Broaching the subject of puberty and menstruation with your adolescent daughter is no easy task. We don’t always feel like we have the tools or the language to do so. But, it’s an important topic that we should all fully understand as we evolve as women. Our femininity need not be steeped in mystery, as it has been for so long, and learning how to talk to our daughters about their periods as they come of age can help them gain a greater understanding of their cycles and their overall health.
You may want to broach the subject as soon as you see the telltale signs of puberty. If you talk to her before her friends do, this will help bolster your bond with your daughter, while also helping her with her own self-confidence as she navigates the confusing waters of puberty. Setting a precedent of easy communication between the two of you will make her feel more comfortable talking to you about boys and sex. She’ll be more apt to turn or you for guidance rather than keeping secrets and turning to her peers. Not to mention, you’ll ensure that she receives correct information before she’s subjected to any menstruation myths that may be circulating among her friends.
What is menstruation?
When you talk to your daughter about her period, it’s important to be able to explain the ins and outs of what it is. First and foremost, let your daughter know that once she starts her period, she’s capable of becoming pregnant. Let her know that once a month, her ovaries release an egg, and that process is called ovulation. Then, hormones in her body help the lining of the uterus accept the egg. When the egg isn’t fertilized by sperm, menstruation happens. Menstruation is the process of the uterus shedding its lining and draining through the vagina.
If she’s been asking you lately when she’s going to start, tell her there’s no way to predict for sure, but let her know when it happened for you. This might help. When it does happen, a little bit of dark colored discharge might first appear on her underwear, and a normal first cycle will expel about ¼ cup of blood over a 3-5 day window.
Periods are often irregular during menstruation
If your daughter’s first experience is different, tell her not to worry. Many adolescent girls experience lighter or heavier periods for a while. It’s simply the body’s hormones getting used to the idea of menstruation. A typical menstrual cycle happens every 28-35 days when you’re in the throes of puberty. But, for the first couple years, periods can be terribly erratic.
Keeping your daughter’s bathroom well stocked with pads and tampons is a good idea, as periods can be heavy and last for weeks at a time at first. Let her know that cramps are normal, and that a heating pad and Advil are always good to have on hand. Encourage her to remain active, as regular exercise decreases the severity of cramping due to increased circulation.
Enjoy this time
Talking to your daughter about menstruation can be a truly fulfilling experience, bringing the two of you closer in the process. Help her track her periods by downloading a period tracker app, and let her know you’re always here for her when she needs to talk about anything at all. Enjoy this time with your daughter. It won’t last forever!
The physicians at OB/GYN Associates of Alabama provide assistance and support to parents as they teach their daughters about making good choices about healthcare. Contact us to schedule an appointment!