Is it time to talk to your daughter about menstruation? Maybe she’s heard something about it from her friends at school and has begun asking questions. Or perhaps she is showing the first signs of puberty and you have the feeling that her period is right around the corner. It’s important to have this discussion early, before your daughter’s first period arrives.
Before you sit down with your daughter, arm yourself with knowledge. You can get information from Nemour's Kids Health or the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists websites. If you feel better talking to someone in person, consider making an appointment with your doctor or hers. It is important to have all the facts and anticipate some questions that your daughter may have. If you do not know the answer, it is best to say so, then help her find the information.
On average, girls have their first period at age 12, but it can begin anytime between the ages of 8-15.
A couple of years before their first period, girls show other signs of puberty, including breast development, pubic hair growth, and growth spurts. So it’s important to talk to your daughter about her period early, before she becomes confused about these changes and before her period surprises or embarrasses her. The choice about when to talk to your daughter about her period is entirely up to you, but take into consideration that some girls get their period at an early age.
Discussing your daughter’s period with her can be uncomfortable, especially in nontraditional families, where the father must take on this daunting task. But if you plan ahead, you’ll be surprised at how smoothly the conversation will go.
What is the best way to begin this discussion, if you are he one to begin it? First of all, it’s important to find a comfortable, private environment. Make sure you have enough time to cover the points you want to cover and answer any questions your daughter might have. If you find sitting down just to have one conversation is difficult and uncomfortable, start having multiple short talks that span over a longer period of time.
You could begin—if you’re a woman—by sharing the story of your first period. Tell your daughter when it happened, where you were, and how you felt at the time. An alternative starting point is to ask your daughter what she has already heard about puberty and menstruation.
After you have broken the ice, give your daughter some basic knowledge. Explain why women get periods. Rather than describing the complicated hormonal changes that occur, try to keep it simple. Explain that it is part of the menstrual cycle, which helps a woman’s body prepare for pregnancy. It is your daughter’s first major milestone in her journey toward womanhood.
Then, you’ll want to cover the main points in a clear, understanding manner. Before you sit down for this discussion, make a list of things you want to discuss. That way, you’ll be less likely to get sidetracked and miss something important. Below is a list to help you get started:
Your daughter will appreciate some practical advice that will help her first few periods come and go more smoothly. Here are some tips you can give your daughter that will help her feel more prepared and avoid potential embarrassment:
Tell your daughter to alert you if she experiences any of the following:
To prevent TSS, avoid using highly absorbant tampons. To reduce the risk of getting TSS, change tampons frequently and do not use them on a regular basis. If your daughter feels sick after using a tampon, has a fever, headache, or is vomiting, get her to an emergency room right away. TSS develops quickly and can be fatal.
Irregular menstrual cycles are normal during the first few years after your daughter begins menstruating. But these symptoms can also be warning signs of other conditions, so it’s a good idea to consult your daughter’s doctor if she experiences any of the above.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Office on Women's Health
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
ACOG Committee on Adolescent Health Care. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 349, November 2006: Menstruation in girls and adolescents: using the menstrual cycle as a vital sign. Reaffirmed 2009. Obstet Gynecol. 2006. 108(5):1323-1328.
All about menstruation. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/teens/puberty-sexuality/all-about-menstruation.html. Updated October 2010. Accessed January 21, 2014.
Menstruation and the menstrual cycle fact sheet. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/menstruation.html. Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed January 21, 2014.
Physical development in girls: What to expect. American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/puberty/Pages/Physical-Development-Girls-What-to-Expect.aspx. Updated May 11, 2013. Accessed January 21, 2014.
Talking to your child about menstruation. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/talk_about_menstruation.html. Updated August 2011. Accessed January 21, 2014.
Your first period. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq049.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140121T1424247430. Accessed January 21, 2014.
Last reviewed January 21, 2014. by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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