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Period: A Girl's Guide to Menstruation With a Parent's Guide


by Tania K. Cowling


Girls need to know about menstruation well before ËmenarcheÓ (the first menstrual period) occurs. Too many parents wait until a girl is a certain age, say twelve, to discuss the subject, not realizing that many normal girls may begin their menstrual periods as early as age nine or ten. And yet, a girl can be as old as sixteen and just starting menarche; ages vary. At the onset of puberty, there are signs such as breast development and pubic hair growth; girls have special needs and we have to be aware of them. They are excited, scared, and wondering about the FIRST PERIOD. We need to get them ready and help them through this time in their lives. Usually schools will offer a talk to young girls, somewhere around the 4th grade. Generally, this is where girls get their first contact with the word Ëmenstruation.Ó They will have questions, although they may be hesitant to ask them in a classroom setting. As a parent, do you know how to approach this first talk?



If you can discuss menstruation comfortably, youÁre off to a good start. Research indicates that girls benefit when adults see their own menstruation as healthy and normal. Mothers, especially, can openly share their own experiences and offer emotional support. Reassure your daughter that it is natural and that it doesnÁt have to keep her from her normal activities. While menstruation is certainly not a hygienic emergency, this may also be a good time to discuss how she can best care for her body with daily baths, use of a deodorant, and frequent changes of sanitary menstrual products. ItÁs important not to embarrass or discomfort your child when discussing these topics.



A first period shouldnÁt be scary or confusing. Prepare your daughter with some facts and pictures. For a complete discussion of the biology of menstruation and the physical changes associated with puberty refer to reference books found in libraries or bookstores. Here are a few topics to talk about:


  • When can she expect her first period? Genetics, race, diet, body weight, and exercise all play a role in determining this. Generally, she can expect her first period after she begins developing breasts, hips, waist, and pubic hair.
  • The first periods are generally light! Periods last about two to seven days. Five days is the average length of a cycle.
  • It may take several months or even years for a girlÁs menstrual cycle to become regular! ItÁs helpful to keep track of periods on a calendar to know when to expect the next one. Give your child her own pocket calendar for this data.
  • Prepare your daughter with her own special supply of feminine hygiene products.
  • Talk about menstrual cramping! Cramps may or may not be a factor, but if so, they can linger for just a few hours or for the entire length of the period. They range from mild discomfort to painful sensations. Discuss measures with her doctor about pain relief.
  • Talk about what to do about Ëaccidents.Ó No need to fret, it happens to everyone. Soak period-stained panties in cold water before washing. Hot water only sets the stain.
  • Always consult a doctor if periods are unusually heavy, too irregular or painful.


When the Ëbig dayÓ arrives and your daughter walks up to you and says, ËMom, I got my period.Ó Give her a big hug, tell her you love her, and ask if she is feeling OK. Sometimes we get so caught up in the fact that this is the first time, happy that she is growing up, sad that she is no longer a child, we just plain forget that she might not be feeling great. Comfort her with your time!




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