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Preparing your daughter for her first period

There’s no way to predict all the challenges that come with raising a child, but there are some experiences nearly every parent should prepare for—and periods are one of them.

With careful planning and honest conversations, you can guide her in navigating menstruation with empowerment and confidence. Where exactly do you begin? Let’s dive into the ways you can prepare your daughter for her first period, starting with pre-period preparation.

Preparing Before She Gets Her Period

Menstruation begins around age 12, but can begin as early as 8 (1).

Leading up, have plenty of open, honest conversations with your daughter about periods. You can tailor your conversation based on her age and let her lead the way with questions.

The probability of your daughter experiencing her first period, by age, is (2):

  • 1 percent by age 8
  • 4-6 percent by age 9
  • 9-14 percent by age 10
  • 23-31 percent by age 11
  • 52-56 percent by age 12
  • 76-79 percent by age 13
  • 88-91 percent by age 14
  • 95-96 percent by age 15

You can help prepare your daughter by informing her about her body parts, their functions, and how to care for them as puberty draws near (2).

Girls as young as age three are curious about periods when they see their mother changing a pad, tampon, or another product. Instead of shying away from the topic, answer her questions about what’s happening and reassure her it’s a normal part of womanhood. As she ages, you can feel free to talk about periods in more detail and let her know she’ll be experiencing one soon, too. It doesn’t have to be one big conversation, but rather many small ones leading up to the age she reaches puberty.

See also: How and when to talk to your daughter about her first period

Explain Physical and Emotional Changes

As for your daughter’s evolution as a menstruating person, periods are only one small sign of larger changes happening throughout her body. In fact, puberty will cause her to look and feel differently than before.

Once she enters puberty, your daughter may have strong emotions she’s not used to feeling before. They may feel intense and sudden, and are just as unfamiliar to her as they are to you (3). She may be more sensitive than normal, and might feel confused, scared, or even frustrated that these new emotions are driving her behavior. It may feel hard not to take negative moods personally, but rest assured they’re likely just one part of the transition she’s going through during her evolution as a female. Stress at school or home will exacerbate these issues, but you can support her by validating her feelings and ensuring her needs for sleep, food, and connection are met.

Shifts in hormone levels will not only trigger these mood swings, but also menstrual bleeding, possible breast tenderness, and menstrual cramps(4). She may also experience:

  • Growing breasts
  • Widening hips and an overall curvier body
  • Pubic, underarm, and other body hair
  • Acne
  • Shifting moods and emotions
  • Lower back or abdominal pain from menstrual cramps

If your daughter is close to starting her period, or has already started it, it’s important to clarify that menstruating means it’s possible to become pregnant. If you haven’t already discussed pregnancy and sex, now is a good time to cover the basics.

Explain the process that’s happening in your daughter’s body, and all of the organs involved including:

  • Her uterus, or womb, which sheds its inner lining as blood flow (the endometrium)
  • The ovaries, which contain materials necessary to produce eggs
  • Her fallopian tubes, which allow eggs to pass from the ovaries into the uterus
  • The cervix, which is the narrow passage of the lower part of the uterus

If your daughter has a disability that limits her movement or ability to manage period products, you can help reassure her by discussing the ways she’ll receive care. If she prefers to manage on her own, there are menstrual products available to help navigate using tampons with a disability.

Gather Period Supplies

If your daughter is a pre-teen, now is a good time to gather period supplies for “just in case” scenarios.

You may grab a variety of menstruation products for her to try. If your daughter has limited mobility and needs assistance inserting a tampon, now is also an ideal time to invest in an assistant device that will allow her to care for herself while on her period. Period products to consider are:

  • Tampons
  • Panty liners
  • Pads
  • Period panties
  • Menstrual cup
  • Period subscription services
  • An assistive device for tampons

Make a Plan for If She Gets Her Period at School or In Public

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to predict when your daughter will start her period.

To help ease you and your daughter’s concerns over the “what ifs,” make plans for a variety of scenarios. Your daughter can prepare by having a pad in her backpack, as well as a spare change of clothes. It’s common for first periods to bleed through, so an extra pair of panties and a comfortable pair of pants offer a trusted backup plan in case of leaks.

You can make a similar game plan for if she starts her period away from home by helping her prep period products and spare clothes in her purse. If your daughter has limited mobility and will need assistance with changing or inserting a period product, have the discussion with your daughter’s teacher, caregiver, etc. beforehand so everyone is on the same page.

Make a Plan In Case There Are No Supplies

Nature happens. Remind your daughter that no matter how much we try to prepare, periods can come when you least expect them—and it’s nothing she should be made to feel embarrassed for.

Talk to your daughter about what to do if she starts her period with no supplies on hand. To absorb flow, your daughter can temporarily use (5):

  • Folded toilet paper
  • Folded paper towels
  • A clean washcloth
  • Folded napkins
  • Clean socks or other small, clean clothing item

Once your daughter finds a temporary solution, encourage her to reach out for help. If there’s a teacher, friend, or another adult nearby she trusts, it’s okay to ask if they have a pad, tampon, or another resource to spare. You’d be surprised at the lengths many women go to in offering a helping hand.

Finally, if reasonable, offer yourself and other trusted caregivers as a support network. Make sure your network knows what to do if they get a call from your daughter in need of assistance during her first period. If your daughter has a disability and/or limited mobility, make sure to prepare your dedicated support persons with instructions for how to help her clean up, change, or apply a menstrual product.

Dads and Daughters

The “period talk” is too often assumed to be a mother’s responsibility. But whether you are a husband, a partner, a single-dad, or any other male guardian, it is important for fathers to be involved in their children’s lives. When it comes to major milestones such as a child’s first period, a father’s presence and support can make all the difference.

 

The arrival of your daughter’s period can be a great opportunity for father figures to play an encouraging, empowering role. Although it can be intimidating to approach the conversation at first, there are a few things you can do to make the experience less stressful for you and your child:

  • Do your research. Feel confident in the information you will share with your daughter about the changes that will happen to her body.
  • Have small conversations over time, instead of an overwhelming conversation all at once. Guide your daughter through the different steps of puberty, not only her period.
  • Be comfortable when communicating with your daughter. Show her by example that periods are nothing to be afraid of or embarrassed about. 

Once Her Period Begins

Track Her Period

Menstruation cycles average every 28 days, but can vary per individual (6).

Tracking periods is a great way to help your daughter learn about her unique cycle.r You can help her track it manually with a calendar or use one of the many period tracking apps available for smartphones. Nearly one-third of women in the United States use such period tracker apps for health purposes, and there's a good reason why (7). Not only do they offer predictability into ovulation and menstruation timing, but the apps also offer insight into how their cycles impact their emotional well-being and energy levels.

Tracking is especially useful in helping those with disabilities or limited mobility to better understand their cycle in relation to their disability—and to help them plan around it (8). It’s common for those who experience disability related-pain or even seizures to have flare ups during menses. Tracking periods offers some predictability around symptom flare-ups and allows you to anticipate when your daughter’s needs for support are highest.

Many of these apps offer insight into how her symptoms will vary depending on where she is in her cycle, and when ovulation occurs. As you educate your daughter on the different phases of her cycle, explain that having her period means she is now capable of becoming pregnant with sexual activity—namely during ovulation.

“First Period” Parties

We’ve come a long way since the days of being “hush hush” about periods and viewing them as shameful, disgusting, or a problem to solve. Research shows tendencies to stigmatize menstruation under these terms leads to lack of health education and resources, especially in less developed nations across the globe (9).

First period parties exist to change this harmful narrative. They help to celebrate menstruation, empower women, and spark confidence around puberty and the conversation of periods. Try to gauge your daughter’s comfort level with the idea. If it’s something she’s interested in, you can ask if she’d prefer to keep it small with just your family, or if she’d rather invite friends.

You can DIY a party with balloons, cake, your daughter’s friends, and games—or simplify it with services like the “Bloody Awesome Box”.

Managing Your Daughter’s Period

Managing Leaks and Removing Stains

Period leaks and blood stains are common. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to remove stains from tainted clothing.

To remove stains, submerge the clothing item in ice cold water for at least 10 minutes, or up to overnight (10). A hydrogen peroxide, or bleach + water mixture for stronger stains, may help remove blood stains from white clothing. For colored clothing, try rubbing the stained mixture with one part salt, two parts water. Wash the clothing in cold water after removing stains, and hang dry.

If your daughter is concerned about managing leaks and stains while she’s out on her own, help her prepare by packing a spare change of clothes and teaching her to blot leaks with cold water to prevent stains from settling in. She can then bring home the stained clothing to be thrown in the wash.

If your daughter has limited mobility, ensure she’s aware of where accessible (and wheelchair friendly, if applicable) restrooms are in case of leaks. Help your daughter plan for what to do if there are no accessible bathrooms, brief trusted adults who will be with your daughter ahead of time (teachers, chaperons, etc.) and contact your support network to be prepared in case your daughter needs assistance.

When it Comes to Limited Mobility or First Time Periods, an Assistive Device Can Help

Menstruation products are not made with everyone in mind. An assistive device can help women and girls with limited mobility—or limited experience with tampon insertion—to insert tampons correctly, simply, and with less pain. Learn more about how assistive devices like TINA can help.

Preparing Your Daughter For Her First Period Is Possible

Menstruation is a big step in your child’s life. Fortunately, you can empower your daughter to learn about her body and help her navigate this time of transition with careful planning.

References

  1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Preparing your child for menstruation. 16 February 2022. [cited 2022 July 04] Accessed from:  https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/menstruation/art-20046004

  2. Martinez, Gladys. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends and Patterns in Menarche in the United States: 1995 through 2013–2017. 10 September 2020. [Cited 14 July 2022.] Accessed From:  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr146-508.pdf

  3. KidsHelpline. Mood Swings and Puberty. [Cited 12 July 2022.] Accessed From:  https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/issues/mood-swings-and-puberty

  4. Tracee, Cornforth. Verywell Health. Body Changes During the Menstrual Cycle 07 March 2021. [Cited 06 July 2022.] Accessed From:  https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-menstrual-cycle-3520919

  5. Tolly, Katlyn. HelloFlo. 5 Ways to Make an Emergency Pad. 20 October 2015. [Cited 08 July 2022.] Accessed From:  https://helloflo.com/5-ways-to-make-an-emergency-pad/

  6. National Health Service. Periods and fertility in the menstrual cycle. 05 August 2019. [Cited 06 July 2022.] Accessed From:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/fertility-in-the-menstrual-cycle/

  7. Rosato, Donna. Consumer Reports. What Your Period Tracker Knows About You. 28 January 2020. [Cited 12 July 2022.] Accessed from:  https://www.consumerreports.org/health-privacy/what-your-period-tracker-app-knows-about-you-a8701683935/

  8. Stone, Kathryn. Clue. Disabled people have periods, too. 04 January 2022. [Cited 08 July 2022.] Accessed From:  https://helloclue.com/articles/cycle-a-z/menstruating-while-disabled

  9. Litman, Jill. Berkeley Public Health Advocate. Menstruation Stigma Must Stop. 05 June 2018. [Cited 12 July 2022.] Accessed from:  https://pha.berkeley.edu/2018/06/05/menstruation-stigma-must-stop-period/

  10. Redd, Nancy. UbyKotex. How to Get Out Period Stains. [Cited 08 July 2022.] Accessed From:  https://www.ubykotex.com/en-us/periods/period-basics/get-out-period-stains

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