Preparing for the First Menstruation
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.
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 pubic hair growth and breast development. 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.
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:
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.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Menstruation and the menstrual cycle fact sheet. WomensHealth.gov website. Available at: http://www.womensh.... Updated October 21, 2009. Accessed April 25, 2012.
Period talk: Preparing your preteen for menstruation. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/menstruation/FL00040 . Updated August 8, 2009. Accessed March 24, 2010.
Last reviewed April 2012 by Brian Randall, MD