Your daughter’s first period

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Forget that serious "menstruation talk" — here's how to communicate and help your daughter handle her first period.

The onset of the first period is awkward for a girl. One day she is a child and the next, she is experiencing the start of menstruation and other premenstrual symptoms. However, a girl's first period is a milestone because it is a transition from girlhood to womanhood.

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First period signs
The age at which menstruation begins can vary with some girls. Some get their first period as early as ten years old and others not until they are fifteen. There are signs that girls are nearing their first period. Breast development and pubic hair growth begin a few years before menstruation. And about one year before their first period, many girls experience a marked growth spurt.

Open communication
Instead of having a formal menstruation "talk" try asking your daughter about her worries and fears. It is important to put her at ease during this time in her life. Here are some suggested answers for your daughter's questions about menstruation:

1. Why do girls have periods?

Tell her that a menstrual cycle is part of the natural cycle that allows a woman to get pregnant. When a pregnancy doesn't occur her body sheds the uterine lining, which is what happens during a period.

2. What is PMS?

Explain that just before a period starts, some girls and women experience PMS symptoms, which may include mood swings and irritability, bloating, and tender breasts.

3. Will I get cramps?

Girls experience pain and tightness in their lower abdomen and back around the start of their period. These cramps are usually mild and can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers, but you should talk to your daughter's doctor if her cramps are severe.

4. Should I use tampons or pads?

Pads are worn inside the underwear, and are often easiest for young girls to use. With tampons, you will need to explain to your daughter how to insert them correctly so they are not uncomfortable.

5. How much will I bleed?

Tell your daughter that only a few teaspoonfuls of blood are lost even though it may seem like more. But if she is going through a pad or tampon every hour you should have a talk with your family doctor.

6. How long will my period last?

Your daughter should expect her period to last for three to five days. Some girls have shorter periods, and others have periods that last up to a week.

7. Can I get pregnant?

Having a menstrual cycle means that a girl's body is ovulating and preparing for a baby. Some girls even ovulate just prior to having their first period. So talk with your daughter about sex and pregnancy prevention when you are discussing her menstrual cycle.

The more information that you share with your daughter about periods and PMS symptoms, the more comfortable and prepared she will feel as her body grows and changes. Be there and hold her hand during this special time in her life!

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