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Prior to Periods

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Laura asks:

I'm 13 and i just want to know out of curiosity if you can have sex if you haven't ever had your periods AT ALL? Does it make any difference if you've had them before or if you haven't? Is it really possible to just get your first period while you're in class or doing something and actually have enough blood come out for you (and everybody else) to see, or does it come gradually and you actually have enough time to go to the bathroom and put a napkin? It's kind of scary ^^

Stephanie replies:

You know, thinking about periods before they happen certainly can be a bit scary. It absolutely doesn’t help anything that passed down from generation to generation is a series of alternate names for a period… things like the rag, the red flag, dead week, Aunt Flo, crimson wave, and probably the least helpful and most ominous “the curse.”

Then you listen to stories about all the things that you can feel and that can happen during a period – ranging from mood swings to headaches and cramps, all the way to when you may first start and what that can be like along with having irregular periods so not always knowing when the next will start or where you may be. But let’s back-pedal the bike a little bit here and talk it through, then it may not seem quite so scary.

First thing’s first… what is this curse really about anyway. And how do we know when and how it’s going to start? While you may be thinking that your period only effects you when you’re on it, that’s not really the case. Your period is one small portion of a much larger cycle that repeats itself every month. In some ways this cycle effects you every day. If you understand this cycle, you have a better understanding of yourself sexually, and that’s a pretty big and awesome part of life.

This cycle doesn’t just begin when you hit puberty, nor does it begin with your first period. It all actually begins MUCH earlier than that. The month your first period starts, one ovum (or egg) will mature and the ovary holding it will rupture allowing it to leave on its way to eventually end in the uterus. If on the way there it’s fertilized by a male’s sperm, the progesterone levels rise and it can implant in the uterine lining to begin the cell splitting to eventually process that eventually (if carried to term) becomes a baby. It not, the progesterone levels fall, and it’s this drop that actually causes the uterine lining to shed and your period to begin.

So let’s talk about that first period next, then we’ll talk a little bit about first periods next, then we’ll talk about what any of this has to do with having sex. Menarche is the term given for a woman’s first menstruation, and the experiences are as different as every woman is. Some people get their periods at home, others at school, others at a party. Some women notice when they wipe a bit of blood, while others will have enough to bleed through a pair of pants. Sure it can be a bit embarrassing, but it happens to every woman so however your first period is, you’re totally not alone.

There’s no way to know a specific day and time you’ll get your first period. It would be SO nice, but it just doesn’t work that way. There are, however, some signals to watch for that can let you know it *could* come at some point during the next couple of years. Those of course would be those same things that tell you you’re going through puberty (breast growth, hair growth in the pubic region and under the arms, may notice some discharge or changes in discharge, etc). Plenty of women also find they start around the same age their mother started, so if possible you can ask her or her mother.

As well, there’s no harm in being prepared for your period before it starts. For instance, having a change of clothes you keep in your locker (which is a good idea anyway should you ever spill anything – so it wouldn’t be seen as odd to have them) and carrying a couple of pads in your purse. That way, you’re prepared with however menarche begins for you.

So does this have anything to do with sex, and whether or not a woman can have sex before she even has her first period? It does have some things to do with that, but not in the way that you may have been thinking. In short answer to your question, yes – even if someone has not yet had her first period it is physically possible for her to have sex. However, there are still some things that need to be considered in terms of protection.

So right about now, you may be wondering “Why does a girl have to worry about protection… everyone says you can’t get pregnant `til you get your period.” It’s been said so many times, but no matter how many times it’s said it doesn’t make the information accurate. Remembering back to what as said above about what happens that causes a woman to actually have a period? The cycle actually begins *before* the progesterone drops allowing the uterine lining to be shed.

Because there is no accurate way to know when you will get your first period, there is also no way to predict that your ovaries have released an egg. This means that the month when a woman normally would have started her period for the first time, the egg could be fertilized and implanted. So protecting yourself from pregnancy is something you absolutely want to consider. There’s a lot of different options and not all of them work for every person, so you’ll want to show around a little bit to find one that works for you.

Pregnancy isn’t the only thing you want be careful about. There’s also the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to consider. This means that you want to make sure you’re using condoms, and getting regular STI testing done.

Going to add a few extra links for you to check out. They’ve got some great information that will help you along the way:

  • Be a Blabbermouth! The Whats, Whys and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner
  • Birth Control Bingo
  • On The Rag: A Guide to Menstruation
  • Safe, Sound & Sexy: A Safer Sex How-To
  • Testing Testing
  • Where Did I Come From? A Refresher Course in Human Reproduction
  • written 30 Apr 2011 . updated 22 Jan 2014

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