My daughter is almost eleven and if there is one thing we need to discuss soon…it is periods.
A friend once told me a true story about a teenage girl who happened to be on the bus when her worst nightmare came true. She got her period and had bled all through her tartan school skirt. She has a visible, large blood stain on the outside of her skirt and as she stood up, she tried her best to cover it, but had nothing to cover it, other than her own hand. The boy in the seat behind her quietly gave her his school jumper and said “Here. You can tie this around your waist, and no one will see. I have a sister - I understand. You can keep the jumper in case you need it again.” And with that, the girl was able to get off the bus. This boy with no name, had shown her the most incredible, modern and mature act of kindness.
After my friend told me that story, I sat for a moment and thought to myself that I hoped my two sons will grow up to be as kind and mature as that boy. The point I am making here is that this boy 'normalised' periods. He didn’t laugh at her. He wasn’t embarrassed or awkward. He just thought this was ‘normal’. Periods are normal.
Periods are a natural, healthy part of a girl's life. They shouldn't get in the way of enjoying life, even though sometimes they do. It's important to start talking about periods early. Most girls get their first period when they're around 12. But getting it any time between age 10 and 15 is OK. Every girl's body has its own schedule. For the first few years after a girl starts her period, it may not come regularly, which is normal. By about 2–3 years after her first period, a girl's periods should be coming around once every 4–5 weeks.
When concerning the timing of a girl’s first period, parents and caregivers should bear in mind that a girl's first period usually (but not always!) happens about two years after her breasts start to develop. So as soon as you start noticing physical changes such as breast ‘budding’ you should start an open discussion about puberty and periods.
Every Body is Different
It is important for girls to understand that her experience of periods might be different to her friends. Make sure she knows she can always talk to you if she's concerned about a period symptom or anything related to her period. By having these positive, encouraging conversations now, and ensuring she knows what to do when she has her first cycle, she'll feel prepared for this major step into adulthood!
Step 1 – Be Prepared
Have a period kit ready is a really good idea, so your daughter doesn’t feel anxious when it happens. The period pouch should be large enough to hold at least a period product, a few wipes for clean-up, and a spare pair of underwear. A period kit is one of those essential items that every girl should have. It is a small bag that contains what she needs to manage her period when she is not at home.
Because as you know, periods can start when least expected!
So, what do you need in a period kit?
- Period underwear and/or sanitary products
New leak-absorbing pants are brilliant. It means your daughter can wear them on the days leading up to her period as well as during her period. These magic period pants will absorb any leaks, saving her the embarrassment of blood stains on the back of her clothing. But more importantly they’ll provide her with the reassurance that she can continue her day without a worry in the world and no leaks means no stains her clothes. A lot of girls worry that their period will start at school, stain their clothing and they’ll die of embarrassment when the whole school sees it!
Period underwear is the perfect solution as they can use the underpants for everyday wear. Which means increased confidence and less fear about stained clothing or any bus incidents! Modibodi or Thinx have a range of period underwear that are sized for smaller tween and teen bodies. Thinx, for example have a selection of absorbency levels to choose from, regular and super, so you can pick the pair that's perfect for you. Available in girls' sizes 9/10, 11/12, 13/14, and 15/16.
- Cleansing wipes
Girls can be shy about periods so this item allows them to clean up any extra blood off their hands or thighs whilst she is still in the toilet cubicle. As your daughter grows more confident with managing her period, she may not need this item.
- Small sealed sandwich bag
To place any ruined undies that weren’t leakproof or protective or if your daughter has heavy flow.
Step 2 – Talk Openly about Periods
Sit down and talk about what to expect. Let her know that her first period may involve very little bleeding, and that the blood may be light red, dark red, or even brown, and that all are normal. You can tell her that she may feel some cramping, tiredness, or headaches — or she may feel nothing at all in advance. Hopefully nothing too painful that extra hugs, rest and a hot water bottle can’t resolve.
Step 3 - Educate Together
There is plenty of great material to read online, but you can also check out these useful books, which you can buy online or in all good bookstores. This book, What’s Happening to Me? Girl 9-14 – from Susan Meredith, could be a great opportunity to sit together, read the book and allow your daughter to ask any questions she may have. Work as a team as knowledge is power. Period Power for sure!
Other Useful Books :-
It’s about Bloody Time. Period – from Emma Barnett
Period Power – from Maisie Hill
Step 4 - Discuss Different Sanitary Options
Lauren Derrett has created her own period product which is currently flying out the warehouse doors! She says "it's a new way to period!".
Lauren was concerned about the amount of waste products by menstrual products. Wear 'Em Out reusable period pads are more sustainable than disposable tampons or pads, which can take up to 800 years to degrade. 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products are used in the UK every year equating to 200,000 tonnes of menstrual waste hitting UK landfill per year. Lauren created ‘Wear Em Out’; reusable period pads so our women of the future can be eco warriors and make period pads cool.
Wear 'Em Out pads come in four sizes (mini, medium, mega and mega-mega) and can be chucked in the washing machine (or hand-washed) and used again and again (it's said they'll be good for around four years). Manufactured in the UK, the aim was to provide a zero-waste period pad that's effective, reliable and, vitally, comfortable.
The Wear 'Em Out demo pack is a great buy and something your daughter can keep in her school bag for when she needs it. The demo kit is available to view here.
In summary, it is important that we support our girls as they turn the corner into womanhood. By learning more about how and why this happens, we can help our girls to turn this into a positive milestone. However, I am conscious that there is a lot more to discuss with our daughters as much as period chat. There’s reproductive health, pelvic health, urinary infections, bowel habits and much more. Who knows where to start, but hey…let’s just start with period chat and go from there!