When is the best time to talk to my daughter about her period?
For dads, talking to daughters about their period might seem an impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Finding the right time is essential, so here are some tips to help you.
The average age for girls to start their period is around 12 - but some will start sooner, before they leave primary school. Your daughter may already be showing signs of reaching puberty by around the age of 9 or 10, so its a good idea to make ‘the period talk’ more of an on-going conversation rather than a one-off discussion.
Your daughter will be aware of the changes happening to her body and talking about periods openly will help her to better understand it all, without having to wait for school to catch up.
Sex and Health Education at School
Your daughter’s school may have already tackled the subject around year 5 (age 9-10), as she approaches puberty. These lessons are invaluable, but it’s a really good idea to follow them up at home too - especially since some girls may have already reached puberty by this point.
Find out what information your daughter is receiving at school, and ask for additional resources you can use at home. The government’s Relationships, Sex and Health Education programme aims to provide effective and inclusive education to primary aged children; recent changes mean that both boys and girls are to be taught about menstrual health in order to break down taboos and reduce stigma surrounding periods. Read more about the Women’s Health Strategy for England here.
Most likely, your daughter will have questions for you after the lessons at school, so being prepared is key to helping her navigate this next stage of her life.
How do I talk to my daughter about periods?
It doesn’t need to be a stressful or awkward conversation, and it doesn’t need to be a ‘sit down and let’s talk’ situation either. You may both find it easier to talk about periods whilst doing an activity or whilst driving as this can relieve the pressure of having a face-to-face conversation. Or perhaps a tampon advert can spark a conversation that can be picked up again later on.
However you approach it, it makes sense for you to be armed with as much information and knowledge as possible - so knowing about the menstrual cycle is a must.
What is a period?
A period is part of a menstrual cycle. Blood flows from the vagina for a few days as the uterus sheds it’s lining.
During the menstrual cycle, hormones play an important role. Rising levels of oestrogen cause the ovaries to release an egg (this is called ovulation) and the lining of the uterus becomes thicker. After this, progesterone rises to help the uterus prepare for a pregnancy.
The egg then travels down the fallopian tubes and if it is not fertilised, it will be reabsorbed into the body. Following this, hormones drop and the lining of the uterus begins to come away, leaving the body as a period.
How do I know when my daughter will start her period?
There is no magic answer as to when your daughter will start her period. Although the average is 12, some may start as young as 9 and others can be as late as 15.
According to the NHS, most girls will have regular periods by the age of 16. As a general rule, your daughter’s period will start around two years after the onset of puberty.
What questions will my daughter have about periods?
No doubt your daughter will have lots of questions about periods and it’s so important that you are able to answer them. Giving your daughter period facts rather than myths is very important. If you’re not sure of how to answer her questions, find out together so that you’re both as informed as you can be.
We’ve listed some of the most common questions below, and you can search for further reliable information via the NHS website.
When will I get my first period?
As already mentioned, most girls will get their first period from around the age of 12 - but some can be younger, some much older.
How will I know if my period is about to start?
Many girls will notice a discharge coming from their vagina when they are close to starting their period. This is totally normal and in most cases this will happen around 6 months before their period starts.
If your daughter has already experienced this, it’s a good idea for her to start to carry some period products around with her just in case.
How often will I get a period?
At first, you daughter’s cycle may be a little unpredictable as her body adjusts to a regular pattern. On average, a menstrual cycle lasts for around 28 days, with the day the period starts being day one.
Although some women have longer cycles and some have shorter, your daughter will have a period roughly once a month.
How long do periods last?
All girls and women are different, but on average your daughter’s period will last around 4 days. Over time, your daughter will begin to understand her own flow a little better, but for now its completely normal for things to be a little unpredictable.
How much blood will I lose?
It might seem like a lot of blood, but on average it will only be around 3-5 tablespoons. The blood flow is usually heaviest during the first couple of days, after which it will become lighter before stopping completely.
What if period blood leaks through my clothes?
It happens, but there are ways to avoid it. Help your daughter to be prepared with sanitary protection when her period is due, and encourage her to learn the signs that her body gives her when her period is on the way. Signs such as sore and tender breasts, a change in mood or feeling bloated or gassy can all be indicators that your daughter’s period is coming.
Lots of girls also find that tracking their cycle helps them to get to grips with when their period will arrive- apps such as Clue are great for this.
If leaks do happen, having a change of underwear and clothes to hand is a good idea, or having a jumper she can wear around her waist until she’s able to change can help too.
What is period pain?
Sadly, many girls and women are affected by period cramps during their cycle- and for some it can be quite intense. Period pain happens as the uterus contracts to expel the lining and they usually feel like cramps in the lower abdomen.
Period pains are normal and can usually be relieved with over the counter pain-killers or a hot water bottle to the tummy. Let your daughter’s doctor know if period pains are very intense or interfering with her usual activities.
What is PMS?
Premenstrual Syndrome- PMS- is the name for a very common condition, affecting around 30% of menstruating women. PMS can occur over a few days leading up to your daughter’s period and for most the symptoms will be mild. Symptoms of PMS include:
- Mood swings
- Breast tenderness
- Feeling upset or anxious
- Abdominal cramps
- Changes in appetite
- Greasy hair
- Spotty skin
There are things that your daughter can do to manage her symptoms, such as prioritising sleep and a healthy diet, exercising regularly and reducing stress. If you daughter suffers with intense PMS symptoms that are impacting her normal activities, it’s a good idea to book a GP appointment to discuss options for treatment.
The NHS has more information on PMS that might be useful.
Why haven’t my periods started yet?
Your daughter might be impatient to start her period, especially if some of her friends have already got theirs. It’s important to know that we are all different and our bodies will develop at different rates.
If your daughter has already started puberty, her period will be on the way and all you can do is make sure that she’s as ready as she can be. However, if by the age of 14 there are no signs of puberty at all, speak to your GP.
What menstrual products will my daughter need?
Buying period pads and tampons can be confusing as there are various absorbencies, designs, sizes, and brands. There is also the consideration of buying products that contain harmful chemicals that may have a negative impact on your daughter’s health and the environment.
Disposable period products
Some period products are single use and should be disposed of properly. This means no flushing! Disposable tampons and pads are not very environmentally friendly, although there are now more brands who are turning to more sustainable materials to make them.
Reusable period products
Reusable period products are gaining in popularity as more women realise the need to have a sustainable period.
Reusable pads are made with sustainable materials and can be washed and re-used again and again. Your daughter will need around 5-7 reusable pads for her cycle and they should be changed regularly.
WUKA sell teen period pants, designed for younger girls and teenagers. They are ideal to use especially whilst adjusting to having periods. The pants are worn like any other pants and absorb her menstrual flow. They are washed after each use, dried, and then ready to wear again.
Deciding which period products to use is an important conversation to have, so allow your daughter to choose a few products and she can tell you which work for her.
The bottom line on talking to your daughter about her period
Research carried out by Hey Girls UK in 2019 found that only 41% of dads feel comfortable talking to their children about periods, and around 50% haven’t spoken to their daughters about periods at all. We get it. It’s not easy, but there are resources out there to help if you feel a little out of your depth.
If you have a female friend who is happy to talk to you or your daughter, accept the help. You can also read up - we love Maisie Hill’s Period Power and Robyn Stewards's The Autism friendly Guide to Period. Your daughter might also enjoy reading Milli Hill’s My Period.