April 27, 2010
By Shane Gerber, C.N.P.
Wondering how and when to introduce the subject of menstruation to your pre-teen? It’s very important to begin the talk at an early age because most girls begin to menstruate when they’re about 12, but periods can start as early as 8 years of age.
Menstruation is awkward to talk about, so as soon as your daughter starts asking questions, it’s time to be as honest and open as possible. If she reaches the pre-teen years and hasn’t asked about it, then it’s up to you to start the conversation. You should ask what she knows about puberty, as most schools talk about it in health and sex education classes. It is important to clear up any misinformation she may have received, especially from friends and older kids at school.
If you are a single father and not comfortable with talking to your daughter about menstruation, you might delegate these conversations to a trusted female friend or relative.
While the biology of menstruation is important, most girls are more interested in the practical information about periods. First of all, she needs to know that menstruation means that a girl’s body is physically capable of becoming pregnant. Explain that each month, one of her ovaries releases an egg. This is called ovulation. This is the time when hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg isn’t fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina. This is called a period. It usually happens about two years after her breasts begin to develop.
Many girls complain of cramping before, during or after their periods. Cramps can be dull and achy or sharp and stabbing. Exercise, a heating pad or an over-the-counter pain reliever may help relieve the discomfort.
Make sure you stock your bathroom with different types of sanitary products. Explain how to use pads or tampons and the importance of proper hygiene. Most girls are horrified about what they should do if they start their period at school. Encourage her to not be afraid to ask a friend, teacher or school nurse is she needs help. Have her carry a few pads or tampons in her backpack or purse. Many schools have coin operated dispensers in the rest rooms for these products.