Girl going through menstrual cycleThe last thing any mother wants is for her daughter to have her first period without being prepared for it. In addition to being incredibly embarrassing – especially if it happens at school or during extracurricular activities – daughters who don’t know what’s going on can think the worst. We’ve even had unprepared patients who thought they were dying because they couldn’t imagine why they’d be bleeding from their insides.

Preparing your daughter for her first period is the best way to ensure she feels safe, supported, and ready for this momentous rite of passage. However, some parents don’t realize how early a period can start and are as surprised as their daughters when the first period arrives.

Things to Know About a First Menstrual Cycle

It’s probably been a long time since you’ve had your first period, or you may be a male parent or guardian who never had one. Here are a few things to prepare you as you prepare to educate your daughter.

● There’s no way to tell for sure when she’ll start. Most girls show earlier signs of puberty before they menstruate, such as hair under their arms, pubis, and darker hair growth on their legs. Nipples typically pop out a bit, or they may already be developing. However, some girls start their period before these signs, so early education is key.

First periods are typically shorter and lighter. Most first periods are shorter and lighter unless your daughter has endometriosis or an undiagnosed hormone imbalance. She may only spot a little bit or bleed for a few days. Over time, periods become longer and more regular.

Skipping periods is only normal in the very beginning. Periods can be irregular for the first year or two. If a girl is 11 years old or younger when she starts, irregular periods may last a bit longer. However, after two to three years, young women should ovulate and have regular periods every 28 days or so. As a rule, skipping periods after those initial two to three years is never normal and should be evaluated by her physician or gynecologist.

Having a period also means she’s fertile. Periods occur after ovulation. So, your daughter was fertile before her first period. Preparing a girl for her first period also means preparing her with age-appropriate information about reproduction (more on that below).

Steps To Prepare a Young Girl For Her First Period

Here are steps to help you prepare your daughter for her first period.

1. Normalize periods from the start

While you don’t have to describe all the details, it’s great when young girls (even five, six, or seven years old) hear their moms or older sisters talking about periods because they know it’s a normal experience. The key is to downplay the negatives. There’s no doubt that PMS is real, but everyone experiences it differently. The idea here is to normalize periods, let her know they happen, and share information as you feel comfortable doing so. We don’t want to make her afraid or assume periods mean pain because that’s not the case for most women.

Part of normalizing periods is normalizing reproductive parts, so she understands where the blood comes from (endometrial lining of the uterus), why it’s coming out (it is shed each month if an egg isn’t fertilized, after which the uterus grows a new one for the next cycle), and where it drains from (uterus to cervix, to vagina).

2. Have pads at the ready

We recommend purchasing pads and having them in your bathroom or hers once she turns eight or nine. Odds are she won’t need them for a while, but you never know. You can also create a private pouch of them for her backpack and travel kit. That way, she’ll have them available if she starts at school or while spending the night elsewhere. Pads are the easiest thing to keep on hand. From there, she and you can discuss which options feel best for her – disposable/reusable pads, period underwear, tampons, menstrual cups, etc.

3. Stock the home library with plenty of age-appropriate books

Depending on your daughter’s personality type, your relationship, the family communication style, etc., it may or may not feel all that comfortable to talk about the ins and outs of menstruation, reproduction, and sexuality. However, if you don’t provide accurate information, we assure you she’ll get her information from peers – and it’s decidedly inaccurate!!! 

Here are some of our favorite books for young girls, tweens, and teens for you to review. We recommend reading them first to know what information she’ll have and what you may want to discuss further. Then, it’s nice for her to have free access to the information as she wants it.

●     The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls

●     The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Older Girls

●     Celebrate Your Body

●     Celebrate Your Period

●     Go With the Flow (this is a fictional graphic novel for girls 9-12. It’s a great read, and the girls’ friend group in the book share their individual experiences – all of which paint accurate pictures of what it’s like when you first start)

4. Know the signs

We mentioned that there are typically signs leading up to starting a period. Recognizing your daughter’s body is changing means it’s time to start talking more about periods, how and when the first one might happen, and the importance of being prepared.

The most common signs include:

● Growing hair under the arms, on the labia, and thickening hair on the legs

● Breast tenderness (even if there aren’t breasts yet)

● Budding nipples or developing chest

● Mucous discharge on underwear (usually starts about six to 12 months before the first period)

● Other common signs/symptoms associated with PMS (headaches, cramps, fatigue, bloating, etc.)

5. She’s fertile no matter how young she is

It’s impossible to imagine a 9, 10, or 13-year-old having a baby. Yet, periods mean you’re ovulating and fertile. It’s time to have age-appropriate discussions about the following:

● Sex and reproduction

● Boundaries and consent

Protection for sexually active teens

Schedule Your Daughter’s First Gynecologist Appointment After Her First Period

The first period is an excellent time to schedule your daughter’s first appointment here at Overlake OB/GYN. These first appointments are 100% non-invasive. They’re designed to make your daughter comfortable, provide her with accurate medical information, and answer any questions she might have. 

If you feel she’s too young for that, consider bringing her to one of your appointments to meet us and get a general overview of the female body and reproductive tract for a Period 101 session. Then we can excuse her to the waiting room while you have your annual exam. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.