A wave of panic suddenly rises from deep inside you. You feel yourself start to get hot and sweaty. (And it’s not a hot flash this time!)
Words are getting stuck. All of a sudden, it sounds like YOU are the one going through puberty.
It’s happened. It’s time to really teach your daughter about her period.
She knows what it IS. But before you know it, her cycle will be a REAL thing that she will have to manage.
What do you tell her?
How do you prepare her?
How much do you teach her, and about what? You’re not sure you fully understand it all yourself.
I completely understand these feelings.
An opportunity to learn.
The quickest and easiest way (and usually the least intimidating for moms) is to help her get prepared for her first period by buying pads and explaining to her how to use them.
This information is certainly important, but I encourage you to take this opportunity to help her learn concepts she might not learn anywhere else and are best taught by you.
Below are some commonly asked questions and their answers to help guide your conversation with your daughter. I also included some illustrations from my book, I’m a Girl, Hormones! as a helpful visual resource.
Notice in this illustration that we have two ovaries, one on the right and one on the left. The ovaries are important because they contain eggs that have been waiting there since before you were born. Puberty is the time when one of the ovaries lets go of an egg every month. The egg is swept into the fallopian tube and travels to the uterus. These eggs are called unfertilized eggs.
Question: Why is the uterus important?
Most of the uterus is a thick muscle, but lining the inside is a delicate layer called the endometrium. The endometrium has a very special function. This is where a baby grows inside the uterus. During puberty, the endometrium begins to change so that it can take care of a growing baby. Slowly, day-by-day throughout each month, tiny blood vessels and little glands grow inside the endometrium and it becomes thick. The blood vessels and little glands will provide nutrients for a growing baby.
Question: What does this have to do with your period?
Each month your endometrium inside your uterus grows a little thicker each day because of the tiny blood vessels and glands growing inside. At the middle of the month, an egg escapes from one of the ovaries. For an egg to become fertilized it must join with a sperm in the fallopian tube. Most of the time, this does not happen.
What normally happens is that the unfertilized egg takes about 4 days to travel inside the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Because the egg is unfertilized, it cannot attach to the thick endometrium when it arrives in the uterus. Within a few days, the uterus decides it does not need the thick endometrium that month and it begins to break apart. The body cleanses the broken pieces of the endometrium out of the uterus, through your vagina and out of your body every month. The fluid that comes out is called menstrual blood and it is bloody because it contains the tiny blood vessels that grew in the endometrium. It takes about 4-7 days for the uterus to cleanse itself and while this is happening, you say you are on your period.
Question: How much menstrual blood is going to come out and where does it come out?
The total amount of menstrual blood is about 2-3 tablespoons and most if it comes out during the first few days. The part of our body most people call the “private part” is actually called the vulva. In the vulva is an opening from vagina and this is where the blood comes out.
Question: What do you do about the menstrual blood that is coming out?
Most girls use a sanitary pad to catch the blood. It fits into your underwear. The first few days of your period you will probably need to change the pad several times but then you will change it less frequently.
Question: Does it hurt when you have your period?
Each girl is different. Some girls feel a little discomfort, called cramps, for the first day but it is usually not enough discomfort to change what you normally plan to do during that time. Daughters often follow their mom’s pattern for the number of days of their period and if they are going to have cramping.
But I have more questions!
This talk will probably bring up lots more questions from your daughter than what I’ve answered here. If you would like my help in answering any questions you or your daughter have, please go to the contact page and send me your question from there. and I will be happy to answer them.
To read and learn more about the overall process, my book, I’m a Girl, Hormones! is a great resource for your daughter.
Another great way to add to this conversation is to go to the store and purchase some pads together. Show your daughter the directions on the package and explain how to dispose of the used pads. You could also find a small bag to hold a pad. She can put this bag into her backpack or purse so she will be ready for her “first period” whenever it happens. She might not have very much warning, so keeping the small bag with her will help her to always feel ready and confident.
Next, more about the menstrual cycle.
In my next lesson, I will help you teach your daughter about hormones and how they orchestrate the menstrual cycle and all of the different changes that she is experiencing each month. This will help her to plan month-to-month.
As we know, hormones have a big impact on our life for many decades so let’s make sure our daughters understand what they do.
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