September 06, 2020

The internet has become both a blessing and a curse when it comes to information availability. While there’s a ton of useful foolproof information out there, your child can get confused and frustrated by conflicting information.

Talking to your child early on about menstruation will help mitigate the risks of misinformation from peers and social media.  As a parent, orienting them early enough will help battle out the myths and misconceptions about periods and greatly help alleviate the confusion. 

It may not be an easy talk but it's necessary. We recommend talking to your child about periods from a tender age all the way to teenage years for better learning. Use simple age-appropriate language while keeping the facts accurate and clear. Here are some things you need to know before explaining periods to your daughter.

Best age to talk about periods

Children are curious creatures. Remember the first time when your child first asked where children come from? What was your answer? I remember when I asked that question as an 8-year-old to my mom. I was told children are bought from the supermarket. Shock on me when I realized how far from the truth that was.

Your first instinct as a parent will be to dodge such questions when they arise. However, we recommend talking to your daughter as soon as she begins to understand complex language.

Instead of telling her that children come from the supermarket, let her know they are born after growing in a woman’s baby tummy. If she can’t understand, water it down but keep the language age-appropriate. Explain that women have a separate tummy where children are formed and when they’re fully grown, they are born through the vagina. This will help you lay out the groundwork for talking about periods.

What to talk about?

As your daughter grows, she’ll come across information about periods through maybe her peers, the internet, or sex education at school. She may or may not ask you to clarify things. The onus is on you to start explaining to her even before she comes to you.

Conversations about periods should sprout up naturally to eliminate the awkwardness that comes after. Take advantage of organic learning opportunities such as when shopping for your own sanitary products, when visiting a gynecologist or when a TV ad about sanitary products shows up.

Don’t know what to talk to her about? Below are some questions that she might ask or that you may need to clarify during those conversations.

1. What is a period

According to theNHS, a period is the part of the menstrual cycle when a woman bleeds from her vagina for a few days. It occurs when the female body prepares for fertilization by releasing an ovum into the uterus. When the ovum is not fertilized, it disintegrates and the body sheds it off together with the blood supply around the uterus.  The blood flow typically takes about 3-8 days but about 5 days for regular periods. A period comes every 28 days, but can vary from individual to individual between 21 days and 45 days.

Typically, women lose about 5-12 teaspoonfuls of blood per period but may be more than that for some women. And that is totally normal.

2. When will her periods begin?

Let your daughter know that period commencement varies and may beinfluenced by diet and environmental factors.  Most girls have their periods by age 12 when puberty begins. However, by age 16, every girl should be having her periods. 

Also, let her know that once she starts developing pubic hair and under the armpit, that she’s about ready. Periods typically begintwo years after breast development begins. 

3. How to be ready for first period

Talk to your child about what sanitary products to use. Identify the various types including pads, tampons, and menstrual cups and let them know they can use either. The trick is to identify which one works for them and is the most comfortable. Tampons and menstrual cups may be hard to use when starting. Recommend pads for starters.

Buy her some sanitary products to keep at school and some at home while reminding her to keep looking for the signs preceding her first periods. These include:

  1. Enlarged dark nipples
  2. Pubic hair
  3. A growth spurt
  4. Thin whitish odorless vaginal fluid

If you don’t have a strong relationship with your daughter, talk to someone she trusts and is older to prepare her for her first period. It’s better than doing nothing.

4. How long does a period last?

A period usually takes 5 days from the first day of blood spotting to the last day. However, it varies from person to person between 3-8 days. The first 2 days are the heaviest with more blood flow while the remaining days usually have lighter blood flow.

5. Are periods painful

Some girls experience cramping in the abdomen area during their periods, but this can be treated with painkillers such as ibuprofen. If she experiences pain during her period, remind her to ask for painkillers and assure her it’s normal. If the pain doesn’t go away even after taking pain killers, it’s time to visit a doctor.

6. How much blood is lost during  a period?

Your first period will be nothing but a few drops of blood. As you get older and the periods become regular, you lose between 30 to 72ml but it could be more. If you have heavy blood flow, you might consider using a menstrual cup.

7. Pads, tampons or menstrual cups?

All three of them are perfect. She’ll have to find the one most comfortable for her and her needs. Ideally, when starting out, pads offer the highest comfort as they’re not cumbersome to insert and remove. As she grows older, she may want to try out tampons and menstrual cups.

Use pads if your blood flow is regular and lighter. Use Tampons for heavy flow or rigorous physical activity, and use cups when not able to change pads regularly as cups can hold upto 30 ml of blood without changing.

8. When do periods stop?

At menopause.Menopause is when your periods stop permanently and you can no longer get pregnant. Your body no longer produces ova hence no need for a thick uterine wall every month. It takes about 12 months in a row without a period to confirm that you’ve reached menopause. The average age for menopause in the United States is 52.

How dads can be involved too

Dads don’t have to leave everything to the mother when it comes to explaining periods to your daughter. There are various ways dads can be involved, although it’s true that most girls would rather have their mother explain to them.

Taking her shopping for sanitary supplies and letting her know that there’s nothing to be ashamed of can be a good starting point.

Do not criminalize periods or make her feel bad for a natural phenomena. Periods do not mean she’ll get pregnant as long as she abstains or uses protection. Integrate sex education and educate her on sex and how to stand up for herself. Let her know you’re always there if she needs anything. Assure her you have her back. Raising her self-esteem and confidence can go a long way in ensuring that she has a smooth transition into womanhood.

Learn about periods too and help mum throw in some pieces of advice. While mom is explaining periods to your daughter, you should also talk to the boys if she has siblings. Boys too need to understand what periods are and what they mean. Help them understand that it’s normal just like having wet dreams or sexual urges. Like the girls, orient the boys when they’re young too.