It might be hard to believe that your little girl is growing up. Before you know it, she’ll get her first period and enter a new phase of life. If she doesn’t know what’s coming, it can be a lot to process.
So, it’s important to prepare your daughter for menstruation. It might seem like a formidable task, but it doesn’t have to be.
When do girls get their first period?
On average, girls get their first period between the ages of 10 and 15. Every girl’s body is different and lots of factors contribute to when your daughter will get her first period.
But if she’s approaching that age range, it’s time to start preparing her for what’s coming.
Have a no-shame conversation about menstruation
Unfortunately, our culture still shames menstruation. However, there’s really no good reason for this. Menstruation is one of four phases in a woman’s cycle, and it has a biological purpose.
It should not be a taboo subject, and your daughter can learn this from you.
How? By having a no-shame conversation about menstruation, and what’s happening in her body to cause menstruation.
Talk about the reproductive system
It’s hard to have a conversation about menstruation if you don’t first talk about the reproductive system, too.
For example, take some time to show your daughter an image of the reproductive organs and how they interact with one another. Here’s a basic breakdown to teach your daughter:
- Ovaries: This is where the eggs and sex hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, are produced.
- Fallopian tubes: Narrow tubes that act like tunnels between the ovaries and the uterus. After the sperm fertilizes the egg in the fallopian tube, they both travel down into the uterus, where the fetus will start to develop – if conception occurs, that is.
- Uterus: A pear-shaped organ in which the developing fetus grows. Each month the lining of the uterus builds up in preparation for a potential pregnancy.
- Vagina: The canal that connects the external genital organs to the uterus.
Talk about her cycle
One of the many amazing things about a woman’s body is that it is designed to bear children. And even though periods get a bad rep, they actually point back to this phenomenal physiological capacity that every single woman has.
That’s because the period is one of four phases in a cycle. And by explaining this to your daughter, she will better understand what’s happening in her body every month.
Here’s what she should know:
• Phase 1: Follicular phase: During this phase, two hormones increase: estrogen and follicular-stimulating hormone. This helps 4 to 6 follicles to grow within the ovaries. This phase lasts about 10 to 14 days. However, for girls who just get their period, it can be longer.
• Phase 2: Ovulation: Here, estrogen is at its peak and thanks to an increase in luteinizing hormone, one of the follicles bursts and releases an egg. If sperm is present, fertilization can occur. This phase lasts 1 day.
• Phase 3: Luteal phase: Now that the egg has been released, the now-empty follicle transforms into the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone. Progesterone levels continue to rise. If fertilization occurred, progesterone levels remain high and the fourth phase doesn’t occur. If conception doesn’t occur, the uterine lining prepares to shed. This phase lasts about 10-14 days.
• Phase 4: Menstruation: If pregnancy does not occur, the uterine lining will shed, along with menses fluid.
This is what a healthy and normal monthly cycle looks like. However, it’s important to bear in mind that it can take up to 10 years for a woman’s cycle to settle into this rhythm.
That’s because the body’s hormones are still settling down and the cell receptors are still getting used to the hormones that fluctuate throughout the month.
Therefore, it’s very common for a young girl’s period to extend to up to 45 days. It’s important to realize that this is normal and that it will become more regular as time goes on.
Talk about emotions
We joke about “raging hormones” in teenagers, but it’s actually no joke. When young girls first experience the surging levels of estrogen, and then the drastic drop as they give way to calm and relaxing progesterone, it can be a lot to handle.
For young girls, it can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. Try to prepare her for this, and let her know that it’s okay to experience strong emotions.
Choose period supplies she likes
Have an honest conversation about how women deal with their menstrual flow.
Introduce her to different products (pads, tampons, cups, panties) and explain how they’re used.
Open up about your own period
Tell your daughter what your first period was like. Without a doubt, you remember the day well. Explain how you live with your period, and how you deal with physical discomfort, menses, and any mood swings.
Remember, the idea is to normalize periods. After all, they are.
Empower her with period tools
Menstruation doesn’t have to be shrouded in mystery. Instead, it should be something a girl knows, respects and is proud of. That’s why it’s so important to make it accessible to her.
The following tools can help.
Since most young girls have smartphones, encourage your daughter to track her period on any of the following apps:
Charting your cycle
Using a simple chart and thermometer, your daughter can start to track her period using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). By tracking her morning temperature, her mood and other physical signs, your daughter will get to know her cycle really well.
This, in turn, can be a massive aid in dealing with emotional upsets that come with hormonal shifts, as study after study has found, especially with girls who suffer from depression and suicidal ideation.
Before your daughter’s first period even arrives, give her her first period kit, like this Menstruation Kit- First Period Kit To-Go. It includes a cute travel bag, two pads, one panty liner, two disposal pouches, and one feminine wipe.
In addition, treat her to some new panties in preparation for her first period. This can give her something to look forward to, rather than dread.
Menstruation is part of a woman’s body and the amazing reproductive processes it’s capable of. Help your daughter welcome her own menstruation by talking about it openly, factually, without shame, and with lots of love and support.