The first period, or the menarche, has multiple implications on women's lives. Some of those implications become evident after it happens, but others can manifest later in life.
We don't talk about menstruation enough. Although it's a common part of women's lives, maxi pads commercials still use blue liquid to represent the blood. That would be okay if blood, in general, were censored. Imagine all the action movies with blue liquid coming out of men's noses and mouths after each fight, or turquoise stains all over their shirts. That would be fun to watch. But it would be even better if people stopped thinking about menstruation as a nightmare that needs to remain hidden. The problem with turning any topic into a taboo is that the shame and the secrecy around it prevent us from getting the necessary education to deal with it. For that reason, a lot of girls and parents feel anxious when the first period comes, an experience that is stressful enough, even without its negative connotations. So what can we do about it? We can try to normalize the conversation, especially when it comes to sexual education and health.
Image by Lou Clave
The first period, or the menarche, has multiple implications on women's lives. Some of those implications become evident after it happens, but others can manifest later in life. For example, the age at which we experience our first period can indicate several things about our health. Before asking yourself whether your first period happened too early or too late, consider the fact that, a century ago, women used to get their first period later in life. In that age, it was common for women to get it when they were 17. Now, it's more common around the age of 13 due to changes in our nutrition. Remember that many factors, both environmental and genetic, can influence menstruation.
Image by Lou Clave
Researchers from the University of Oxford observed that having your first period before the age of 10 or after the age of 17 can affect your health, specifically your heart, because that makes you 30% more likely to suffer from heart problems. But if that's your case, don't panic. It just means that you should take care of that area of your life a little bit more.
According to medical professionals from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, other possible health issues you might encounter if your first period came a little early (before you turned 12) include the risk of developing breast cancer due to the extra exposure to hormones. The age of 12 is near the national average in the US, so, again, you shouldn't panic. Just remember to get tested for breast cancer regularly. Abnormal menarche or not, we should all get tested every year.
Image by Lou Clave
Continuing on this bleak path, research from the University of Queensland, Australia indicates that if you got your first period when you were 11, or before that, it's possible that menopause will start prematurely for you too. Prepare for hot flashes and fatigue, but don't let these possibilities and health risks discourage you. Growing old should be fun. Society wants women to stay young forever, but we should be able to enjoy our wisest years without pressure. Let's take care of our bones first (bone loss is a symptom of menopause) instead of worrying so much about the inevitable wrinkles.
To prevent misinformation from spreading, we need to have informed conversations about the menstrual cycle and the first period more often. It's important to remember that our bodies affect our minds and our emotions, and the more educated we are about them, the more we'll be able to lead a long, healthy life.
Main image by Sarah Distel
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