Think back to the time before you got your first period. You remember it, right? For most of us, it’s a time we’ll never forget. The anticipation of its guaranteed arrival, the worry that comes with the start of something new, the excitement that comes with knowing you’re growing up—it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Your daughter is likely experiencing a similar combination of feelings, and she probably has some questions about the signs of her first period too. Here are a few simple ways to navigate this important (and exciting!) time to help her feel confident, supported, and prepared.
PRESENT YOUR DAUGHTER’S FIRST PERIOD AS A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE
Shaping the narrative around your daughter’s period as a positive occurrence lays the groundwork for her to recognize and appreciate her body’s capabilities. Many women feel strongly negative feelings around their periods, and it’s hard to blame them for feeling that way. With a period comes pain, discomfort, irritability, bloating, and inconvenience, and no one wants to feel those things. It’s tough to disassociate years of period discomfort from your daughter’s first period experience. However, rather than referring to your daughter’s period as her monthly curse, provide her with language that reframes her period in a more positive light.
Try referring to her period as her “monthly communication”; a message from her body that everything is in working order and she’s not pregnant. Give her the tools to welcome her period as a power within her own body—menstruation is, in fact, an incredible process!
DISMANTLE POPULAR PERIOD MYTHS
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with popular period myths and dismantle them early on. Negating any incorrect assumptions will ensure your conversations are based in fact, and your daughter can be confident she has the correct information if or when she discusses this time with her friends.
A few important period myths to debunk:
- Your period is the exact same every month. Actually, you may not even have a period every month—and that’s OK! With varying methods of birth control or external factors such as stress or travel, every woman’s cycle is different from month to month. If your daughter’s next period doesn’t arrive exactly a month after her first period, she’s not to worry! Her body’s unique cycle is growing with her.
- Your tampon can get lost inside your vagina. Inserting a tampon for the first time can be stressful. Getting to know your body is a more intimate way is one of the experiences menstruation brings. However, a tampon cannot get lost up there! While it’s possible for it to be inserted far up the vaginal canal so that may be difficult to reach the string, the cervix prevents it from actually leaving your vagina. So, just be sure to encourage your daughter to keep good tabs on when she put her tampon in and to remember to change it every 4-8 hours to prevent Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). If it’s in there, it’s not going anywhere. We promise.
- You can’t get pregnant while on your period. Actually, you can. While it’s less likely, it’s still a possibility. According to Planned Parenthood, “a woman is most likely to get pregnant from sex that happens just before and during ovulation (when an egg is released). Ovulation happens in the middle of the time you get periods, usually about 14 days before your period starts.” So, while the birds-and-bees talk may not be happening quite yet, it’s good to make sure she knows this fact.
It’s a good idea to read up on any other myths you might have been worried about when you first started your period. Check out these 9 menstruation myths to remind yourself.
WALK HER THROUGH FEMININE HYGIENE PRODUCTS
Once myths have been debunked, give your daughter a deep dive into the different types of feminine hygiene products out there. Every woman’s period is different and because of that, every woman prefers different products. We’ve broken it down into a few, easy-to-explain options. This is a good list for her to keep handy!
- Pads: A great option for girls who’ve just started their periods. Place a pad on the lining of your underwear to absorb menstrual blood as it exits the vagina. Be sure to change your pad approximately 4 hours to prevent leaks or odors. Since they’re an external product, pads are easy to use and change. Pads are also a great solution for sleeping, especially if you’re planning to sleep more than 8 hours at once.
- Liners: A lighter version of a pad. A liner may be used on the days when your period is light or as a back-up to prevent any leaks while wearing a tampon during a particularly heavy flow. Just like a pad, a liner can be placed on the lining of your underwear.
- Tampons: Tampons are a great option for comfort and flexibility. To use, insert a tampon into the vagina to collect menstrual blood before it leaves the body. Many women choose to use a tampon while exercising or swimming, and it’s a great option for women who’d rather not feel a pad or pantiliner in their underwear. Once a tampon is inserted, you can’t feel it inside of you. However, it’s important to keep track of it! Like I mentioned earlier, change your tampon every 4-8 hours to prevent TSS.
- Period underwear: A relatively new menstruation product, period underwear may be a more comfortable option for women who prefer pads or pantiliners. Period underwear is also a more environmentally-sound product—using and washing period underwear after use reduces the amount of single-use period products needed during menstruation. Rather than add a pad or pantiliner to your underwear, period underwear is made with built-in absorbing materials to collect menstrual blood without leaks or feeling wet.
- Menstrual cups: Menstrual cups are the most eco-friendly product a woman can use. A cup can be reused every month for 10 years, saving huge amounts of time, money, and waste spent on single-use period products. To use a period cup, you simply have to fold the cup, insert it into your vagina, and let the circumference adhere to the walls of your vagina to prevent leaking. While it might be difficult to get used to at first, a period cup might be the product for you!
To help your daughter prepare for her first period, it may be helpful to make a supply kit with the period products she’d like to use. That way, when her period finally does arrive, she’ll feel prepared and in control.
EXPLAIN TO YOUR DAUGHTER WHAT A PERIOD ACTUALLY FEELS LIKE
Even though your daughter may feel too uncomfortable to ask what her period will actually feel like, she may be worrying about it. And contrary to common myths, the actual bleeding of a period does not feel the same as urinating or sweating. It’s important to reassure her that even on days with the heaviest flows, her period won’t leave her sitting in blood!
In fact, it’s a very rare occurrence to actually feel yourself bleeding. Instead, feelings that come with a period are typically menstrual cramps, which may vary from light to severe and can occur before, during, and after a period. Other feelings may include headaches and mood swings, but none of the feelings include that of actual blood exiting the body at a rapid rate. During a particularly heavy period, she may just have to change her tampon, pad, or cup more frequently than other periods to prevent leaking, but that’s all! If her cramps are particularly bad, encourage her to try these remedies.
HARNESS THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY
Typically, the highest amounts of anxiety come from not knowing exactly when her period will start. The fear of suddenly bleeding in the middle of a school day, or on the bus, or in any public place is extremely scary—even for grown women!
To ease the stress of the unknown, we recommend downloading a few tracking apps to help your daughter prepare herself for her first period’s arrival. Tracking your period has both emotional and physical benefits, and they can give you insight and clarity into why your body may be acting a certain way. We’ve narrowed down our five favorite tracking apps for you both to try together.
GET THE MEN INVOLVED
Encourage your daughter to speak with a father figure in her life about her period. That may not mean she has to bring up all of her feelings or anxieties to him, but help her to feel comfortable asking a man in her life to buy her tampons or to give her the space she needs when she needs it. Help her understand that a father figure knows why girls have periods and that he understands the signs of her first period. He accepts and honors the changes her body is going through.
Normalizing menstruation throughout genders is an uphill battle, but instilling that sense of comfort in her early will help her to realize these changes aren’t a secret to be kept away, but a change to be celebrated.
REMIND YOUR DAUGHTER THAT PERIODS ARE UNIVERSAL
Last but definitely not least, remind your daughter every woman has been in her shoes before! Every woman, including her mother, has felt the anxieties that come with awaiting her first period and every period after that. Every woman she passes on the street may be bleeding at that very moment—and she is still taking on her day! Periods are powerful reminders of the incredible ability to create life within a woman’s body. As your daughter enters this stage of her life, encourage her to remember this power within her.
For more helpful tips and tricks about managing all four phases of the menstrual cycle, download Your Guide to a Better Period.