The Facts About A Girl's First Period

The facts and myths about a girl's first period with advice on handling the changes involved.

Many mothers dread the time their daughters first begin their menstrual cycles and avoid discussing the subject before the time actually arrives. This dread can be caused by a simple lack of education and understanding of the subject and not wanting to appear ignorant in front of the child. It can also be from embarrassment dating back to when the mother had her first period. Embarrassment could come from the old fashioned notion that there was some type of shame involved when menstruation is in fact a part of life.

Generations past were taught it was something to be hidden behind closed doors, with the secret never being spoken of even to other women. Health classes in public schools often just confused the child more or opened questions the teachers were not willing to answer.

The simple fact is young girls become physically young women much earlier than the legal ages of eighteen or twenty-one. This change into womanhood isn't an overnight occurrence and the emotional affects of hormonal changes can drive many parents to distraction.

The hormones estrogen and progesterone are what causes a girl to have her periods. These hormones start to rise in girls that are often as young as eight or nine years of age. They cause many physical changes that are a prelude to the first period. These changes are the growth of pubic and underarm hair, pimples, breast development, a widening of the hips and an increase in the production of sweat.

The actual breast development is a slow process and begins with tiny buds that can take years to mature. Although unnecessary, many mothers find giving their daughters a "training bra" to wear at this time to be helpful if for no other reason than making the child feel more mature.

Pimples begin to appear on the face or back due to a change in the amount of oil produced. The best thing a parent can do at this stage is to teach their daughter the importance of skin care and cleansing. Severe cases of acne can cause pitting or scarring to the face. If over the counter cleansers and acne treatments don't help, a talk with the child's pediatrician can give welcome relief to an embarrassing problem for the girl.

As the oil glands increase production, so do the sweat glands. Parents will often be more aware of a girl's sweat because it will now start to have an odor. This will be the time to really enforce the daily shower or bath rule as well as a time to start allowing the girl to use deodorant.

When these body changes are seen, it is time for parents to start instruction about the facts of life. Some mothers find openness about their own periods to be the best way. This openness can be something as simple as having the pads or tampons where the girl can come across them and ask questions. Other mothers may find this an unheard of and totally abhorrent suggestion. A trip to the pediatrician for pamphlets or a visit to a feminine hygiene web site may be their best course of action. These information pamphlets can then be left in an area the girl can find and then read them in privacy.

Regardless of how the information is delivered to the girl, it is important that she gets the facts straight and not believes the myths that are propagated between the uneducated in locker rooms.

A young girl can begin her first period anytime between nine and sixteen years of age. The first few cycles may be irregular and sporadic so a ready supply of hygiene products should be made available. The actual bleeding or "flow" will last about four to five days although the cycle itself is a month long occurrence.

Every month during childbearing years (yes, children as young as nine have given birth) an egg comes out of the ovary during ovulation. This tiny egg will then float down through the Fallopian tube and enter the uterus. If a man or boy's sperm does not fertilize the egg, it will not attach to the lining inside the uterus.

The lining of the uterus is built up on a monthly basis and when a fertilized egg does not need it, it sloughs off and is the cause of a girl's monthly period. Due to the matter involved, the menstrual flow will include blood as well as clots and the girl needs to know these are normal. The small clots can be alarming to a young girl and cause fear that she is sick or has injured herself.

As a girl's menstrual cycle becomes more regular, she will find the flow usually occurs approximately every twenty-eight days. These flows will require proper products to absorb the blood. A girl who has had an opportunity to experiment with wearing pads will be much less self-conscious when the big day finally happens. By buying a box of sanitary napkins or even a smaller selection of varying brands, the young girl can find which ones she prefers and have a ready supply.

The choice of using tampons is a personal one and parents need to make their daughters aware of the possible hazards of the rare illness Toxic Shock Syndrome. This illness has been linked to the use of tampons that were too absorbent.

The flow may last several days but the actual amount of blood passed is only two to eight tablespoons.

Girls need to be aware that they are NOT "bleeding to death" or sick. Menstrual periods are a normal part of being female and not a reason to stay in bed or home from school. There is no danger to taking a bath or shower during a period nor will washing your hair cause you to bleed more. Cramps are a natural part of the cycle and participating in gym will not cause or relieve the pain. These and so many other myths still surround the subject of periods. A parent's silence or refusal to educate a girl will only heighten the belief in these myths and cause the child to buy into the idea that menstruation is something dirty or shameful.

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