Starting periods

Girl in black leotardMost girls in Britain start their periods between 12 and 13 years of age. But it's been getting younger over recent decades and on our Talk boards, many Mumsnetters are worrying about their daughters' symptoms from as early as seven or eight years of age.

If you're trying to work out when your daughter's periods might start, think back to when you started - this can be a good indicator, going by anecdotal evidence from Mumsnetters.  

Signs that periods are about to start

  • Budding breasts are a sign your daughter's first period is one to two years away
  • A whitish or yellowy discharge is a sign that a period isn't far off
  • Some girls report tummy aches in the months leading up to their first period and you may notice a semi pre-menstrual pattern

Talking to your child about periods

Many posters on Mumsnet have already spoken to their children (especially their daughters) about periods before they get to pre-teen age. Some have an 'open bathroom policy' so children see their mother's tampons and/or sanitary towels, ask questions, and get straightforward and honest answers.

Mumsnetters agree it's important to talk to your child about periods well ahead of the stage when it might actually happen. There's always at least one girl who starts early, and if your child doesn't know what's going on, she might get misinformed. 

Starting periods are covered in school in Year 5, so ask your child what she's been told, talk it all through and answer any questions.

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What happens once periods start?

It's common for periods to be irregular at first. Suggest your daughter keeps some panty liners and spare knickers in her bag whenever she's out, so she won't be caught out if her period starts unexpectedly.

Everyone is different, but the majority of girls/women menstruate every 28 days (though anything between 26 and 34 days is 'normal').

Periods typically last between three to seven days, and usually the heaviest flow is on days two and three.

Can pre-teen girls use tampons?

Yes they can, say many Mumsnetters. Some report having used them themselves from virtually their first period.

Mums whose daughters have been through this stage suggest getting your daughter to practise inserting tampons when they aren't having a period; and they suggest leaving a selection of different sorts of towels and tampons (such as with and without applicators) in the bathroom so your daughter can try out different options.

What about period pains?

Many girls have pain-free periods, especially in the early months. But if your daughter says it's painful, suggest she tries holding a hot water bottle by her tummy or back. Exercise can also help. Some Mumsnetters recommend camomile tea or raspberry leaf tea.

If it's too much, use painkillers, but remember that children under 16 shouldn't use aspirin because of the risk of Reyes syndrome. If necessary, you can alternate paracetamol and ibuprofen - ask your pharmacist for more information.

Some women strongly recommend seeing a doctor if your teenager is suffering from severe period cramps, as it can be a symptom of endometriosis.

What Mumsnetters say about their daughters and periods

  • I encourage my daughter to make sure that she's always got her 'period bag' (with tampons, spare pants, etc) in her bag to be ready for for when it next happens. cyrilsneer
  • Make sure your daughter can discreetly get towels or tampons from wherever they are stored without everybody in the house having to know. I will never understand why my mum kept them all in a cupboard on the landing, so you had to go in there and then sneak into the bathroom if you were painfully shy about the whole business (which I was). IsItMeOr
  • Book recommendations 

    What's Happening to Me? is a good puberty book you could give her to access at her own speed.  ScorpionQueen

    Everything You Ever Wanted To know about Periods is excellent. wolfbrother
  • My daughters knew about periods long before they started them, but it's still a shock for them when they start. You have to answer their questions at an age-appropriate level and be led by the questions as to how much they want to know at that time. Children build up ideas over many months and years, so you don't need to tell them everything in one go, just tell them the bits they want to know. duchesse
  • My daughter is in a small group of best friends and one girl has started her periods (just turned 10). It's lovely as they do talk to each other about puberty and their body changes. My daughter really likes it as it makes it all see more normal. lexcat


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Last updated: 7 months ago