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Ages & Stages

Menstruation

Many concerns about puberty center on menstruation. Spend time helping your daughter prepare for her first period. There is no reason for a girl to be surprised by her menarche, not knowing what is happening or why.

Remember, menstruation may begin sooner than you expect. Certainly, once your daughter's breast development has started, the two of you should fully discuss this topic. If you do not have adequate knowledge, ask your pediatri­cian to refer you to some informational sources. Some pediatricians schedule special educational visits at the time of puberty.

Discuss the biology of menstruation, describing it as a normal bodily process. Mention that her periods may be irregular, particularly in the begin­ning as her body adapts to rapid physiological changes. Also, let her know that several months before her first period, fluid may be secreted by glands within her vagina. This substance may be clear or white in color, and watery to thick in consistency. Tell her not to worry, and that this so-called physiologic leukorrhea is normal.

Explain that she may experience some cramping before or during her peri­ods. If the cramps become severe, her doctor may have some suggestions for alleviating them, perhaps with physical exercises or medication.

Of course, discuss hygiene related to menstrual cycles. Be certain your daughter has the supplies she will need for her first period. Since she may be away from home when that first period begins, discuss how to use pads or tampons. She should understand the need to change pads or tampons several times a day, and that tampons should not be worn overnight. Of course, girls can shower or bathe while menstruating.

Many girls will ask if they can participate in activities such as swimming, horseback riding, or physical education classes. Reassure your daughter that she can take part in normal activities while menstruating. Exercise can some­times even ease the cramps associated with periods.

Breast Development

Some girls also have anxieties about breast develop­ment. For example, one breast usually begins to develop before the other. Ex­plain to your daughter that as her breasts develop, it is quite normal for one to be somewhat larger than the other, and that breast size is seldom symmet­rical. Also, when a girl first notices the lump beneath one nipple, she may worry that this is cancer; reassure her that one breast is beginning to develop before the other, but if questions persist, consult your doctor.

If a girl's breasts start to develop relatively early, she often feels embar­rassed and self-conscious. To help your daughter feel more comfortable in a situation like this, she may prefer to wear loose-fitting clothing that disguises her early breast development. Also, be willing to buy her a "training bra" when she requests one.

 

Last Updated
1/2/2014
Source
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.