While adolescence is a natural part of growth, the physical changes it brings can be unsettling. For girls experiencing their first period, it might raise concerns about whether it’s normal.
What Are the Signs of Menarche, and What Are Common Symptoms?
For many girls, the first period might come unexpectedly, but sometimes there are signs indicating its approach, such as acne, bloating, mood swings, or cramps. Typically, there are other puberty signs before menarche, like pubic hair growth, breast development, and body shape changes.
The first menstrual flow may vary in quantity and color, ranging from brown to deep red. Menarche can be accompanied by cramps in the abdomen, back, and thighs, bloating, acne, breast tenderness, mood and sleep changes, and digestive issues like diarrhea.
Initially, menstrual cycles may not become immediately regular. In the first few years, periods may start at different times each month or come with varying premenstrual or menstrual symptoms, including increased or decreased bleeding. With time, most girls’ cycles become more regular and symptoms more predictable.
What Should I Do When My Child Starts Her Period?
It’s best to have menstrual hygiene products ready at home to prepare for your child’s first period. Discuss the changes your child might experience before her period to avoid them feeling completely overwhelmed. Ensure they understand the reasons for menstruation, potential symptoms, and emphasize that menstruation is a normal and healthy part of a woman’s body.
You can prepare a “period kit” to be kept in a drawer or backpack, including pads, wet wipes, and a clean pair of underwear in case your child needs them at school.
Celebrating or commemorating the first menstrual cycle in a meaningful way, like using cards, favorite desserts, or a family spa night, might be helpful. If your child is interested, consider a larger celebration, such as gathering with friends or having an overnight event. The key is to help your child view the transition to adulthood positively and naturally, rather than something shameful or awkward.
Provide your child with the menstrual hygiene products of their choice, such as pads, tampons, menstrual cups, or period underwear (which looks like regular underwear). Typically, girls starting their period may find pads the simplest and most comfortable option. For those who enjoy sports, tampons and menstrual cups are good choices but may require some time to get used to insertion and removal. Ensure they understand the usage instructions for the chosen products, as some, like tampons, should not be used for more than 8 hours. Help your child understand the differences between the options and choose what suits them best.
Additionally, be ready to offer comfort and remedies to cope with potential discomfort. This includes child-safe pain relievers, hot packs for cramps, or a hot water bottle, along with providing comfort food and emotional support to help them through premenstrual symptoms, acne outbreaks, and offering a space for honest conversation about their experiences.
How Early or Late Is “Too Early” or “Too Late” to Start Menstruating?
While the average age for puberty onset is 10 to 15 years, the early or delayed onset of menarche doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem. Some children might start menstruating as early as 8 or 9 years old, while others may not start until 15 or 16. Menarche typically occurs about 2 to 3 years after breast development and 6 to 12 months after the onset of vaginal discharge. If you’re concerned that your child is starting menstruation too early or too late, there are some useful signs to note.
If your child shows signs of puberty, such as breast development, around the age of 8, ensure to help them understand the changes and consider consulting a pediatrician. Your child might be experiencing early puberty, and healthcare providers can help determine if any concerning issues are present. Similarly, if your child is 15 and hasn’t started menstruating, consider making an appointment. Factors like weight (under or overweight), stress levels, and frequency and intensity of physical activity may influence the start of your child’s menstrual cycle.
What Are Signs of Menstrual Irregularities, and When Should I Consult a Pediatrician?
Menstrual irregularities can result from various factors, from lifestyle (stress and exercise levels) to potential medical conditions (bleeding disorders or hormonal imbalances). Menstrual cycles may take a few years to stabilize, so if your child experiences irregularities, they may not immediately become apparent, but you can watch for some signs.
Make an appointment with a pediatrician if you notice any of the following:
– No menstruation by the age of 15
– Menstruation starting before the age of 8
– Irregular cycles for over two years after menarche
– Severe bleeding (passing through a pad or tampon in an hour or less) or severe cramps not relieved by pain medication
– Prolonged periods (lasting over a week)
– Severe premenstrual syndrome symptoms making it difficult for your child to get through a day
These symptoms don’t necessarily indicate a problem, but it’s best to communicate with a healthcare provider to ensure clarity. They can help your child determine the next steps for their health and well-being.
If your child has other types of bleeding, such as frequent nosebleeds, bleeding gums, easy bruising, or a family history of bleeding disorders, you may need to discuss with a pediatrician whether genetic or acquired testing for bleeding disorders is necessary.
The first step on this journey is recognizing the importance of openly and honestly discussing menstruation and their situation with your child. By initiating this conversation early, you can alleviate any anxiety or confusion your child might feel during their first period. A rational approach will help them view menstruation as a natural process, approaching it with more confidence and positivity.
Creating an environment where your child can easily discuss sensitive topics, like menstruation, is invaluable. Open communication fosters trust and strengthens your relationship, making it easier for your child to bring up any concerns or questions they might have during adolescence.
Remember that every child is unique, so adjust your approach based on their personality and needs. Choose a calm and private environment for the conversation, making your child feel safe and free to express their feelings.
As the conversation unfolds, your child might ask specific questions or express concerns about menstruation. Be prepared to provide thoughtful and supportive answers.
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Common Questions Teens Might Ask About Menstruation:
Teens often have questions about various aspects of menstruation, such as the duration of periods, cycle frequency, and potential bodily changes. Answer these questions honestly, reassuringly, and provide clear explanations.
Handling Emotional Reactions and Anxiety:
Adolescence and menstruation can evoke various emotions in teens, including anxiety and confusion. Be attentive to any emotional responses and offer comfort and encouragement, assuring your child that experiencing a range of emotions during this time is normal.
Providing Support and Assurance:
Throughout the conversation, emphasize your unconditional support for your child. Assure them that you are available anytime they need guidance or want to discuss any aspect of the menstrual process.
UNICEF. Talking About Periods at Home. www.unicef.org/parenting/health/talking-about-periods-at-home
ACOG.Menstruation in Girls and Adolescents: Using the Menstrual Cycle as a Vital Sign.www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2015/12/menstruation-in-girls-and-adolescents-using-the-menstrual-cycle-as-a-vital-sign