First periods are a big deal but they shouldn’t be seen as scary, or bad. There’s no place for any stigma around periods today, but sadly it still exists. We know that nearly half of girls aged 14-21 have been made to feel embarrassed by their periods. This could be down to many things including upbringing, culture and superstition.
Of course, good deeds start at home, so whether you’re a mum, dad or carer, it’s a wise idea to start the period talk early on. That way, you’re giving your child a greater chance of seeing her monthly cycle as a positive thing that’s not taboo, but rather a natural, normal part of life.
Periods usually begin a couple of years into puberty (the average age for a girl to start menstruating is 12). We’ve alswritten a piece on preparing your daughter for puberty. If you feel your daughter is showing the very early signs of puberty and you haven’t really delved into the period talk, it’s a sensible time to begin. Say things in a straightforward manner, talking about common topics like, ‘When you start your period you could have some stomach pain,’ and let the conversation carry on from there.
Knowing the facts is important, but remember, most girls aren’t asking for a science lesson that goes into intricate detail about the womb lining – biology textbooks cover that stuff well.
Your daughter probably knows a fair bit already, but you’re not a mind reader so it’s only by talking to her that you can work out what she needs a little more help understanding.
Exploring things together – from how much she might bleed, to hormonal changes that can affect mood and energy – will help her to feel less anxious about what’s coming. And if she’s brave enough to ask questions, answer everything as fully and openly as you can manage (and look something up if you don’t know).
To find out more, look at our article all about hormones and the monthly cycle which will help your daughter to understand what’s going on in her body, and how this can affect her behaviour and mood. If you need a little refresh yourself, it’s worth a peek.
A recent study found that almost three-quarters of women aged 14-21 were still embarrassed about buying sanitary products. As we’ve mentioned at the beginning of this article, education and conversation will help your daughter to question why there’s still any shame or stigma around periods. You’ll be helping her to feel empowered during her period (which, over a woman’s average lifetime amounts to about 8.2 years! ).
Guys don’t bleed on a monthly basis, but that doesn’t mean that periods are exclusively a female issue. If you have sons, discuss the topic with them. And if you’re a dad reading this, you can show support for your daughter by making sure that there’s always a place in the conversation for periods, and always a shelf in the bathroom for sanitary products.
Your daughter might already have started her period, or you could have a sense that it’s just about to come. Here are a few common worries she might have, with answers to help you support and reassure her.
Let your daughter know that the colour of period blood can vary depending on where she is during her cycle. When her period is particularly heavy, it will be red, but it could also be black, brown or pink when bleeding is lighter.
Tell your daughter that just as the colour of period blood varies, the way a vagina smells does too. On one day it could be sweet and musty, and on another, slightly metallic. A vagina never smells like fabric conditioner though, so discourage your daughter from reaching for strong fragrances or deodorants, because these can disturb the PH balance.
Stained underwear, blood patches on the backs of skirts or trousers, puddles on chairs (we’ve all heard the horror stories). Leaking can be a big worry for girls who’ve just started their periods, but thankfully, really heavy bleeding is not as common as your daughter might think.
Give her sanitary pads or tampons to suit different flows – that way she’ll be well prepared for all days. And reassure her that everybody has accidents, and that if she does have a leak and she’s not with you to tell someone she trusts so they can help.
Try not to freak out. Just because she asked, doesn’t mean she’s already having sex. Rather she’s curious, and trusts you as the person who’ll give her the most honest answer. Explain that a first period indicates that a girl’s able to make a baby. Of course, it’s very rare for anyone to conceive while they’re still bleeding, because ovulation usually happens mid-cycle. But it’s not impossible.
It sounds as if your daughter’s really keen to give tampons a go, so encouragement is key here. If she tries but it’s not a success, tell her it usually takes a few goes. Ask what she’s finding difficult. It could be her position, so suggest she tries a different angle when inserting the tampon.
It’ll take a while for your daughter to work out how she feels when she’s on her period, how heavy or light her bleeding will be, and what products she prefers using. The best thing you can do is keep the conversation going. After all, when your daughter’s period starts, the talk shouldn’t stop.
Like every girl, your daughter is unique, and so too will be her experience of periods. Reinforce this by telling her that whatever she goes through may be different to her friends, but it doesn’t mean it’s not normal.
https://plan-uk.org/blogs/five-things-you-can-do-to-end-period-poverty- including stats from a survey of 1,000 girls carried out by The Department of Health