Periods can be awkward to discuss, sometimes even more so when it comes to talking about them with family. But it really shouldn't be! Whether you have a teenage daughter, or you’ve just started your period and want to talk to your mum about it, we've got your go-to guide to help ease your mind when it comes time to chat all things periods!
How to bring it up with your mum
It’s very normal to feel embarrassed speaking to your mum about your first period. If you imagine a formal sit-down where you have to announce this transition into womanhood… don’t! Remember: she has been through the exact same thing! It can be as casual as a passing mention, and if you don’t like the idea of telling her that yours has started, you can ask questions about her period under the guise of ‘research’ for when your own comes. Don’t be afraid to let her know if you’re feeling uncomfortable talking about it so she knows to treat the subject sensitively.
What to ask your mum
No doubt you will have a lot of questions, and it’s always a good idea to speak to your mum because she may have had very similar experiences to yours. If your mum had heavy periods or issues with PMS when she was younger, you might have them too. Talking to her will help you answer questions and understand what might come up in future. Some things you might want to ask:
- What age did you get your first period?
- Did you have heavy or light periods as a teenager?
- How long does your period normally last?
- What PMS symptoms (if any) did you experience?
- Do you use pads or tampons?
- How do you use (and discard) period products?
- Does getting my period mean I need to go on birth control pills?
- Why do I feel embarrassed to buy period products?
Anything you may have on your mind, your mum can help you find the answers you need!
What your school nurse probably won’t teach you
Whether you have sex education classes at school or a class with the school nurse, there are certain things that are often not covered in lessons. Most sex ed classes focus on answering the ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions; how to use a tampon, what is PMS, how long will your period last, and so on. They tell you best practices for managing your period, but they tend to leave out the emotional side of things, or, the ‘why’ questions; why do I feel embarrassed by all this, why does this only happen to girls, why do I feel depressed just before getting my period, etc. Getting your first period can bring up a lot of emotions that your school curriculum won’t cover. Speaking to your mum or a trusted adult can help you navigate these feelings.
When and how to bring up periods with your daughter
The average age most girls get their first period is 12, but it could happen earlier or later, so it’s a good idea to be prepared from an early age. Some clues that it might start soon are when your daughter starts to get breasts, or she experiences vaginal discharge, which tends to start around 6 months before her first period. Your daughter may not feel comfortable discussing these changes either, but if she does bring them up, you can usually bet that periods will be soon to follow.
If she seems keen to discuss the subject of periods at length, that’s great. However for most young girls, the general feeling is that they want the information with none of the cringeworthy chats! The key is simply to let her know you are there if she wants to talk, and make sure she has access to the information, whether it’s from a book, a blog post, a podcast episode or something else.
If neither of you want to have ‘the talk’, then breaking this down into a series of short, casual conversations rather than one serious discussion is usually more helpful. A good way to do this is to drop in some of your own period stories. Once the discussion is open, be sure to use direct, positive language (no calling it “my monthly curse”, for example!), and answer all of her questions honestly.
What to tell her about pregnancy
Arguably one of the most important things to include in your discussion about periods is the fact that getting her first period means she can now become pregnant if she has sex. In fact, she can become pregnant before her first period, as soon as her hormones become active, so having an understanding of the female body in advance is useful.
Of course, just because she technically can have sex and get pregnant, doesn’t mean she has to until she feels ready. This is part of a larger discussion, but the main thing is to let her know that with this change in her body comes the ability to have a baby.
Dispelling period myths
Talk of periods tends to circulate in schools, and your daughter may receive some inaccurate information about how to manage her upcoming bodily changes. Silly rumours and sometimes general language about periods can make them sound shameful, unclean or even scary. Whether it’s learning that you might die if you lose a tampon inside you, or that you might leak through your clothes in school, or even hearing it talked about as “time of the month”, it can all be pretty confusing and worrying when you are just getting yours for the first time.
Always be available to dispel any period myths that your daughter may have heard, and never make her feel silly or paranoid for asking. When it comes to periods, there really are no silly questions!
Want to know more about how to talk to your mum or daughter about periods? Let us know what’s on your mind over on Instagram @itsyoppie.