sign that you should see a healthcare provider.
If your cramps are bothering you, there are a few remedies that can help:
Don’t take aspirin for your cramps unless your provider says it’s OK. Aspirin has been linked to a rare condition calledReye’s syndromein people under 18.
Your provider should know if your first period arrives early or late. Getting your period before age nine is called precocious (early) puberty. If you haven’t gotten your period by the time you’re 15 (amenorrhea), your provider will need to examine the cause. Your provider can prescribe treatments depending on what’s delaying your period.
If you’re experiencing severe menstrual cramps, your provider can prescribe medications that can help.
Menarche is a good time to develop a relationship with a gynecologist. They can answer questions you may have about the changes you’re experiencing. Questions you may ask include:
Your provider can also answer questions you may have related to pregnancy, birth control, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Menarche is an important milestone during puberty. As you adjust, pay attention to the changes you’re experiencing. Most provider visits from now on will involve questions about when you had your last period and what your periods are like. This information helps your provider assess your health. Talk to your provider or an adult you trust about what menarche means regarding your health, pregnancy and safer sex practices.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/09/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.