Talking to your teen about menstruation (II)

Common questions teenagers ask about menstruation and how to answer them

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

It varies for each girl, but some have their period for three days and others have it for a week. Periods can be light, moderate, or heavy, and there can be a total of two to four tablespoons (30–59 milliliters) 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 year’s 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.

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 is important to relax as much as possible.

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

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

  • What is 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 four hours or more frequently if the blood flow is heavy.

  • Do girls always have menstrual cramps with their periods? Most girls eventually have some cramps, many do not for the first year or two of getting their periods. It is 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. For some, deep breathing and exercising help, too.

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 PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome (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 they ever have it. 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

How to talk to your daughter

As parents might be slightly embarrassed to talk with their children about menstruation, kids and teens may find it difficult to let mom and dad know their questions or concerns. If talking about menstruation is awkward for you, here are some ways to make discussions a little easier and more open:

  • Look for good books and videos or DVDs that can help foster a more comfortable and educational conversation.
  • Brush up on the facts of menstruation and have information readily available for your child to look at or read.
  • If there’s a question that you don’t know the answer to, let your child know you will find out the information.
  • Coordinate your conversations with the health lessons and sex education your child receives in school.
  • To break the ice, try asking your child some questions that will help you both ease into discussions. Ask what kind of questions he or she has while you walk down the feminine-hygiene products aisle at supermarket or while you watch related T.V programme.
  • If you hear your child mention something related to getting a period, spur a conversation by asking where the information came from. Questions can be a great way to set the record straight on any misconceptions kids might have.
  • Before you take your preteen daughter for a routine checkup, let her know that the doctor may ask if she’s gotten her period yet. You can then ask if she has any concerns or questions about getting her first period.

It is important to tell kids the truth about menstruation in an age-appropriate way and to be comfortable with the accuracy of that information.

  • Additional report from Vision Health.ARH manual.
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