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Her First Period… 5 Things Parents Should NEVER Say (But Do!)

Remember your first period? Think back, hard. For many, it’s an embarrassing announcement to the family that ‘Jane is a woman now!’ enough to make any teenager cringe… 

Here’s what you should know about handling your daughter’s first experience, says  GP Dr. Ginni Mansberg…

Don’t… Say “About time! I was wondering when you would get it.” Or worse, “Wow, that’s early!”

Do… No young woman’s body is the same – one girl may have a period from age 10, while another may be age 15.

I’m not sure if you can remember back to when ‘it’ was happening to you? It was, and still is, a big deal. It doesn’t take much for teenagers to feel like a freak, whether it’s getting their periods early or late, be they heavy or light. So any comment however benign in intent can accidentally feed into the natural teenage paranoia! Avoid making any comment – instead I would focus on the bonding between the two of you because this new phase for her is now something you share. Commiserate about what a pain in the butt periods can be and then get supportive of the ‘how’s’ and ‘what’s’ of pads and tampons, painkillers, and having a spare pair of undies in the school bag at all times etc!

Don’t … Say “Congratulations on becoming a woman” in front of family or friends.

Do…  It can be embarrassing for a young girl to reveal her body’s inner most timings in front of other people, especially family members. Instead….

Again, it has taken us years to get comfortable with our bodies, our shape and size etc. Our daughters are still at that awkward stage where anything and everything is potentially embarrassing. Like boyfriends, exam marks, bust-ups with friends and zits – in public keep it to yourself and let her take the lead with how much is for public consumption.

Don’t … Tell her “Pads are for night, and tampons are for day.” Giving her misinformation about using pads and tampons will only confuse her…

Do… Explain the difference between the two, and why she might choose one or the other and for different occasions.

Wow, is this an area rife with misinformation! Unwittingly our generation has caused lots of fear around tampons, especially for our teenage daughters. There is no right and wrong when it comes to pad and tampon use. Pads are a whole lot better than they were in our day when you had to walk around with a soggy loaf of bread between your legs. They’re thin and keep her drier longer. So they are great – unless she has a heavier period and tends to leak, or wants to go swimming, or like cheeky underwear that don’t fit pads that well. Tampons are completely safe at any age. They won’t take her virginity. They will just keep her ‘safe’ from leakage when pads aren’t an option or won’t be adequate alone. Tampons are even perfectly safe for overnight use for up to 8 hours, which is brilliant, especially for the first few heavy nights. I would encourage mums to help girls for at least the first few times inserting a tampon. It can be daunting to insert a tampon when you’re not used to sticking your finger in ‘there’ and many girls push the tampon in the wrong direction – straight up! Your support will really help her feel comfortable to have a good choice of products so her period isn’t such a nightmare.

Don’t… Say things that may make her feel dirty or ashamed about having a period.

Do… Explain how women’s menstruation works.

Menstruation is perfectly normal and knowledge is power. And a young girl being informed about her 28 day cycle, how the flow changes at different times, the shedding of the lining and how we work is only a good thing. A s a recap: The blood that builds up is to nourish a tiny foetus. If women don’t get pregnant, her body sheds this blood to start anew the next month. Periods are a sign your body is getting ready to fulfil this important role (motherhood) – ONE day! At any given time, about a quarter of women or the girls at school, and the teachers and the mums around them have a period. Menstrual blood is just blood. It’s not dirty or impure. It is no different from the blood you lose when you cut your finger. So let’s just make the whole thing as painless and less embarrassing as possible!

 

Don’t… Tell her to persevere with period pains and other symptoms.

Do… Educate her on common period associated issues and how to manage them.

Lots of girls have painful periods and heavy periods. I don’t think enough girls see their GP about it and get it sorted out. If your daughter is regularly leaking through, she might be low in iron from losing too much blood and there might be an underlying hormonal issue.

Similarly, if she is regularly missing school from period pain, I think a trip to the GP is in order. Both endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome can give very painful periods and both tend to be underdiagnosed.

For more information about The Carousel’s GP Dr. Ginni Mansberg, click here.

For more advice on handling those tricky conversations with your daughter, visit Carefree.

What was your ‘first period’ experience like? Did your parents embarrass you, or handle with care? Share it here…

Written by Dr Ginni Mansberg

Australia’s best known and most trusted TV doctor, Ginni Mansberg is a mum, an author and a Sydney GP. Ginni appears in Embarrassing Bodies Down Under (Channel 9), Sunrise & Morning Show (Channel7), Things You Can't Talk About on TV (Youtube), various mags, and podcasts. She has lots of kids, 2 exuberant dogs and is a wannabe Masterchef and dedicated caffeine addict...

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