Guide to the Teen Menstrual Cycle

March 2, 2017
I vividly remember my first period – I was in grade 6 and wearing beige pants. I also didn’t tell my mom for two whole days. I relied on the teachings of Fully Alive (do kids still use this book?) and Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret as reference material for the big day. Nevertheless, I still found myself wholly unprepared. Chances are you’re reading this article on your daughter’s behalf. If so, I believe it’s really important to have open communication about menstruation – otherwise you may not hear about this huge life event until a few days later (sorry mom!). The Ontario curriculum discusses puberty and menstruation in grade 5 – usually when a girl is 10-11 years old. Most girls however, begin their menstrual cycle when they’re 12 years old (although some may experience as young as 8!). That said, girls may not remember the ins or outs of menstruation, or their teacher may not have have spent too much time on the subject.

What your daughter should know

She may not experience normal periods…

…For the first couple of years. When menstruation begins, it’s common for a girl’s period to be irregular (mine skipped a month after I started). Moreover, her flow may not be what typical women commonly experience. She may experience a shorter flow with smaller amounts of blood. Not sure what a normal period should look like? Check this out!

Painful periods are NOT normal

Every woman may feel slight cramping at the start of her menstrual cycle, after all her uterine muscle is contracting! But, extreme, constant pain is not normal and could be a sign of a health issue like PCOS or even endometriosis. Although some girls may turn to the birth control pill (BCP) to help decrease the pain – this doesn’t solve the problem. This acts as a bandage. When you or your daughter are using the BCP, you’re actually shutting down your normal hormonal cycle and aren’t ‘fixing’ anything. By the time your daughter comes off the pill, these conditions may have been manifesting for years – and may have unwanted implications on her fertility! It’s best to deal with the underlying issue right away and help get your daughter the support that she needs. It may be as easy as eliminating a particular food from her diet! Besides, the BCP can lead to many unwanted side effects including depression.

She can get pregnant

I’m sure many moms of teens are worried that their child may have sex and become pregnant. It’s true – the start of her menstrual cycle indicates that she is now capable of becoming pregnant. However, getting pregnant depends on when a woman is ovulating. Women are only able to get pregnant a few days per cycle. Keep in mind that as a girl is beginning to experience her period, and if it’s not regular yet – she may not truly know when ovulation is occurring. Obviously having a conversation with your daughter (or son!) is warranted and you may want to ensure that all lines of communication are open. If she doesn’t feel comfortable speaking to you, perhaps she may want to speak to an older relative or friend, or even her doctor.

Sharing your experience with your daughter

You may not want to wait for your daughter to take the first step and ask you about your first experience – after all (like I was) she may be incredibly embarrassed. It may be a good idea for you to broach the issue and see if she’s ready to have the discussion. After all, more communication is better than no communication. Learning about your experience may also help her become more comfortable in her body.

Things you may want to share:

  • The age when you first got your period.
  • How was your first period? Has it stayed the same? Has it changed?
  • Have you ever had extremely painful periods?
  • Did you use anything to track your period? Or do you currently have a favourite app to track your period?
  • How long are your cycles?
  • Do you experience any clotting? Stringiness? What does the colour usually look like?
  • Do you notice a change in cervical fluid?
  • Is there a history of PCOS or endometriosis in your family?
  • Do you ever get any PMS symptoms?

Final Notes

Empowering your daughter with this information is incredibly important. She has the right to know what’s going on with her body during this transformative time. If you’re not comfortable sharing your experience, or you don’t think your experience is normal, you may want to visit a Naturopathic Doctor. My goal is to provide you with the correct information and at the very least help ensure that at your periods are regular and pain-free!

PS. If you found this information helpful, please sign up for my monthly newsletter called The Flow for great and informative content like this!

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