Menstrual Education – Preparing Your Teen for Menstruation
Most teens start menstruating when they are betweem ages 11-13 years old but the first period can start as early as 9! So when do you start to talk about teen menstruation? How early is early enough?
You can generally predict the start of a girls menstrual periods by the development of her breasts. Girls develop breast buds, or small nodules below the nipples as the breasts begin to grow. This development happens approximately 2 years before she will start her period.
Most preteens are too embarrassed to start the discussion themselves so it is up to you to begin the conversation. There is too much information to cover all of it in one conversation and one talk will discourage your girl from asking questions later.
To introduce the topic you may want to ask her what she already knows and has heard from her friends. You can also start the conversation with health issues, which may be less embarrassing for her. Answer any of her questions honestly and at her maturity level.
This ‘talk’ about menstruation is just another piece of the sex talk puzzle. She needs honest information from an adult she knows and can trust – often her mother. If the only information she ever receives is from her friends she will hear nonsense and believe it as fact. That is why it is so important to talk with your child early and answer questions often.
Be sure to give your child some biological explanations before launching into the information she is really looking for – the practical advice. First the biology. Menstruation means a girl’s body is maturing and preparing each month to get pregnant. Each month an egg matures and is released to travel down the fallopian tubes to the uterus. If pregnancy doesn’t happen then the extra lining in the uterus isn’t needed and it breaks down into a mixture of blood and tissue that comes out through the vagina during her period.
Most girls want to know about when it will happen, what it will feel like and what they’ll need to do when their period starts. Although no one can truly predict the exact timing, very commonly it happens about two years after breast bud development. Girls can experience thick white discharge in the months just before their period.
Does it hurt? Most girls have cramps but during the first periods they aren’t severe. Cramps are usually in the lower abdomen or lower back and thighs. The cramps usually last only one or two days. Pain relievers to use can be anti-inflammatory drugs, hot baths and a hot water bottle to relieve the uterine cramping and pain.
It is normal to start your period anywhere from 10 to 15 years old but most girls feel left out if their friends have started and they haven’t. She might worry that she isn’t normal but she should be reassured that unless she is 16 and hasn’t started there isn’t a problem.
She should also be aware of what the normal parameters are, such as periods last approximately 4-7 days but if they go longer than 10 she should see a doctor. If periods are very heavy (needing more than 2 or 3 pads each day) or are very painful she may also need to see the doctor to rule out any problems.
These changes in her body can be exciting but also scary. Girls are afraid of the unknown but much of the scariness can be lessened through education of what really will happen.
Open communication with her will encourage your daughter to ask you more questions and to be sure that she sees you as someone she can come back to with issues related to menstruation and sex. Friends should never be the source of her information since the information will be wrong. You are her resource and you can do it!
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