Today’s parents and teens have a lot on their plates. Many of our young patients and their parents have concerns about starting their periods, especially with early puberty on the rise. Girls worry about navigating periods with school, sports and other activities. And parents worry about the emotional impact this transition can bring. While every individual’s body and timing are different, there are ways parents and pediatricians can work together to make the process easier and less stressful for girls of all ages.
What Are Signs My Daughter’s Period Will Start?
Your period is your body’s way of releasing the uterine lining that builds up every month to prepare for pregnancy. When you’re not pregnant, your body removes blood and tissue from your uterus through your vagina. Menstruation is one of the most significant milestones of puberty. However, puberty can start up to two years before your daughter gets her period.
- Early breast development is generally one of the first signs of puberty, beginning up to two years before menstruation.
- Armpit hair and pubic hair are other signs of puberty.
- Hormones related to puberty can cause acne in teen or preteen girls.
- Many girls start their periods shortly after an adolescent/preteen growth spurt, followed by a slow-down. For example, your daughter may shoot up several inches between her 12 and 13-year checkup and then get her period shortly after that growth spurt.
- Family history plays a role in the onset of menstruation. If you got your period relatively early, prepare for an early start for your daughter.
At What Age Do Girls Start Their Period?
In the U.S, the average age for a first period is 12. Most girls start in the window between ages 10 and 15. However, girls are getting their periods earlier than in past generations, with some girls beginning menstruation as early as age 8. Early puberty is a concern for many families. Talk with your pediatrician if your daughter develops signs of puberty, including breast development and pubic hair, before age 8. We also recommend making an appointment if your daughter does not begin menstruation by age 15.
What Should I Expect When My Daughter Gets Her Period?
Watching our daughters go through puberty can be challenging for parents as we move into a new phase. Preparing ourselves emotionally and helping our daughters prepare can help eliminate the anxiety for everyone.
- The beginning of menstruation can be an emotional time. Your daughter may experience mood swings. She may also be self-conscious, especially if she gets her first period at the early end of the age range. Many girls now start their periods during elementary school, so it’s vital to help them understand and prepare.
- Remember that early periods usually don’t last long, and it takes a few cycles to get on a regular schedule.
- Your daughter may experience cramps. Heating pads and ibuprofen are excellent tools for relieving discomfort.
- Talk with your pediatrician if your daughter experiences irregular, unusually heavy or unusually long periods.
How Can I Help My Daughter Prepare for Her Period?
Making sure that we’re well-informed as parents and keeping lines of communication open are essential for helping our daughters navigate a significant transition. Here are some ways we can help our children prepare for menstruation:
- Explain the process and remind your daughter that it’s completely normal. However, don’t brush away her concerns with the old cliche that it happens to everyone.
- Don’t bring your own negative associations or experiences into early conversations.
- Go over different products available and how they work.
- Discuss the benefits of period tracking–manually or using an app.
- Help your daughter put together a period kit with clean underwear, pads or tampons and wipes to carry in her backpack.
- Remind your daughter that having her period doesn’t mean she can’t swim or play sports. Check out period swimwear if she’s not ready for a tampon.
- Talk with her if she has concerns about menstruation and school. Help her make plans and identify resources at school, and make sure she carries her period kit to school.
- Discuss the relationship between menstruation and pregnancy and discuss birth control options as appropriate. Your pediatrician can help with these conversations.
- Tell her you’re here for her if she has questions or concerns.
- Encourage your daughter to ask her pediatrician if she has questions she’s uncomfortable bringing to her parents–or questions you can’t answer.
Period Support: Your Pediatrician is an Excellent Resource
The teen and preteen years can be challenging. And menstruation is one element that can be confusing and emotionally charged. Your pediatrician is an excellent resource for parents and children. At Loudoun Pediatric Associates, we’re committed to caring for patients from birth throughout their teen years. Our providers are trained to provide medical and emotional support to adolescent patients. In addition, our own Dr. Lindsay Roach is an adolescent medicine specialist. Dr. Roach specializes in reproductive health, mental healthcare, and other teen-focused care, including helping girls navigate menstruation in a healthy and positive way. Our practice’s philosophy is that helping children stay healthy through their teen years is just as important as caring for them as infants and toddlers.