Preparing for the First Menstruation
by Krisha McCoy, MS
Is it time to talk to your daughter about menstruation? Maybe she’s heard something about it from her friends at school and has begun asking questions. Or perhaps she is showing the first signs of puberty and you have the feeling that her period is right around the corner. It’s important to have this discussion early, before your daughter’s first period arrives.
Before you sit down with your daughter, arm yourself with knowledge. You can get information from Nemours Kids Health or The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists websites. If you feel better talking to someone in person, consider making an appointment with your doctor or hers. It is important to have all the facts and anticipate some 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, but it can begin anytime between the ages of 8-15.
A couple of years before their first period, girls show other signs of puberty, including breast development, pubic hair growth, and growth spurts. So it’s important to talk to your daughter about her period early, before she becomes confused about these changes and before her period surprises or embarrasses her. The choice about when to talk to your daughter about her period is entirely up to you, but take into consideration that some girls get their period at an early age.
Talking to Your Daughter
Discussing your daughter’s period with her can be uncomfortable, especially in nontraditional families, where the father must take on this daunting task. But if you plan ahead, you’ll be surprised at how smoothly the conversation will go.
What is the best way to begin this discussion? First of all, it’s important to find a comfortable, private environment. Make sure you have enough time to cover the points you want to cover and answer any questions your daughter might have. If you find sitting down just to have one conversation is difficult and uncomfortable, start having multiple short talks that span over a longer period of time.
You could begin—if you’re a woman—by sharing the story of your first period. Tell your daughter when it happened, where you were, and how you felt at the time. An alternative starting point is to ask your daughter what she has already heard about puberty and menstruation.
After you have broken the ice, give your daughter some basic knowledge. Explain why women get periods. Rather than describing the complicated hormonal changes that occur, try to keep it simple. Explain that it is part of the menstrual cycle, which helps a woman’s body prepare for pregnancy. It is your daughter’s first major milestone in her journey toward womanhood.
Then, you’ll want to cover the main points in a clear, understanding manner. Before you sit down for this discussion, make a list of things you want to discuss. That way, you’ll be less likely to get sidetracked and miss something important. Below is a list to help you get started:
Your daughter will appreciate some practical advice that will help her first few periods come and go more smoothly. Here are some tips you can give your daughter that will help her feel more prepared and avoid potential embarrassment:
Tell your daughter to alert you if she experiences any of the following:
To prevent TSS, avoid using highly absorbant tampons. To reduce the risk of getting TSS, change tampons frequently and do not use them on a regular basis. If your daughter feels sick after using a tampon, has a fever, headache, or is vomiting, get her to an emergency room right away. TSS develops quickly and can be fatal.
Irregular menstrual cycles are normal during the first few years after your daughter begins menstruating. But these symptoms can also be warning signs of other conditions, so it’s a good idea to consult your daughter’s doctor if she experiences any of the above.
Office on Women's Health
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
ACOG Committee on Adolescent Health Care. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 651: Menstruation in girls and adolescents: using the menstrual cycle as a vital sign. Obstet Gynecol. 2015;126:e143-146. Reaffirmed 2017.
Girls and puberty. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/girls-and-puberty. Updated January 2017. Accessed October 13, 2017.
Menstruation and the menstrual cycle. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/menstruation-and-menstrual-cycle. Updated February 6, 2017. Accessed October 13, 2017.
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. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2017.
Talking to your child about menstruation. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
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Updated October 2014. Accessed October 13, 2017.
Your first period (especially for teens). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq049.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140121T1424247430. Updated May 2015. Accessed October 13, 2017.
Last reviewed October 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 1/21/2014
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