By Dr. Amy Schmidt, MD
Your little girl is growing up! Signs of her age are apparent from simply observing changes that begin to happen before she even gets her first period. Most girls start to menstruate between ages 10 and 15 years old, with an average age of 12. But, changes often start a couple of years sooner. Talking with your daughter about what to expect and reassuring her these changes are normal is key.
Here are some signs and symptoms of puberty that you and your daughter will notice before menstruation begins:
- Breast buds – She may experience pain or firm bumps in or behind her nipples, signaling the first signs that breast buds are developing. The areola may look bigger or puffy. You can expect her period to start about two years after her breast buds develop.
- Pubic hair – Once her pubic hair starts growing, you can expect her period to develop in one to two years. It may begin soft and thin but it will become courser and thicker towards the end of puberty.
- Vaginal discharge – She may notice white or yellowish fluid in her underwear which usually means her period is going to start in next few months. Depending on the amount, you may want to offer her a panty liner.
Think back to when you had your first period because your daughter will likely follow similar timing. Education and reassurance are very important to ease her mind. She will look to you for answers but may feel embarrassed asking questions. Be open and forthcoming with information, letting her know every girl develops at her own rate. Mention that some girls will have lighter periods for a couple days while others will experience heavier periods that last a full week with monthly cramps. It just depends on your body.
It may also take up to a year and a half for her periods to become regular. In the beginning, it’s normal to have a period and then not have another for a few months. As she gets older, her cycle will fall into a rhythm every 21 to 34 days.
Just reassure her these changes are all just a part of growing up!