Advice Column, Health, Lifestyle, Parenting, Tween & Teen Advice

Ready for your girls’ first period?

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  • Category Advice Column, Health, Lifestyle, Parenting, Tween & Teen Advice

Puberty follows a reasonably consistent sequence in girls. At a quick glance, this is what you can expect: first the development of the breast buds, which occur any time between the ages of 7 and 13, followed by the appearance of coarse, dark woollies under the arms and around the genitalia. About 15% of girls develop the other way around: first the pubic hair and then the bee-stings. The first menstrual cycle can be expected, on average, around 2 to 2½ years after the onset of breast development. Although 12.6 years is the average for a first menstrual period to commence, anything from age 9 to 15 is considered standard. Generally, women get their period every 28 days, but an interval of 21 days up to 40 days is also viewed as normal.

One telltale sign that your girl is about to have her first period is a whitish, odourless vaginal discharge. This secretion is called leucorrhea and is a normal indicator that hormonal taking place. Leucorrhea is part of the vagina’s natural defense mechanism to maintain a healthy chemical balance, and it also preserves vaginal tissue flexibility.

The first day of red or brownish spotting is to be remembered for a very long time. This is an exciting time, but sadly it is often clouded by fear, secrecy and embarrassment. Open and positive communication between mothers and daughters is of paramount importance during this time as the messages received from Mom will play the biggest role in our daughters’ first-time experience and overall view of becoming a woman. Expressions such as ‘the curse’, ‘on the rag’, or ‘the red plague’ are bound to instil fear, disgust and negativity.

In too many cases mothers fail to talk to their daughters and neglect to offer the emotional support with regard to changing relationships with parents, siblings and friends. Secrecy around carrying, storing, using and discarding menstrual products is also often implied. Only 15% of young ladies report a positive first-time experience; 68% have no awareness of their mother’s experience with menstruation, and 64% receive negative messages from their mothers. As our girls move toward this rite of passage, it provides us with an ideal platform to strengthen the special mother-daughter bond.

Menarche (first menstrual period) celebrations around the world confirm the importance of this huge step into womanhood. In Australia, an Aborigine girl is instructed in ‘love magic’, and taught the female powers of being a woman. In Japan the entire family celebrates a girl’s first period by eating red-coloured rice and beans. In rural India the girl is given a ceremonial bath, adorned with ornate jewels and garments, and the girl’s kith and kin are invited for a ceremony during which it is announced that the girl has come of age. In Kumari, Nepal, the young girls are worshipped as goddesses, and Nootka Indians believe menarche to be a time to test a girl’s physical strength and endurance: she is taken out to sea and left alone in the water. The girl has to swim back and is cheered upon returning to the shore of the village.

Don’t you think that it is a brilliant idea to do something really special too for our girls as they join us and share the solidarity amongst women? Be it a private diary to record her experiences as a woman; a special calendar to mark the frequency of her menstrual cycle; pierced ears or a first leg-shave; a new nightie, or a shared outing – let the prospect of her first period be something wondrous and exciting for her to anticipate. Talk to her and explain what is about to happen, and let her be equipped by preparing a special toiletry bag for school: pack an extra panty, a pad or two, and surprise her with a small ’welcome-to-womanhood’ gift. Good luck!

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  • karen November 27, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Great ideas! My daughter can’t wait ? (six), but we have always been open and talked about it! She is nearly 9 and I told her she should tell me when her peer group starts with their first periods. Then we will get a bag ready for school. What is the age girls are starting now?

  • Maritza Breitenbach November 30, 2017 at 3:45 am

    Hi Karen
    It is wonderful that you have created such an open and positive platform for your daughter with regards to her development and experience. This, most certainly, will enhance and seal your relationship with her for many many years to come.
    There are a number of factors that influence our girls’ first menstrual period, also known as menarche (me-náar-ki). First and foremost, it is Mom’s history and her age at onset of menstruation that offer the strongest predictor of a girl’s first period. The next biggest factor is harmony within the family are exposed to high-conflict family relationships (including poverty and parental neglect) tend to grow up earlier. Girls who grow up in a warm, supportive, low-stress environment with close and meaningful relationships with family members generally enjoy a longer grace period to remain girly and carefree as menarche is delayed. In extremely stressful situations such as wartime, undernourishment or sexual abuse, however, the body experiences a threat to physical survival, and the puberty process goes into a delayed state.

    A very interesting and strong determining factor of menarche timing lies in the father-daughter relationship. Our girls are very sensitive to the quality of paternal care they receive, and it affects their sexual development directly. Fatherly affection and involvement, for instance, relate to later onset, and although the death of a loving father has no influence on menarche, the absence of a biological father through separation or divorce is known to accelerate the arrival of the first menstrual period.

    As far as age is concerned, anything between age 9 and 15 is considered as being within the ‘normal’ range.

    Keep up the good work and enjoy the journey!


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