There are certainly lots of different issues we could talk about when it comes to the concerns that girls have during puberty, but there is one that hits the top of the list every time.
Young girls are incredibly concerned about what is going to happen at the moment they have their first period.
I was recently reading comments from young girls in a popular teen magazine about their experience. It was sad to hear their different stories.
For the most part, they were totally surprised when they discovered blood in their underwear and they were not prepared to know what to do. If they were at school, it was embarrassing for them to ask for help. If they were away from home at a sleepover or camp experience, it was even more devastating.
Recently, I was leading a workshop for 9- and 10-year-old girls and no matter what I wanted to talk about, what they wanted to know was information about what to do when they have their first period.
Your daughter’s first period is a profound experience for her and requires an understanding of what is happening and how to be prepared. In those same responses from the magazine, the girls who had been taught what was going to happen, and had an open relationship with their mom, were still surprised but not overwhelmed.
Here are the 5 essential facts that will ease your daughter’s mind about her first period.
What Is It
Having a period is a normal, cleansing process. This is their body taking care of itself. It’s reassuring for her to know that her period is a good thing even though blood is involved.
How Does It Happen
Not having a full understanding of where the blood from your period comes from can leave too much to the imagination of a 10-year-old girl. Explain to her that the blood comes from the inside lining of the uterus, called the endometrium . Each month the endometrium builds up in case an egg meets a sperm and is fertilized. The endometrium makes a special bed formed of blood and nutrients to provide food for the fertilized egg to grow into a tiny baby.
If an egg does not join a sperm that month, then there is not going to be a baby and there is no need for the bed that was made in the endometrium. The endometrium breaks apart and the bed made of blood and fluid slowly cleanses out of the uterus, through the vagina, and out of her body. This blood and fluid that come out is your period.
When Will It Happen
Your daughter might not have a warning, but one sign you can look for is a thick, sticky substance in her underwear. It may be white or even a little brown. There is still time, but when she finds this in her underwear, it is a good idea for her to prepare for her period.
Your daughter might also notice a change in her emotions a day or two before your period starts. Let her know that she could feel a little more irritated or easily upset than usual. She may also notice some tenderness in her breasts and perhaps some cramping very low in her pelvis. These are some of the premenstrual symptoms that, as we know, women routinely experience before their period. Your daughter will experience them as well.
Her period will last about 4-7 days, but each girl is different. It is usually a little heavier on the first two days and then slows down. Let her know that even though it seems like a lot, overall only about 2-3 tablespoons of blood that will come out during the entire period.
What She Should Have Ready
The most important way she can prepare for her first period is to have a pad in her backpack or purse for when the time comes. Suddenly starting her period will be nerve-wracking enough. If she doesn’t have a pad or know what to do when she finds blood in her underwear, it can be even more traumatic. She will feel more able to handle this if she is prepared with the supplies to care for herself.
What To Do When It Happens
Some middle schools and high schools have coin-operated machines in the girl’s bathroom to purchase pads. Sadly, they are not always maintained so she might want to check this out for herself at school.
Also, some schools have a certain phrase they can use to let their teacher know they need to take care of a personal hygiene situation. Check with you PTA or school administrator to see if there is something like this already in place. If there isn’t, they might be able to help you set up a signal girls can use so they don’t have to go into embarrassing detail with a teacher when they need to leave the classroom.
If your daughter doesn’t have a pad with her on that particular day, and the machine in the restroom isn’t working, there are still things that can be done. She can ask a friend for a pad, or she can go to the school nurse’s office. It’s important for her to know that every woman experiences a period, and we have all been unprepared at times. Although it can feel embarrassing, we have all been there!
Helping her be confident
These simple suggestions can make all the difference in helping your daughter feel ready for this exciting step in growing up as she approaches her first period. The most important thing is that you and she are talking about this subject together. It might be awkward at first, but having this open communication can make this experience into a positive one for your daughter.
If you would like to help your daughter understand more about the hormonal changes happening in her body and her menstrual cycle, my book, I’m a Girl, Hormones!, explains in an easy-to-understand way about these changes that are happening for her during puberty. It’s specifically written for girls ages 10 and up who are getting close to having, or have recently started having their period.