Talking to Your Child About Periods
Article Translations: (Spanish)
Talking about personal subjects like periods (menstruation) can make parents and kids feel a little uncomfortable. But kids need reliable information. Helping your kids understand their bodies will help them make good decisions about their health.
When Should I Talk to My Kids About Periods?
Talking about periods shouldn't be one big talk at a particular age. Instead, start the conversation early and slowly build on your child's understanding. Girls and boys need reliable information about periods. So make sure you talk to your sons, too.
- For example, if your 4-year-old sees a tampon and asks what it's for, you could say, "Women bleed a little from their vagina every month. It's called a period. It isn't because they're hurt. It's how the body gets ready for a baby. The tampon catches the blood so it doesn't go on the underwear."
Over the years, you can give your child more information as he or she is ready.
If your child doesn't ask questions about periods, you can bring it up. By the time they're 6 or 7 years old, most kids can understand the basics of periods. Look for a natural moment to talk about it, such as:
- when kids asks about puberty or changing bodies
- if your child asks where babies come from
- if you're at the store buying pads or tampons
Ask if your child knows about periods. Then, you can share basic information, such as: As a girl develops into a woman, her body changes so she can have a baby when she grows up. Part of that is getting a place ready for the baby to grow inside the mom. The place a baby grows is called a uterus. Every month the uterus wall gets ready for a baby. If there is no baby, the uterus wall comes off and bleeds a little. The blood comes out of a woman's vagina. The body makes a new wall every month, just in case there is a baby.
Answer any questions simply and directly.
What Should I Talk About?
What you talk about depends on your child's age and level of development. Here are some questions that most kids have:
When do most girls get their period?
Most girls get their first period when they're between 10 and 15 years old. The average age is 12, but every girl's body has its own schedule.
Although there's no one right age for a girl to get her period, there are some clues that it will start soon. Typically, a girl gets her period about 2 years after her breasts start to develop. Another sign is vaginal discharge fluid (sort of like mucus) that a girl might see or feel on her underwear. This discharge usually begins about 6 months to a year before a girl gets her first period.
What causes a period?
A period happens because of changes in hormones in the body. Hormones are chemical messengers. The ovaries release the hormones estrogen and progesterone . These hormones cause the lining of the uterus (or womb) to build up. The built-up lining is ready for a fertilized egg to attach and start developing. If there is no fertilized egg, the lining breaks down and bleeds. Then the same process happens all over again. It usually takes about a month for the lining to build up, then break down. That is why most girls and women get their periods around once a month.
Do periods happen regularly when menstruation starts?
For the first few years after a girl starts her period, it may not come regularly. This is normal at first. By about 2–3 years after her first period, a girl's periods should be coming around once a month.
Can a girl get pregnant as soon as her period starts?
Yes, a girl can get pregnant as soon as her period starts. A girl even can get pregnant right before her very first period. This is because a girl's hormones might already be active. The hormones may have led to ovulation (releasing of the egg from the ovary) and the building of the uterine wall. If a girl has sex she can get pregnant, even though she has never had a period.
How long do periods last?
Periods usually last about 5 days. But a period can last shorter or longer.
How often does a period happen?
Periods usually happen about once a month. But some girls get their periods around every 3 weeks. And others only get a period about once every 6 weeks.
What is PMS?
PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is when a girl has emotional and physical symptoms that happen before or during her period. These symptoms can include moodiness, sadness, anxiety, bloating, and acne. The go away after the first few days of a period.
What if I Have Trouble Talking to My Kids About Periods?
If you don't feel comfortable talking with your kids about periods, make sure they have another way to get this information. Maybe watching a video or reading a book together would be easier. You also can ask your doctor, nurse, school counselor, or a trusted family member to talk to your child.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Most girls don't have any problems with their periods. But call your doctor if your daughter:
- is 15 and does not have her period
- started developing breasts more than 3 years ago and does not have her period
- is more than 2 years from her first period and her periods still do not come every 3–6 weeks (especially if she misses three or more periods in a row)
- has severe cramps, not relieved by ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, or store brand) or naproxen (Aleve, Midol, or store brand)
- has very heavy bleeding (bleeding that goes through a pad or tampon faster than every 2 hours)
- has severe PMS that gets in the way of her everyday activities
The more that kids understand about their bodies, the better they're able to make good, healthy choices. Make sure your children get reliable information from you or another trusted source.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2022 KidsHealth ® All rights reserved. Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com