A defining moment in a girl’s life is when she gets her first period. In most places, the Period is considered to be something to be celebrated, as it is supposedly the girl having “matured”. And yet, we find that girls are considered to be “unclean and filthy” and are not allowed into the kitchen and prayer rooms during their period cycle. All this leads to the girl actually believing that she is unclean and dirty and that it is all her fault. Girls have different reactions to getting their first periods - some may express joy or relief whereas some may be confused or scared. Whatever be the reaction, all girls go through the feeling of finally becoming a ‘woman’.
It is of utmost importance to have the Period Talk with your daughter irrespective of whether you're a mom or a dad. The way a girl is initiated into her menstrual cycle, and through that, her body is what mostly shapes her opinion about it for the rest of her life.
A girl gets her first period usually around the age of 12 - 13. But waiting until she’s had her first period to talk to her about it would be too late. So how do you go about explaining to your daughter what all this is? (Your son may have questions too, but more about that can be found here) Here is something like a guide to help you navigate through the dreaded period talk -
Explain To Her What Menstruation Is
Menstruation is not just about getting your monthly period. Your little girl needs to be told that she is now capable of becoming pregnant and having a baby.
During a period cycle, hormones (estrogen and progesterone) are produced by the ovaries, that help in preparing the body for pregnancy.
These hormones cause changes in the lining of the uterus (endometrium). The other hormones in the body stimulate the ovaries into releasing the egg from the ovary (this is usually around the 14th day of a 28-day cycle) into the fallopian tube.
If the released egg is fertilized by the sperm it will travel down the fallopian tube into the uterus. If it is not fertilized, the egg will fall apart, your hormone level will fall and the uterus will shed its lining. This bleeding is what causes a period.
1. Ovaries produce hormones which cause changes in the lining of the uterus.
2. Other hormones cause the ovaries to release an egg into the fallopian tube.
3. If these eggs are fertilized by sperm they will go into the uterus. Else, they’ll be chucked out along with the uterus lining.
Explain What Happens During One Cycle
A menstrual cycle lasts from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. A cycle usually lasts 28 days, although it may vary from 22 days to even 45 for some. During your daughter’s initial years, her periods might be irregular.
The first signs that a girl might get her periods are physical changes. She would start developing breasts and that is usually followed by the development of pubic hair. After this period, her growth will be rapid and she’ll start becoming taller and curvier. Around 2 years after her breasts start developing, she will get her periods.
Talk About It
Although it is essential to sit down with your daughter and have the talk about menstruation, we suggest that you break it down into several smaller conversations that would make your daughter familiar with the changes she’s soon going to face. If you decide to talk about it all at once, the information would be too much for her.
Kids usually are curious about stuff, and even their own bodies. So around the time they hit puberty parents should ideally start talking to them about the changes their bodies will go through. This will benefit both your daughter and her friends. With the kid well-informed, you can be sure that when your kid goes through this the first time, they won’t be as scared and tensed.
Explain to her about sanitary pads and tampons, and teach her how to use them. Tell her not to be scared or embarrassed if she leaks. Also, tell her that she might have cramps (mild to severe, depending on her body composition) when the muscles in the uterus contract.
Make It Positive
Kids have a habit of making periods sound much scarier and difficult than they are. They also think periods are a bad thing and so the parent has to portray the periods in a positive light. If the parents keep talking about periods negatively then the kid gets a negative impression about the whole experience.
Instead, daughters can be told that periods are a natural and regular part of being a girl and that without them they cannot become mothers. Also, explain to them that each girl is different. She might get her period sooner or later than someone else, or might bleed more than the other, but tell her that it’s okay.
Most importantly, tell her that this is nothing to be ashamed of. Most girls feel embarrassed to tell others that they are on their periods. It is this exact hesitance that makes it uncomfortable to the girl as well others around her. Tell her that it isn’t taboo. Talk to her when she has questions, and don’t shush her when she wants to talk about it. Don’t make periods a topic that makes her uncomfortable or embarrassed. Tell her that it is as normal as eating or peeing.