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First Period Panic

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Mrs. Quinn: What's the matter, dear?
Colleen: I'm going to die!
Mrs. Quinn: Why do you think you're going to die?
Colleen: I'm bleeding! I've been bleeding for two whole days!
Mrs. Quinn: Child, you're not gonna die. You're just growing up. You've become a woman.

Blood appearing on your clothing is worrying. Blood continuously appearing without any visible wound is very worrying. Wait, what's that? It's normal?

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Oh.

Not everyone gets The Talk in time. Menstruation is varyingly a footnote to a chapter of its own depending on the assigned gender of the child. Sometimes, because they're Raised as the Opposite Gender, they are never told about it to maintain the deception. If they're Raised by Dudes, the parent or guardian might be putting off "the talk" for his own comfort until it's too late. Otherwise, it may be that the guardian is overly neglectful or prudish about the whole business. Or it can simply mean that mom or dad or parental substitute wasn't expecting to need to give the talk that soon, and they get caught out by menarche coming at a younger age.

A somewhat tamed variant happens when the girl knows what is happening, but she's extremely surprised, extremely worried, or extremely uncomfortable by its messiness. Or the cramps might be really bad. Or the timing might be really inconvenient — she might be out of home (a school trip, an after-school activity, some out-of-town fancy occasion, a summer camp, etc.) or in bed and it's really bad when she can't ask her mom for the hygienic supplies. It might happen that her mom is away or out of the picture, and she doesn't have anyone to ask for pads or tampons. Going shopping for these at that fragile age is usually considered quite embarrassing (and even moreso if it's in the form of a Tampon Run).

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Menstruation is often seen as a symbol of adulthood and for girls, it's usually part of a Coming-of-Age Story. And if unprepared for this very real proof of puberty, it can signify how wrong the child's upbringing has gone. It may be related to Miss Conception if the girl is utterly clueless about its meaning.

Lots of works of fiction are strictly No Periods, Period and women menstruating will never be mentioned. Generally speaking, there are two major exceptions: Menstruation signifies a young girl's transition into womanhood (which is this trope) or missing a period and being late is used as a sign that a woman might be pregnant (see Pregnancy Scare).

Male-to-female Gender Benders are likely to experience their first period and the audience is likely to experience it with them in graphic detail.

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Compare All Periods Are PMS. See Menstrual Menace for when a first period triggers supernatural powers. Has nothing to do with the first period of school nor punctuation.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The first page of After School Nightmare has the intersex protagonist getting his first period. Being male-identified, he freaks out.
  • Akane gets her first period early in Bokura no Hentai. She hates it and all that it signifies.
  • In Inside Mari, a man finds himself in the body of a teenage girl (or so it's initially believed). When Mari's period arrives, Komori freaks out and goes into a Heroic BSoD.
  • IS: Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei is a manga about intersex people. At least one of the characters has been shown to menstruate. She was raised as a boy, secretly identified as a girl, and only got her period as a late teenager. This caused her confusion that led her to come out as a girl.
  • In one episode of the shoujo anime Mizuiro Jidai, the main girl Yuko gets her first period.
  • Shion no Ou: Shion suffers from hemophobia (fear of blood) due to her parents' murder. When she wakes up in episode 3 with bloody sheets from her first period, the shock and trauma put her in the hospital for several days.
  • The one-shot Yuri Genre manga Trans Star is about a girl whose male crush transformed into a girl. The ending shot has her freaking out about getting her first period.
  • In Wandering Son, Takatsuki is quite stunned when they get their first period, but it's more because of gender dysphoria than anything.

    Comic Books 
  • In the French comic Atalante, a young Atalante doesn't understand why she's bleeding despite not having been wounded. The old hunter she's living with recognizes the symptoms and quickly passes her off to a witch in the forest, as he wants as little to do with Women's Mysteries as possible.
  • In Rainbow Rowell's Runaways, Abigail is so mortally afraid of getting her period that she magically halted her aging at 13 - way back in the 1960s. In the present, she tries to get Molly Hayes to follow her example, claiming that no one will like her anymore once she starts menstruating.
  • In Runaways, Molly wants to talk to the other girls about times when she's bleeding from - but then gets cut off because they don't want to talk to her. Later she tries to talk to her parents but they don't want to discuss it either. Subverted as it turns out though that she's talking about having nosebleeds when her Super Strength power manifests itself.
  • In Shade, the Changing Man, Shade's consciousness leaps into the body of a recently murdered woman. Unfortunately, he's unable to alter her body to resemble his old one until he solves her murder and puts her soul at rest. This leads to various comical scenes with Shade experiencing the Male Gaze, his first period and sex as a woman.

    Comic Strips 
  • Among the first storylines in the comic strip Luann is eighth-grader Luann panicking over and dealing with her first period.

    Fan Works 
  • In Dating is a Form of Mutually Assured Destruction, Ladybug and Chat Noir face an akuma which forces them into a Gender Bender. Adrien doesn't quite get at the period proper, but needs plenty of help and advice with the cramps by the time the akuma is defeated.
  • In the Steven Universe fanfic "Echoes" (a story where the Gems also get periods), Connie attains her menarche.
    "It was so scary." Connie said suddenly. "I thought I was going to die..."
    Garnet let out a snort of laughter. "So did Ruby when she first started!"
  • In "Even Witches Get It" (a WarioWare fanfic), Ashley gets her first period. Even though her mother is never around, Ashley at the very least has Mona (and Red) to ease her distress.
  • In the Harry Potter fanfiction Hermione Gets Her Period, Hermione gets her first period and doesn't realize it's normal.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, there is a sidestory centered on Iris. She tells Ash and Misty about the first time she had a period and how her adoptive Pokemon family freaked out about it, and she's very much relieved to know it's something all human women go through.
  • In Relic Of The Future, when Emerald first wakes up to bloody sheets, she calmly tells Jaune she's dying. Jaune spends several minutes freaking out before realizing what's really going on.
  • In Returning Echoes; after Edward gets gender bent, she has to deal with everything that comes with it, including menstruation and mood swings.
  • Rites of Passage is a one-shot Jem fic about how the first three Misfits reacted to their first periods. Stormer and Roxy didn't even know what periods were at the time. Pizzazz is upset because she doesn't have any pads and her distant father doesn't care about her period, leaving her to be supported by a maid instead. Stormer's mother died so her slightly older brother (who has no clue about menstruation himself) has to deal with it. Roxy ran away from home and lives at a shelter, where a nun helps her when she gets her first period. Roxy in particular thought she was dying because bleeding from there was never a good sign in the past.
  • In Variation Modification, Karkat (a trans guy) gets his first period in Chapter 14, and is flat-out horrified.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in Movie 43 where one skit has two middle school boys and their young girl-friend panicking over her first period. It reaches the point where one of them called 911 about it.
  • In My Girl, Vada apparently has never heard of menstruation. She visits the bathroom, then calls for her father in a panic. Her father is not available, so she tells the only other adult present that she is hemorrhaging.

    Literature 
  • Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.: After Gretchen has her first period, she tells her friends (who've yet to get theirs) that it's nothing to worry about. Nancy, though, is so jealous that she tells and claims she had hers already, only to panic the day it happens for real.
  • In The Bluest Eye, Pecola gets her first period and thinks something is wrong. The blood begins to spill down Pecola's legs when she's outside with Claudia and Frieda, Claudia's older sister. Pecola and Claudia are scared, but Frieda knows that Pecola is getting her first period. Frieda tries to attach a pad to Pecola's dress. Rosemary, spying from the bushes, yells to Mrs. MacTeer that the girls are doing something perverted. Mrs. MacTeer sees Pecola's bloody legs and takes her inside to clean her up.
  • In Carrie, the titular character is humiliated when her first period begins in the gym showers during her senior year of high school. She initially thinks that she is bleeding to death, and instead of helping her, her classmates jeer and tease her. She causes a lightbulb to explode, signaling the growth of her telekinetic powers. Her mother is a religious fanatic with a pathological fear of sex and sexuality, such that Carrie wasn't informed about menstruation at all, much less that it's a natural process that every girl and woman goes through.
  • A dog counterpart occurs in A Dog's Purpose. Bailey is reincarnated into a female dog named Ellie. Having always been male before, and having always been neutered as a puppy, she has no clue what her heat is. She just thinks it's a gross, uncomfortable scent. Ellie never does learn what heat is because she's spayed afterwards.
  • In The Dream-Maker's Magic, Kellen's mother insists that she is a boy, refusing to dress her in skirts and only talking to her about things boys are interested in. Therefore, Kellen thinks she has a disease when her period starts. Fortunately, a friend's mother is there to help her.
  • In the novella Edgedancer (of The Stormlight Archive series), the 13-year-old Blithe Spirit orphan Lift has her first period. Although she doesn't know precisely what's going on, she's fairly optimistic that it's natural; however, she'd made a deal with a powerful Spirit so that she would never have to change, so the period makes her worried that her boon wasn't working properly.
  • In Polgara the Sorceress Polgara and Beldaran freak when they find bloodstains on their bedding. But their mother died when they were born, and that's not really something you can discuss with your uncle. Poledra isn't really dead, and explains matters to them. Why she didn't plan ahead isn't answered, but she might not have thought about it — wolves don't menstruate.
  • In The Red Tent, during the Time Skip, Dinah's cousin Tabea got her first period, but rather than it being celebrated or her even being told what was happening to her (as it would be in Dinah's immediate family), Tabea was simply shut into a dark hut, not allowed to leave until she stopped bleeding, and told she was "impure". (She does, however, get to wear a belt or apron that marks her as an adult woman instead of a little girl.) When Rebekah finds out about this, she is enraged, and sends Tabea away, along with her aunt, never to be seen again. Dinah is upset that this happened to her Only Friend, but Leah defends Rebekah, saying that it was a Necessary Evil to protect their customs.
  • Shivas Fire: When Parvati moves to the gurukulam (a school that trains children to become the servants of the gods through the art of dance), she is only 11 years old, and hasn't had "the talk". When she experiences her first period, she initially thinks that she's dying.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Sansa Stark freaks out when she sees her bedsheets stained with blood and attempts to burn them to hide it. But in her case it's that she knows exactly what it means: she's old enough to be forced to marry Joffrey.
  • In Song of the Lioness, Alanna (disguised as a boy so she can train for the knighthood) panics when her first period starts since she was never told about it. She has to out herself to her friend George because his mother Eleni is a healer.
  • In The Thorn Birds, thanks to her mother never bothering to explain anything to her, poor Meggie Cleary spends the first few months of her period thinking that she's dying of a tumor.
  • Whateley Universe: Happens a few times, with Male to Female GenderBenders. Usually, it's a big reminder that yes, they are a woman now:
    • Tennyo: She panics, but gets over it quickly.
    • Miyet: She was a macho bully until her transformation, and seemed to have been unaware of what a menstrual period was when it happened.
    • Bladedancer, in her origin story, Destiny's Wave, had the help of a talking sword that was once a female human. The story says:
      The first time her period hit she had freaked out. Thankfully the sword talked her through things. The sword had not known what the tampon was though.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first episode of Blossom, Blossom starts menstruating. She knows about it and what it means, but her panic comes in when she has to go to the store and buy feminine hygiene products. At first, she's not sure what to get - so she ends up putting everything in her cart. Then she sees that the person at the cash register is a cute boy from school. She feels so embarrassed about buying all that stuff from him, that she doesn't get any of it.
  • The Cosby Show. Rudy knows what her period is, but thanks to the plethora of urban legends that have been passed around, thinks that she needs to eat beets to prevent anemia and can't go swimming in the ocean because she'll attract sharks.
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation: While sitting outside with Manny, Emma realizes she got her first period, which soaks through her white skirt. Manny gets Emma to the washroom and brings her a pair of baggy gym shorts that she wears to class. J.T. makes comments about it and Emma's classmates begin to laugh until Emma bluntly tells them that she got her first period which shuts them up.
  • In Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, 13-year-old Colleen gets her first period shortly after her mother dies and she gets adopted by dr. Mike. She's shown to be uneasy for days and refuses to have a swim with her brothers, although she loves swimming in the river. Turns out she got her period and never received the talk, even though her mother was a midwife and her adoptive mother is a medical doctor. Mrs. Quinn (her adoptive grandma) finds her crying, comforts her and talks with her.
    Mrs. Quinn: What's the matter, dear?
    Colleen: I'm going to die!
    Mrs. Quinn: Why do you think you're going to die?
    Colleen: I'm bleeding! I've been bleeding for two whole days!
    Mrs. Quinn: Child, you're not gonna die. You're just growing up. You've become a woman.
  • ER. Rachel Greene starts her period while at Thanksgiving dinner with her grandfather and her father's girlfriend Elizabeth. Elizabeth sends her grandfather to the store to get pads and he ends up buying every kind available because he has no idea what the "right" kind is.
  • Everwood: Delia Brown gets her first period like a champ. She has it tough because her mom died and she lives with her dad and her older brother. She's not feeling too well but insists she wants to play ice-hockey (she's a major tomboy and her teammates depend on her). She's embarrassed when her father tells her coach about it and he repeats that out loud in front of all the boys who laugh at her. Also, she's thrown off balance a bit when she goes shopping for pads with her dad — brand Always doesn't sound good, but Andy assures her it usually lasts from 3 to 7 days. Her cramps are pretty bad, too, because when Andy suggests she takes pain killers, she asks if she can have ten.
  • House: Implied in episode "Act Your Age". When the medical team is searching for the right diagnosis on a 6-year-old girl, find a bloodied piece of clothing hidden in her room. At first, they consider it coming from physical or sexual abuse at the hands of her relatives, but doctors find the blood to be menstrual. The girl has apparently already hit puberty due to abnormally high hormone levels, the source of which is later found in the episode. The family has no mother, so she couldn't have easily consulted someone about what's happening to her body.
  • Mad Men, episode "Commissions and Fees": Sally is having a date with Glenn in a museum in New York when she's staying at Don and Megan's (her divorced father and his young wife). She suddenly feels ill and uncomfortable and excuses herself. She discovers she's had her first period. Megan comes home and finds Glen's gym bag but no Sally. It turns out Sally took a taxi and went back to the Francis's residence, her permanent home. She runs into the bathroom, tells her mom Betty that she got her period and didn't know what to do, that she just wanted to come home. Betty tells her that they'll take care of it and Sally hugs her. Betty is usually not a very good or caring mom, but in this episode, she's nothing but sweet and supportive.
  • Played for laughs in The Middle: During a camping trip with her family, Sue discovers she's having her first period, but her period blood has attracted the attention of a bear nearby.
  • Modern Family: Lily (who's only 12) is having her first period and barricades herself in the bathroom, Cam and Mitchell, given that they're absolutely clueless about menstruation, they ask for help from the entire family.
  • On Orange Is the New Black, Pennsatucky recalls when she got her first period at age 10 and thought she was dying. Her mother hadn't told her anything, because she didn't think a girl that young could start menstruating. After getting over the initial shock, she tells young Pennsatucky that she isn't dying, that this is completely normal... and also that now men and boys are going to start looking at her differently, and might rape her...and that's normal, too.
  • Ready or Not: Busy gets her first period when she's playing ice-hockey in a boys' team. She's definitely not ready for this, feels extremely uncomfortable and runs away from the session. When told, her best friend Amanda screams in excitement and is a bit jealous she's become a woman first. She helps Busy with pads and tampons at school despite not menstruating herself because she's so fascinated with the thing that she appears to know everything there is to know about it.
  • Superstore: Amy's daughter Emma gets her first period while Jonah is watching her in "Shoplifter". He's more or less just a stranger to her: a guy her mom works with. She's fairly embarrassed she has to ask for hygienic supplies.
  • Taken: In "Charlie and Lisa", the 13-year-old Lisa Clarke has her first period on February 13, 1986. Considering the aliens' interest in her, it does not go unnoticed. In the absence of her mother Carol, she calls her new friend Nina Toth and asks her to buy sanitary pads for her. After Nina leaves, Lisa walks her dog Watson around her trailer park and sees an image of the carny that frightened Jesse as a child. He says, "Lisa, today you are a woman." She is then abducted by the aliens for the first time.

    Webcomics 
  • Khaos Komix: Tom, a transgender boy, gets quite distressed when his first period starts, more because of the dysphoria than the period itself.
  • Misfile: Ash, originally a boy, winds up horrified when Emily points out that the current symptoms he is experiencing are occurring after a certain amount of time Ash has been a girl. From then on, Ash will occasionally bring up the subject when he is feeling particularly irate.
  • Hannelore Ellicot-Chatham of Questionable Content spent most of her life living with crippling OCD and anxiety issues. When one of her friends asks her what her first period was like, she responds, "We don't talk about that day."

    Western Animation 
  • A flashback in an episode of American Dad! shows Hayley getting her first period. She reacts with an Unstoppable Rage.
    "What do you MEAN 'every month'!?"
  • Menstruation gets a passing reference in As Told by Ginger (the series instead focuses on the A-Cup Angst portion of puberty) when the girls watch a Sex Ed video. They're not pleased by the thought of it.
  • Big Mouth: Jessi gets her first period on a school field trip while wearing white shorts. She has a minor breakdown while hiding in a public washroom and gets a no-nonsense lecture about the travails of womanhood from the Statue of Liberty, but eventually rallies.
  • Sharon starts menstruating in Braceface in the middle of her first date, which greatly embarrasses her; her boyfriend mistakes the cramps for appendicitis and calls an ambulance and she passes out from the sight of the blood.
  • The King of the Hill episode "Aisle 8A": Connie has her first period while her parents are away on business and she's left in Hank's care. Connie doesn't panic; she's just embarrassed and has to write down the news because she can't bring herself to say it out loud. It's the adults who freak out — first Hank, then Connie's parents when he tells them.
  • Mocked in South Park: There's an intestinal ailment going around that makes you bleed out of your ass. But the boys don't know about it and think that when Cartman (and later Kenny) are bleeding that means that they have their periods. It doesn't help that an adult they ask about it says that when it happens you bleed - "you know, down there." Kenny ends up dead from Toxic Shock Syndrome, having shoved a tampon up his ass.

    Real Life 
  • Vicar Chad Varah founded the Samaritans (the world's first crisis hotline telephone support to those contemplating suicide) because the first funeral of his career was for a 14-year-old girl who took her life after she had menstruated, fearing she got a venereal disease and having no one to talk to.

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