Do you have a daughter and dread having “the talk” about periods? Are you uncertain when to broach the subject? Are you secretly hoping she’ll learn all she needs to know at “maturation day” in school? (If you aren’t from Utah, “maturation day” is a few hours one day in fifth grade where kids are taught about development, puberty, and periods). If you’re like my husband, he’s so uncomfortable with the notion that he refers to periods as “ladies days.” Take heart, this is what you need to know.
Menarche: The very first period
Menustration: The cycle of blood coming out of the vagina (a.k.a., the period)
Ovulation: When the egg (to be fertilized) is released from the ovary, happens midcycle
Thelarche: Breast development
Andrenarche: Onset of puberty (when the brain secretes androgens), causes pubic hair and body odor
The onset of periods (menarche) is considered normal as early as 9 years-old (and as late as 16). In my opinion, all girls should know about periods before it could happen. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen a horrified young girl who thinks she is dying because she starts bleeding for some unknown reason. Talk with your daughter by 8 years-old (I know this feels young). She should hear it first from a parent (or a doctor).
How to talk about it
First I am not a big believer in huge sit-down talks. Answer your daughter’s questions as they naturally come up throughout childhood. Your young daughter will see pregnant people and ask about where babies come from. Take the opportunity to introduce (at an age appropriate level), the concept of a girl’s body being different and special. Inevitably, your daughter will encounter products of yours (tampons, pads, birth control, etc.). Answer honestly what they are for. Then, when the time is right, you can build on previous small conversations and give your daughter the rest of the explanation. The explanation doesn’t have to be complicated, just accurate.
Are you still wondering what exactly to say? Everyone’s approach is a little different (and tailored to the person), but I’m happy to share my general approach. I usually start by drawing a simple picture (ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina). I generally use the “only girls can get pregnant approach.” The period is the body’s way of practicing and preparing to get pregnant. (I usually give a plug for waiting to get pregnant until the girl is much older and married). Every month the body makes an egg (point to appropriate pics), travels down the tube, and waits to get fertilized. I draw a baby in the uterus (describe it as the baby sack) and ask how the body could get a nice, soft, pillow-like environment for a baby? Since the body doesn’t have stuffing (for the pillow), it uses what it has to make a lining-nice, warm blood. When the baby doesn’t happen (i.e., the egg is not fertilized) the body gets rid of the lining out the vagina (a.k.a., the baby shoot). And voila, the period happens. Depending on how mature your daughter is, you can add the hormonal (estrogen and progesterone) element to the discussion.
You can do this. Just start talking. Your daughter is listening.