What should you do before your teenage daughter’s first period?

Often mothers bring their daughters (from 11-15 years old) to see me and enquire about their periods, and I realise they are not familiar with many issues concerning the start of a girl’s first period (also known as menarche).

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In this article I would like to share some common knowledge about Traditional Chinese medicine with parents and their teenage girls.

1. At what age should the first period arrive?

Over 2,000 years ago, the traditional Chinese medicine text (Huang Di Nei Jing, The Yellow’s Emperor Classic of Medicine) recorded that the kidneys and ovaries are fully developed by the age of 14, the period starts and a woman can begin to conceive.

However, due to generational changes, environmental issues, changes in diet and other factors (such as cultural background, etc) and from my 30 year-long clinical experience, the first period can generally start between 12 and 14 years of age. It can also happen that sometimes the first period begin as early as 11.

I suggest the following:

i) Parents should pay more attention to their daughter’s general health during this time because from my observation many female health issues start around the time of their first period.

ii) Avoid giving your daughter nutritional supplements without professional advice, as it may disturb her natural development.

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2. What to expect during the first year of the period?

From my clinical experience, some girls have an irregular period during the first six months because their Kidneys and Ovaries are not fully balanced. If you are concerned by this, you can bring your daughter to have a general health check.

If no irregularities are discovered, you don’t have to worry about the irregular period, however if after 6 months the period is still not regular, you should pay more attention to the suggestions in the next section.

3. How to look after your daughter in order to regulate her period during the first year?

Traditionally in Chinese culture raising boys and girls is different especially during the teenage years. The following advice will give you a good idea of how to look after your daughter’s physical and emotional development:

a) Avoid cold foods and drinks. In order to improve circulation around the lower back and lower abdominal area (female organs are located in these areas), I suggest not to eat or drink anything coming straight out of the fridge. Foods and drinks should be consumed ideally at room temperature or warm especially around the period time.

b) Avoid cold environments such as walking bare foot or sitting on cold surfaces.

c) Avoid strong exercise during the period. Ideally rest is advised during this time, however gentle walking is suitable if necessary.

d) Avoid putting strain on the back and lower abdomen during the period.

e) Avoid holding fluids in the bladder for a long time, especially during the period.

f) Eat specific foods to restore Qi and Blood, especially during and after the period. I suggest foods such as Chinese red dates, seaweed, green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, beef, lamb, eggs, peaches (you can learn more about these foods in my diet therapy section).

g) Regulate your sleep. Teenage girls should have enough sleep (at least 9 hours per night). For example, if you go to bed around 9-10pm you should wake up around 6-7am).

h) Avoid emotional distress. If you have emotional issues, please discuss them with your parents or seek professional advice.

i) If you experience strong, unexpected symptoms during the period such as strong period pain, clots, heavy or scanty menstruation, breast pain and discomfort a few days before the period, please seek professional advice with your GP or with an experienced Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner.

The first menstruation is an important transition time for a girl to become a woman, so a good start will greatly benefit your health for the rest of your life.

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