Preparing for the First Menstruation

Image for preparing for menstruation Is it time to talk to your daughter about menstruation? Has she heard something about it from her friends at school? Is she asking questions? Maybe she is showing the first signs of puberty. It is important to talk early—before your daughter’s first period arrives.

Before you sit down with your daughter, arm yourself with knowledge. Consider making an appointment with your doctor or hers. Get all the facts. Think about 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.

Your Daughter’s Period

On average, girls have their first period at age 12. However, periods can begin anytime between the ages of 8 to 15.

A couple of years before their first period, girls show other signs of puberty. They have growth spurts. Their breasts begin to develop. They also grow pubic hair. Talk to your daughter before she becomes confused about these changes. Do not wait until her period surprises or embarrasses her. Keep in mind that some girls get their period at an early age.

Talking to Your Daughter

Where to Begin

Talking to your daughter about her period can be uncomfortable. This is especially true if the father has to do it. Planning ahead can help make the conversation easier.

Begin the discussion in a comfortable, private environment. Make sure you have plenty of time to give good information and answer questions. For some kids or parents, sitting down for one discussion is difficult. If so, plan several short talks that span over a longer period of time.

If you are a woman, share the story of your first period. Tell your daughter when it happened, where you were, and how you felt at the time. Or, you could ask your daughter what she has heard about puberty and menstruation.

Important Things to Talk About

Next, give your daughter some basic knowledge. Explain why women get periods. You do not need to talk about hormones. Keep it simple. Explain that periods are part of the menstrual cycle. It helps a woman’s body prepare for pregnancy.

Make a list of things you want to discuss. Here are some tips:

  • Tell your daughter that most girls get their first period around age 12. However, some get it much earlier or much later. If your daughter has not had her period by age 15, talk to her doctor. Other conditions can delay a girl's period. Examples are pregnancy, eating disorders, excessive exercising, or stress.
  • Explain that many women have symptoms before their periods. These symptoms may include cramps, headaches, bloating, breast tenderness, and mood swings. She should know that these discomforts can be managed. They should not interfere with normal activity, sports, or exercise.
  • Some women have pain in the mid part of their menstrual cycle. This happens when the egg is released from the ovary. The pain is usually sudden but short-lived.
  • Tell your daughter that periods can be light, moderate, or heavy. The length of a period also varies. They typically last from 3 to 5 days, but anywhere from 2 to 7 days is normal.
  • Explain that it is normal for periods to be irregular at first. This usually happens during the first few years after a period begins.
  • Show your daughter how to use tampons and pads. Explain the benefits of each. Tell her she should change pads as often as necessary— before they are soaked. Tampons should be changed frequently. Leaving a tampon in too long can lead to a rare, but serious and sometimes deadly infection called toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
  • Make sure your daughter knows that once a girl has her period, she can get pregnant. You may also talk about sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and birth control.

Practical Advice

Help your daughter be prepared for her period. Here are some tips:

  • Keep a tampon or pad tucked away in your purse or backpack at all times.
  • If you have an accident, do not panic. Cold water gets out most bloodstains. In the meantime, tie a jacket or sweater around your waist. This will hide the stain.
  • Learn to track your menstrual cycle with a calendar. That way, you will know when to expect it.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine to ease cramps and headaches.

Tell your daughter to let you know if she:

  • Bleeds for more than 7 days
  • Bleeds excessively
  • Bleeds between periods (more than just a few drops)
  • Goes 3 months without a period or thinks she may be pregnant
  • Has severe pain during her period

To prevent TSS, do not use highly absorbent tampons. To reduce the risk of getting TSS, change tampons often. Do not use tampons on a regular basis. Get medical help right away if your daughter feels sick after using a tampon. Symptom of TSS include a fever, headache, or vomiting. TSS develops quickly and can be fatal.

Your daughter's periods may be irregular for the first few years. However, irregular periods can also be signs of other conditions. It is best to call your daughter's doctor if there are problems with her periods.

RESOURCES:

Office on Women's Health
https://www.womenshealth.gov

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
https://www.acog.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
https://sogc.org

Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

REFERENCES:

Female puberty. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/female-puberty. Accessed November 1, 2021.

Girls and puberty. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/girls-and-puberty/. Accessed November 1, 2021.

Physical development in girls: What to expect. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/puberty/Pages/Physical-Development-Girls-What-to-Expect.aspx. Accessed November 1, 2021.

Premenstrual syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/premenstrual-syndrome. Accessed November 11, 2021.

Talking to your child about periods. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/talk-about-menstruation.html. Accessed November 1, 2021.

Your first period (especially for teens). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/your-first-period. Accessed November 1, 2021.

Last reviewed November 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 11/1/2021