Advice for moms: talking to your daughter about menstruation
Talking about menstruation early is a good idea. Girls get their first period as early as eight years old and as late as 15, although the average is around 12. If you prepare your daughter for what’s coming it will make the experience much smoother for her. Armed with the facts and knowing that she’s going to experience what all girls have been through since time immemorial, she will be able to take it in stride and possibly even celebrate it as the rite of passage it is.
Even before the age of eight, your daughter may express interest or ask questions about her body and its functions. She may notice your feminine hygiene products and wonder what they’re for, for example. The best thing to do is to be clear and accurate but keep it simple and appropriate for her age. Instead of giving her all the information at once, you can work it in during many casual conversations.
If your daughter hasn’t been asking many questions, it’s up to you to initiate the conversation about menstruation. Don’t assume she knows, since the information she’s getting from elsewhere may be inaccurate and unreliable.
Starting the conversation:
Starting the conversation:
- Ask her whether she’s heard about puberty and find out what she knows so far. Correct any wrong information.
- Sharing your own experiences about when you started your period, whether they’re long or short, heavy or light, will help her feel more comfortable.
- Invite her to ask any questions she may have and answer them clearly.
- Direct her to reliable books or websites if she feels more comfortable reading about it than talking about it. For example: http://www.youngwomenshealth.org/menstrual1.html
The Facts: Your conversations should convey the following facts about menstruation.
- Menstruation is a normal part of life for women.
- It signifies that she is capable of getting pregnant.
- Her first periods will likely be light (possibly just a few drops of blood) and irregular, but will eventually settle into a pattern, on average they will arrive every 28 days and last from two to seven days.
- It’s normal for her to experience certain symptoms during menstruation, such as aches in the back or abdomen, tender breasts, headaches, fatigue, bloating, mood swings or food cravings.
- Explain the biology of a period, if she’s old enough to understand. Every 28 days or so, one of the ovaries releases an egg. This is called ovulation. At the same time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg isn't fertilized, the egg passes through the uterus and out of the body, and the lining of the uterus is shed through the vagina. This is a period.
- Explain how to use tampons and pads. Many girls find pads easier to use initially, but using tampons is fine from the beginning, it just takes some getting used to. Advise her to start carrying some in her purse once her breasts start developing, as her period will probably start within two years of that time. There are also reusable products on the market she may eventually want to try. Here is information about one of these products (http://divacup.com/).
- If your daughter hasn’t started her period by age 16, or within three years of the start of breast development, have her check with a health care professional to make sure everything is fine.