Menarche refers to a girl’s first menstrual cycle. It usually begins at the age of 11, but can occur any time between the ages of 11-13. A gynecologist should be consulted if menarche does not occur till the age of 16. In the United States, the average age for the first menstrual cycle to occur is 12.5 years.
Menarche signifies growing up of a girl and is also considered to be a sign of fertility. It entails several changes in the female anatomy, such as the girl may start developing breasts, underarm, and pubic hair. Her hips also begin to widen. Intrinsically, it suggests the thickening of the endometrium, induced by osterogen. In several countries around the world, menarche holds a special significance and is celebrated with rituals and feasts for the girl. It is a sign of her womanhood.
Before the first menstrual cycle occurs, the body may go through several symptoms. Abdominal cramps or pain in the legs is a very common symptom; there may also be a feeling of bloatiness. It is also likely that the girl will experience mood swings such as anxiety or depression before the periods occur for the first time.
Once the periods start, there will be a flow of blood from the vagina. It may be brown initially, but will turn to red before it stops completely. Periods may take 4-5 days long to last, in some cases; it may even take 7 days. Girls are advised to make use of sanitary pads or tampons during this time. They can also take medicines to soothe the cramps. Menstrual cycle, however, do not disturb the normal routine of life. One can exercise, swim, and play normally during periods. Though menarche does not mean ovulation in the body, it may lead to pregnancy in case of an intercourse.