objective: to know the meaning of menarche for adolescents in schools in the region of saint edward, in the municipality of embu das artes, s？o paulo (brazil). methods: this was qualitative research, with data collected by a focus group technique and with the content of the narratives outlined by means of content analysis. results: the results were classified into five categories represented as: fertility; repercussions; menstruation and taboo; the fear of dying; and, misinformation and impact. conclusion: for the adolescents interviewed, menarche was reported as a negative experience, related to feelings of fear and anguish. this view was attributed to social, historical and cultural constructs that do not value dialogue and questions relating to the body. thus, it emphasizes the importance of demystifying the theme and recommends that sexuality education interventions should be expanded, to reach a larger number of participants beginning at the age of 9 years.