What The Age You Got Your First Period At Says About Your Health, According To Science

Ad failed to load

When is the "normal" time to begin your period? If you're around 13 at the age of your first menarche, which is the technical Greek term for your first menstruation, you're in the most common range. That's a lot younger than many of your ancestors; studies have shown that pre-industrial societies had average first menstruation ages of around 17, and that the average age has come down over the years as nutrition for children and adolescents has improved. But being much younger or older than 13 when you first got your period isn't just an annoyance that set you apart from your peers. Science shows that the age you first got your period at can tell you a lot about your health, from different health risks to benefits.

There are a lot of different factors that can cause menarche to occur late or early. Race is one: Black people tend to have an earlier menarche age on average than Caucasians, according to a number of studies. Your birthweight, genetics, your mother's health during pregnancy, and a host of other things also play a role. But when it comes to how unusual menarche age affects health, we're still discovering new aspects of the puzzle; some studies uncovered new ideas about menarche and reproductive health only last year. So read up on how your first period might affect your life, and keep your eyes out for new developments.

Ad failed to load

1An Early Period Can Raise Your Likelihood Of Heart Issues


Multiple studies have found that early menarche is tied to higher risk of various health disorders for women, and it seems to be particularly bad for heart health. One study, from 2015, noted that girls who had either an earlier or later menarche date than average were 27 percent more likely to get heart disease and 16 percent higher risk of having a stroke than people in the more "normal" age range. However, this may only apply to Caucasian populations; a study in 2017 found that, while white women do see a relationship between early menarche and cardiovascular issues, the same pattern doesn't seem to be found in Asian women who began menstruating early. Why isn't clear.

2It Also Seems To Be Tied To Breast Cancer Risk


The earlier you get your period, the more period cycles, in theory, you'll have in life. It's an easy bit of logic, but scientists are increasingly concerned that it can also lead to cancers that are linked to prolonged exposure to female reproductive hormones. They're called estrogen-sensitive cancers, and they're one of the things you should know about in reference to your reproductive cycle history. A study from Oxford researchers in 2017 pinpointed a particularly strong link in the case of breast cancers and early menarche, but was more common in lobular cancers than ductal ones. (Lobular cancer begins in the lobes of the breast, while ductal cancer begins in the milk ducts.) Previous research has indicated that getting your period under the age of 12 increases your risk of breast cancer by 20 percent, so if you got your period early you need to pay extra attention to your breast health.

3Early Menarche Could Also Mean An Early Menopause


A large study that analyzed data from 50,000 women across the world in 2017 found that there appears to be a link between early menarche — before the age of 12 — and entering early menopause, which typically hits women at around the age of 50. The women in their study were 31 percent more likely to get early menopause, between the ages of 40 and 44, if they'd been early menstruators at 11 or younger, but the effect eased off; only 7.2 percent of women who had their periods at age 13 hit early menopause. Understanding why this is remains challenging, but if you hit puberty very early, it's likely a good idea to plan to be pregnant before age 40, too.

Ad failed to load

4Getting Your Period Early Raises Your Likelihood Of Diabetes


Various studies have found that there seems to be some relationship between early menarche and the development of Type 2 diabetes. One study, in 2013, looked at patients from 26 research centers across Europe, and found that the earlier they started their periods, the higher their type 2 risk, and this finding has been replicated in Brazilian and Chinese studies.

And this finding applies to other kinds of diabetes too. A study published in 2016 looked at 27,482 women, and found that if they'd happened to have early menarche, they were significantly more likely than their peers to experience gestational diabetes mellitus. GDM, as it's called, is a diabetic condition that can occur during pregnancy and occurs because of glucose sensitivity. Part of the relationship between the early-period women and the likelihood of GDM, the scientists found, was linked to women being overweight; but the tie persisted even in women who had low or 'normal' weight during pregnancy.

5Delayed Menarche Can Signal Reproductive Health Problems


While getting your period a bit later than your mates is often nothing to worry about, in some women it's a sign of conditions that can affect fertility and reproductive functioning. Both polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and underactive thyroids are associated with delayed menarche in women, because they interfere with the normal functioning of female puberty. However, both syndromes also come with other symptoms, so it's not likely that late menarche on its own should cause you concern.

6It Can Also Mean Lower Bone Density


The later you get your period, the more at risk you are of having low bone density later in life. A collection of studies in 2010 found that "late menarche is associated with osteoporosis, since studies including postmenopausal women suggest that those having later menstruated have lower mineral density at forearm, spine and proximal femur and increased risk of fractures as well."

This is particularly the case in Asian women, who have been noted in studies to be vulnerable to low bone density if they experience their first period after the age of 14. The reason? Estrogen is a big factor in bone formation in women, and fewer periods means less estrogen produced over a lifetime.

Knowing the age at which you had your first period is a valuable tool when it comes to knowing your vulnerabilities for various kinds of health issues. But just identifying a risk doesn't mean it's 100 percent sure you're going to have something; genetics and environmental risks play big roles as well. So don't worry that early or late menarche has affected your health in insurmountable ways — just be aware of your potential risk factors, as a part of being on top of your health in general.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Here's Your Horoscope For Memorial Day Weekend

We’re constantly fascinated by what our zodiac sign says about our lives, whether it's which signs are most compatible or how each sign handles conflict in relationships. That's why Bustle has enlisted Mecca Woods, a New York City-based astrologer of…
By Mecca Woods

These Are The Absolute Best Memorial Day Sales This Year

Get your credit cards ready, because this year's fashion and beauty Memorial Day sales might just be the best ones yet. There's not only major savings for the holiday, but some of the savings start days before. You know, so you can spend the entire w…
By Kali Borovic

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In June To Help Get Your Summer Started

Summer is right around the corner, and so is another batch of streaming options to get excited about. On Wednesday, everything leaving and coming to Netflix in June 2018 was announced by the streaming platform. And don't worry, there's something for …
By Jamie Primeau

These Are The Beauty Products That Came Out In May That You DEFINITELY Need On Your Radar

For beauty lovers, months aren't just months: They're 28 to 31 day periods, wherein any and all product and brand launches can happen — and when they do, it feels like your birthday, no matter what time of the year you were actually born. The May 201…
By Amanda Richards

The 5 Rom-Coms You Need To Read This Summer, According To Someone Who Writes Them

'Tis the season for rom-coms. The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and everyone is rocking the flirtiest items in their wardrobe. I don't know about you, but summer always takes me back to my teenage years — and that automatically makes me want t…
By Cristina Arreola

11 Tiny Sunglasses That Will Make You Look Even Cooler Than Kylie Jenner

You know what they say — the tinier the sunglasses, the more stylish the outfit. OK, that's not really a saying, but it seems to be the case these days. Basically every celebrity, model, and It person has been spotted sporting tiny sunglasses as part…
By Sara Tan

I've Paid $18,000 To A $24,000 Student Loan, & I Still Owe $24,000

It all became real the summer before my senior year of college. It was 2010, and my home phone still had a cord, which I wrapped around my fingers as I waited not-so-patiently for the apathetic representative on the other end to tell me the bad news …
By Kaitlyn Cawley

12 Personality Quizzes That Will Help You Determine Your Exact Strengths

Learning more about yourself can be tough. It's so easy to observe others to learn what makes them tick, what areas they really excel in, and the things they could be better at. Doing that to yourself, however, is a whole different story. That's exac…
By Jessica Booth

5 Brand New Short Story Collections You Can Finish In One Sitting This Weekend

Since 2013, May has been known by book-lovers by another name: Short Story Month. If you're ready to kick off this year's celebration the right way, make sure to pick up a short story collection to read over the weekend. Modern life moves more than …
By Sadie Trombetta

I Got Styled By 'Queer Eye's Tan France & Realized I Still Have A Lot Of Fashion "Rules" To Unlearn

When I walked into a New York City Express store on May 2 to get styled by Queer Eye's Tan France, I was ready for anything. And I mean truly anything. I am such a massive fan of the show and Tan that if he had instructed me to wrap myself in tin foi…
By Olivia Muenter

It Isn’t Bad To Have A “Princess Fantasy” — Mine Made Me The Woman I Am Today

What do you want to be when you grow up? If you were anything like me as a kid, at some point, the answer to that question was "a princess." Thanks to good old-fashioned gender stereotypes, most little girls born in the '90s (and even now) grew up in…
By Nicole Pomarico

Here’s How To Get A FREE 30-Minute Facial At Sephora That Sucks Your Pores Clean

Sephora has long been a mecca for both serious and amateur beauty lovers alike, where they not only have makeup artists that help answer questions about products, but free samples to let you play with new collections. But now they have upped the ante…
By Marlen Komar

Kris Jenner Is FINALLY Launching A Makeup Line With Kylie

Maybe you don't have a favorite sister of the Kar-Jenner clan, and that's perfectly fine. The one thing you can't deny, though, is that when it comes power, no one in that family has more than the world famous momager. Now, Kris Jenner x Kylie Cosmet…
By Shea Simmons

This Kendall Jenner “Diva” Moment Is Really Being Taken Out Of Context

The fashion always takes center stage at the Met Gala, but there's usually a little drama, too. And this time, a member of the Kardashian-Jenner family is involved. People are buzzing about how Kendall Jenner shoved someone at the Met Gala, but after…
By Nicole Pomarico

Feel Like You've Seen Everything On Netflix? Add These Movies To Your Watch List

The weekend may feel too far away, but if you're lacking formal plans, a Netflix marathon session is always a good idea. If you're an avid viewer, however, you probably feel like you've seen everything the streaming platform has to offer already. In …
By Ashley Rey

Hillary Clinton Says She's Ready To Fight Like A Republican — EXCLUSIVE

Hillary Clinton Is Not Going Away Quietly. Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly Into The Night? Unlike Losers Before Her, Clinton Is Not Going Gently Into the Night. These headlines, which appeared in various news outlets over the course of the last…
By Catherine Thompson and Jenny Hollander

Here's The Very Best Time To Book Your Summer Vacation If You're Trying To Save Money

Summer is a great time to travel, for obvious reasons. The weather is better. Many offices are more lax about time off. If you have kids, they’re out of school. But there’s one very important element that makes summer not a great time to travel: Cost…
By Emma McGowan