Hitting puberty is an event of sorts in a girl’s life. More often than not, because of the lack of communication and stigma around menstrual health, girls don’t even know what to make of when they get first period. But as access to the Internet has become rampant and curious minds may want to know all about periods. If you’re wondering how to do the period talk with your little girl or handhold her into the journey, try sharing this expert-recommended first period guide with her.
This month, the world observes the Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, and it makes it fit for us to bring this awareness guide to ease your woes.
From when a girl can expect her first time to self-care tips during the menstrual cycle – Dr Rubina Shanawaz Z, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics & Uro Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru, answers some key questions about that time of the month.
The average age for the first period is between 10 and 12 years. You can expect the first period to start earlier if your body mass index is more than average or later if you are underweight, undergoing stress or having hormonal imbalance.
The first signs of puberty are breast growth, followed by growth of underarm and pubic hair, increase in height and change of body shape. Approximately 2 years after the first signs of puberty, you can expect your first period to start. This can range between 6 months to 3 years.
Despite other signs of puberty – such as appearance – if bleeding does not start by the age of 15, please consult your gynecologist who will need to examine you and will then ask for relevant investigations which might include Ultrasound and blood hormone assays.
Apart from the growth of breasts, pubic and underarm hair growth which happens over a span of 2-3 years, the immediate preceding signs mostly include(but not always a dictum);
* Increased watery vaginal discharge
* Lower abdominal cramps
* Abdominal bloating
* Extreme mood swings
The colour of your first period can vary from dark brown to bright red to dark red.
The nature of the first period can vary from mild spotting to slightly heavier flow with small clots.
For some girls, the first period might only be spotting for a couple of days. For others,it can last for a week. The average duration of a period is between 2-7 days. For the first 3 years after the period starts,the number of days of flow as well as the gap between two periods can fluctuate,occurring once in 2-3 months or even longer.
Consult your gynecologist if :
* There is continuous bleeding for more than 7 days
* The gap between two periods is less than 20 days
* You feel dizzy/tired
* You experience unbearable pain during periods
* Delayed periods with more than a 45-60 day gap even after 2-3 years from the first period.
Also, read: 5 women talk about their first period and what they wish they had known back then
For the first period:
* When you notice blood after using the toilet or if your clothes gets stained, try to get any absorbent material like tissue paper and place it on your underwear as a temporary measure. Inform your trusted adult, who will then further guide you.
* Based on personal preferences, the choice of menstrual hygiene products range from period underwear to sanitary napkin to tampon to menstrual cup. Educate yourself about the pros and cons of each, and experiment with a couple of options, which will then help you choose the right choice based on your lifestyle.
* Use a hot water bag on the lower abdomen
* Drink warm fluids
* Use over the counter pain killers like Paracetamol or Mefenemic acid to relieve your pain.
* Keep yourself physically active
* Change your pad every 3-4 hours even if not fully soaked. Or empty your menstrual cup every 6-8 hours without fail.
* Be prepared for leaks initially and have extra sanitary products of choice with you
* Wash the pubic area only externally and do not attempt to douche (clean the inside if the vagina). Douching can lead to vaginal infections due to change in the ph value of the vaginal fluids.
* Track your periods in a journal/on an app to identify any irregularity.
* Remember that pregnancy is a possibility and be aware of your reproductive health.
Also, read: Did your child hit puberty early? Stop believing these 5 myths, says an expert
The first period, like all first experiences in life, can be daunting and terrifying. But as you settle down, armed with the right information, you will understand your body the best!
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