What parents need to know about first periods and when to be concerned

What parents need to know about first periods and when to be concerned

Preparing your daughter for her first period and the many more that follow is no easy task. But it isn’t impossible. Be open and positive to make this new change in your daughter’s life as easy as possible.

We sat down with Dr. Michelle Bowden, who specializes in adolescent medicine, to discuss the topic of menstruation. She gave some tips on how to prepare your daughter for her first period and explains situations that may be cause for concern. 

Tips for preparing for your daughter’s first period

  1. If you are buying a bra, begin to have the conversation

As a parent, it is important to know your timeline. Once your daughter shows signs of the beginning of puberty, you generally have two years before your daughter will have her first period. For most girls, the first sign of puberty is the beginning of breast development. Keep in mind if you are buying her first bra then it is time to start having conversations about menstruation.

  1. Don’t approach the subject as something secretive

Periods should never be a taboo subject. Don’t approach the conversation as something secretive. This happens to women, and is a normal developmental milestone. If we celebrate when a child learns to walk or read, then we should celebrate having a period as another phase of growing up. Ultimately, it’s the body preparing to one day have a baby.  

  1. Help to practically prepare for her first period

Be prepared for the practical pieces of a period. Help her know what she needs to do when she finds blood in her underwear. When you give her supplies, teach her how to use the products. Consider packing an extra pair of underwear and pants. Most girls have light bleeding with their first periods, but this might help ease anxiety and fear.

  1. Have open, honest conversations

Books about periods are great, but they’re even better when used as a tool for conversation. Have open, honest conversations. You are the best person to teach her these things. This can also be a launch pad to other open conversations about healthy sexuality.

When to be concerned

Periods can be irregular for the first 1-2 years of your daughter’s cycle, and many girls don’t have cycles every month (or even every few months) at first. However, there are some issues that are cause for concern and should be discussed with your daughter’s pediatrician if they happen. Outlined below are some of those situations:

  • Having multiple periods a month, especially if bleeding is heavy
  • Bleeding for more than 10-14 days in a row
  • Heavy bleeding — using 4 to 6 pads a day is average. Needing significantly more is cause for concern, especially if it is associated with being lightheaded, dizzy, or looking pale
  • Significant PMS symptoms —especially if they are keeping her from school or other activities.

Tips to reduce shame surrounding periods

  1. Help create support among her peers

You will always be a great support to your daughter, but she also needs support and understanding among her peers. The more comfortable she is talking about her period when the subject comes up with friends, the better. Some schools offer after-school programs or are part of a health class that help discuss this topic in peer groups.

  1. Create a safe space and be a safe adult she can count on

Create a safe space for your daughter to approach when questions or concerns arise. Be a person she can count on. Don’t dismiss any concerns or questions she might have. Make the time to discuss questions or worries. Also, help her identify other safe people she can approach with questions or concerns, such as another family member or trusted adult in her life. You may not always be there when an issue arises, so help her identify people she feels comfortable asking for help.

  1. Speak positively about periods

It’s important to talk through situations before they arise. Try to speak positively. Periods are a special part of life that helps prepare us to physically bring children into this world, which is a cool thing that only women’s bodies can do. So be sure to not treat periods as a curse that all women must bear. You don’t have to go into specific details of possible side effects of PMS or menstruations before they happen. Address them as they come up. This will help reduce some of the anxiety and fear that surrounds periods.

Periods are a typical part of a woman’s life, a normal part of development and a celebrated part of womanhood. Periods should never be the cause of shame. We all have hormones. Every girl should be able to continue to thrive after the onset of menstruation, and our goal is to help make that possible.

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