How To Support Your Teenage Daughter with Period Problems
Uwe Porters - Mid-wife / Pregnancy & Postpartum Expert
Do you remember your first period? Whether it was funny, cringe-worthy or just plain awkward, most women have vivid memories of this moment. Some ran to their mothers or called their friends in excitement (Hooray! I’m a woman now!); others cowered in fear in the bathroom reading the instructions on a box of tampons with a mixture of fear and confusion.
No matter what your experience was, we’re sure it was memorable!
Our support team gets a lot of questions from women with daughters who are trying to help them with period problems. For many, it’s a taboo topic and it’s difficult to talk about, but it doesn’t need to be. The more open you are, the better things will be and the more likely you are to be able to help with any problems that come up. In this post, we’ll arm you with some non-awkward ways to talk about periods with your family and give you some tips on how to help your daughter if she’s struggling with period-related issues.
Starting the Conversation (with girls AND boys!)
Part of normalising menstruation is being able to talk about it with both girls and boys. If periods are taboo in your household, step 1 is to start talking! You can start by asking questions to find out what your daughter already knows and correct any wrong information. Try to get comfortable sharing your own experience, especially about when you started your period. This will help everyone feel more comfortable.
If your children are old enough to understand, you can start talking about the biology of periods and why women get them. You can talk about symptoms, ovulation and pregnancy. The important thing is to emphasize that it is a normal part of life. If you’re really struggling, there’s a few books out there that can help.
Some girls become curious earlier than others and ask questions when they see tampons, menstrual cups or pads in the bathroom. Answer the questions honestly and encourage her to take a look at the products. If you suspect she might start her period soon, talk about what she's the most drawn to or comfortable with and suggest buying some of her own together so she can carry some in her bag or purse. Most girls start their period around age 12, but it can range anywhere from as early as 8 years old to 15 or 16 years old. If your daughter has not started her period by the time she’s 17 it’s a good idea to check in with a healthcare professional.
All of this information should be shared with all members of the family. So if you have male children, include them in the conversations too. The more we normalise periods, the better. It will help young women feel more confident and in tune with their bodies.
Preparing for Your Daughter’s First Period
There are usually a few signs that girls are nearing their first period. Breasts begin to grow and pubic hair normally starts a couple of years before menstruation. And, about one year before their period, many girls experience a major growth spurt.
As for the emotional side of things, some girls will be excited about their first period and will talk about it with their friends. It can be a way for girls to bond. Though it can also be isolating for girls who start their periods later than their friends. If this is the case, remind your daughter that the range of what is normal is very large. Also, remember that some girls will be more anxious and even afraid when their period starts. This is normal, but try to frame it as a right of passage into adulthood. And, if you’ve been avoiding a conversation about periods, it’s time for a serious heart-to-heart!
The stereotype that raging hormones make teenagers moody is based in truth. But the fact is, most young girls have no idea about the symptoms of PMS. Like everything else, you should approach the topic with honesty. Explain that just before a period starts, some women feel different symptoms like mood swings, irritability, bloating and sore breasts. Often chalked up to “moody teenager” behaviour, it’s important that girls understand why they might be experiencing PMS symptoms both mental and physical. It’s also reassuring for young girls to know that these symptoms often stop when your period starts.
To help your daughter know when she might experience PMS symptoms, encourage her to keep track of her period by marking a calendar or using a period tracking app. We have a whole list of useful apps here that you can refer to.
How to Help Your Daughter With PMS
When PMS symptoms impact your daughter’s day-to-day life, many mothers will ask a doctor for help. Unfortunately, many doctors are quick to prescribe the birth control pill for a variety of symptoms. While it can work to alleviate a variety of symptoms like irregular periods and heavy bleeding, it’s important to understand the potential side effects. It is important to keep in mind that these are the effects on an adult woman so imagine the effects on a teenager that is still developing and growing. Sometimes, simple lifestyle changes are all that’s needed to help your daughter and teaching her these self-care tips at a young age will help her have an easier period for years to come.
Irregular periods are common in young girls, especially in the first few years after getting her period. The menstrual cycle of teenagers is, on average, 45 days, not 28 days like adult women. Some girls also struggle with heavy bleeding and more intense cramps. Even though young girls' periods do follow a cycle, the length of that cycle can change month-to-month. Sometimes too heavy periods, extremely painful cramps or cycles that are shorter than 21 days or longer than 45 days can be a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis. Encourage your daughter to track her cycle to see if there are any patterns. And if pain or bleeding is impacting her day-to-day activities, it may be time to see the doctor.
Can My Daughter Take Supplements to Support her Menstrual Health?
Yes! If your daughter is over 12 years old and she is already menstruating, she can take a supplement to support her menstrual health. Look for a supplement that contains magnesium or omega-3.
Magnesium, for example, contributes to normal energy-producing metabolism, to the reduction of fatigue and tiredness, and to normal psychological function. She can take up to 250-300 mg of magnesium per day. You can find magnesium in green leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts, cocoa and bananas, among others.
DHA in omega 3 contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function, among other things. You can find DHA in oily fish and seafood.
If you have questions about how to help your daughter with your period, there’s some great resources out there that can help. Check out Sophie Vanherpe’s book Period Talk as a start. And if you still have questions, get in touch with one of our experts for advice.