One of the things you realize when you’re trying to conceive is how little you were taught in school about reproductive health. The lessons usually surround avoiding sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, which makes sense. However, when you officially begin your journey with Aunt Flo, information is often lacking.
During the pandemic, the number of young girls entering puberty has doubled in some countries—from 140 cases in 2019 to 328 in 2020. Given that girls are already reaching puberty five years earlier than the beginning of the 20th century, early maturity and menstruation might prove challenging to girls and their parents or custodians if they fail to prepare their young children for the upcoming changes.
The changes in lifestyle over the past several years—reduced physical activity and a rich diet—may have triggered earlier periods in young girls. Since girls as young as 10 start their puberty, parents should consider how to initiate conversations about their natural cycles to counteract any misleading online information.
Why Do Periods Start Earlier?
In the last couple of years, early puberty has been linked to the change in lifestyle during lockdowns: increased use of electronic devices, higher amounts of foods rich in fat and sugar, higher levels of stress, and reduced physical activity. However, even before the pandemic, some girls started to mature as early as 10 years old, and the age of menstruation dropped from 16 or 17 a hundred years ago to the current 13.
However, Vilmante Markeviciene, founder of Genial Day—a woman-owned conscious personal health brand—believes girls should be prepared for menstruation well in advance to avoid the stress when the time comes.
“Period, especially an early one, might come as a shock to a young girl if she does not know what it is and what to expect. Therefore, their parents, custodians, or teachers must talk about the natural reproduction processes and guide girls every step of the way,” she said.
According to Ms. Markeviciene, she has encountered numerous cases where girls start their first period without any prior knowledge. As a result, they begin to panic, believing that their health or even their life might be in danger, and this type of shock and fear can be avoided with proper education beforehand.
How Can Parents Help Girls Deal With Early Periods?
Around 35% of people feel embarrassed to talk about their health. This often leads to girls turning to social media to educate themselves about periods, puberty, and other intimate things. Yet, Ms. Markeviciene pointed out that young girls may not always find the right information online. This is why parents or custodians should step in and start talking to them about the natural processes as early as the age of nine.
“First of all, parents should ensure a safe and comfortable space for conversations about periods so that girls know they can talk to them without any judgment or embarrassment,” the expert shared. “By initiating honest conversations about periods, parents or custodians form stronger bonds with their young girls, and show them they do not need to experience these new changes alone or learn things online.”
Ms. Markeviciene also emphasized that parents or custodians should, at all times, ascertain girls that periods are not an illness and they can live their full active life even on the heaviest days. “Feeling comfortable during their first menstruation is especially important to young girls. Parents should also talk to them about menstruation products, which are individual choices. Some of them can cause irritation or discomfort if not chosen correctly, so the adult figure should help the girl find alternatives to make the experience more pleasant.”
Finally, parents or custodians should refresh their knowledge about the reproductive cycles and learn together with their children
“If books, brochures, podcasts, and videos about menstruation and other natural cycles are not enough, intimate health experts are always happy to answer any questions. In addition, having a positive approach to periods and learning about menstruation could also work as a great method to help the teenagers destigmatize the topic by setting a good example at home.”
Although an early period is normal, parents should contact physicians if their children experience abnormal pains or excessive bleeding. Adults need to empathize with girls’ experiences and take their worries and complaints seriously.
Bottom line – it’s better to be proactive when it comes to fertility health than reactive.
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