Common questions your girl-child may ask about menstruation

Kids — both girls and boys — often have lots of questions about menstruation, such as the following:

How come only girls have periods?

Explain that boys change in different ways during puberty, like the deepening of their voices and the growth of facial hair. Getting her period means a girl can have a baby.

Periods happen because of changes in the uterus — a body part that girls have but boys do not.

Do girls have their periods for the rest of their lives?

No, a woman stops having her period usually between the ages of 45 and 55, which means she will no longer be able to become pregnant.

How long does a period last and how much blood is there?

It varies for each girl, but some have their period for 3 days and others have it for a week. Periods can be light, moderate, or heavy, and there can be a total of 2-4 tablespoons (30-59 millilitres) of blood. And this can vary from period to period in the same girl.

Are pads or tampons better?

In choosing between the two, what matters is a girl’s physical and emotional comfort. A tampon can be uncomfortable in the years right after menstruation starts when the pelvis and vagina are still growing.

Usually, girls are more comfortable using pads at first, but they may want to start using tampons when they get older (although they don’t need to wait to use tampons until a certain age).

Their friends may have started using them, and the freedom tampons can give may be appealing. Each box of tampons includes instructions, so be sure to read them with your daughter.

Although the first few times using a tampon can be frustrating, explain to your daughter that it will soon be easy with a little practice. Because the muscles of the vagina can become tense when a girl is nervous, it can be difficult to insert a tampon at first.

It’s important to relax as much as possible. It’s a good idea to start with a slim tampon with an applicator because they can be easier to insert. It can also help to first try a tampon on a day with the heavier flow so that it is easier to put in.

Do girls have to stop playing sports while they have their periods?

Girls should understand they can do everything they normally would do — as long as they’re comfortable. For example, girls may choose to wear a tampon so they can continue to swim while menstruating.

What’s toxic shock syndrome (TSS)?

TSS is a rare but serious bacterial infection that can be associated with tampon use.

Fortunately, TSS that is associated with menstruation can almost always be prevented by changing tampons regularly and by using the smallest absorbancy needed (for example, “slender regular” instead of “super plus”).

A reasonable precaution is to change tampons every 4 hours or more frequently if the blood flow is heavy.

Do girls always have cramps with their periods?

Concern about cramps is a big issue for some girls. While most girls eventually have some cramps, many do not for the first year or two of getting their periods. It’s important to tell girls that cramps usually only last a few days.

Sometimes, a hot water bottle or a hot bath can help ease discomfort. Some find that deep breathing and exercising help, too. If cramps become too uncomfortable, your daughter might want to take an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine like ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin).

Having cramps for a day or two each month is common, but signs of dysmenorrhea — severely painful menstruation that interferes with a girl’s ability to attend school or study or sleep — or other menstrual problems should be discussed with your doctor.

What’s Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

PMS includes physical and emotional changes (mood swings and irritability, tension, bloating, and breast tenderness) that can occur during the time right before some girls get their periods.

But girls usually don’t develop symptoms associated with PMS until several years after menstruation starts — if ever.

While not all girls experience PMS, for those who do, plenty of rest, exercise, and eating a balanced diet may help.

Do girls need to douche or use deodorant spray when they have their periods?

No. In fact, douching can increase a girl’s possibility of infection by disrupting the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina.

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