I am a practicing gynecologist and I talk about periods everyday. I also will never forget the day I started mine. I was in the fifth grade, a month away from my eleventh birthday. I came home from school, said hi to my grandmother and my mom, kicked off my Keds, and dropped my denim backpack onto the kitchen table.
I made my way into our bathroom, casually pulled down my white Guess jeans, and discovered these odd brown spots on my underwear and jeans. I had no idea what it was, so I ran to the laundry room when no one was looking, quickly changed my clothes and buried the brown speckled ones at the bottom of the hamper. Several hours later, while I was lying on our white leather sectional watching a new episode of Who’s the Boss, I heard my mother and grandmother calling for me. I should have known something monumental was occurring due to the nervous and awkward look on both of their faces. Also, they were holding my jeans.
Fannnnntastic. And right when I was pretty sure Tony and Angela were going to finally get together.
“We want to sit down and talk to you,” my mother said. “I know, I don’t know what happened, I’m sorry, I don’t remember pooping on myself, but I guess I did?” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “Oh no, Pari, you are becoming a woman,” my mother explained.
I mean, I realized that. I didn’t think that I was going to have my birthday and turn into a dude or something, but did that mean I had to poop on myself?! I didn’t understand what my body was doing to me. It obviously was my period but no one had explained what could happen to me.
Educate Yourself & Your Daughter About Her Period
Starting their menstrual cycle, otherwise known as menarche, can be a perplexing time for many girls. The average age of menarche is 12 years old, but it is considered normal to start from age 9 to age 15. Many girls that start on the earlier end of the spectrum, like myself, find themselves unprepared and mortified. I have found from talking with my patients, that this occurs because it is a topic that was never discussed prior to the onset. This can really hurt your daughters self-esteem and brings about mistrust in her body.
If you educate your daughter about her body and her cycle that is to come in a casual and comfortable manner, she will not feel confused when she starts her cycle. And it is confusion that often leads to shame. Therefore, with just talking about our cycles, we can avoid a lot of unnecessary shame.
There is also shame for the late bloomers. They may ask themselves, “What is wrong with me? All the girls in my class have started, but I haven’t?” Again, it is normal for her not to start her period even at age of 16. The menstrual cycle is a part of the body and just like all parts of the body, it varies. With that said, if she reaches 16 and has not started her menstrual cycle then it is time to visit the gynecologist.
Her Period Can Be Irregular
Another question that may arise and girls are often scared to ask is, “I had my period, but then it didn’t come back at the same time??” It is normal for her period to be irregular up to 8 years after it begins. With that said, there are some irregularities that should prompt you to take your daughter to see a gynecologist:
- If they are regular, occurring monthly, and then becomes markedly irregular.
- If they occur more frequently than every 21 days or less frequently than every 45 days.
- If they occur 90 days apart even for one cycle, if they last more than 7 days and lastly if they require frequent pad or tampon changes (soaking more than one every 1–2 hours).
It is important to know these facts because you never want to miss an abnormality that may need further investigation. If it is hard to keep up with the facts or you just need a little help talking about these things….go see a gynecologist together. Many girls fear they will need an exam, but that is not the case. If she is not sexually active and isn’t having any problems, then no exam is necessary. It is also a great way to open up the convo for everyone!
The unknown is always scary, but the more we talk about it, the more comfortable we get with it all and the less shame we have discussing our bodies and this very normal cycle of life.