Starting periods and using tampons with Lil-Lets
Vicki Buffery, online agony aunt for Li-Lets, answers Mumsnetters' questions on puberty and mensutration in pre-teens and teenagers.
Q. Minifingers: My question is about when periods start. My daughter, age 13 and four months, is wearing a size 34E bra, has had pubic hair since the age of 10 but hasn't yet started her periods. She weighs over nine stone. I would have expected her periods to have started by now. Is she likely to start her periods any time soon?
A. Vicki: The age a girl can start menstruating can vary from the age of eight up to 18, with the average age being 13, so I do not believe there is anything to worry about at this time. Keep an eye out for discharge, usually noted about six to 12 months before the arrival of the first period. Very often a time of concern for girls, pant liners can offer girls at school some confidence when discharge is noticed.
Q. Stopcallingmefrank: My daughter is 14, wears a bigger bra size than me, has hair in all the rights places, but does not have periods yet. Apparently, all her friends have started theirs, which I'm taking with a pinch of salt. I tried to reassure her that everyone is different, it's nothing to worry about, etc. What I want to ask is - when should I worry? If she gets to 15 or 16 and still no periods, then what?
A. Vicki: Peer pressure is quite high at your daughter's age and it is important, as you have already demonstrated, to let her know that we are all different and menstruation will arrive only when her body feels the time is right for her. Usually, if a period has not arrived by the age of 18 it may be worth a visit to your GP just to make sure there are no hormonal imbalances or underlying conditions present.
Q. Dancergirl: I would like to know about gaps between periods when they first start. My daugter is 11 years and six months and had her first period in the summer holidays, around mid-August. She hasn't had another one since. I seem to remember having a long gap between early periods myself, but is there any ways to tell when she might get her next one? It's like waiting all over again.
A. Vicki: It is very common for periods to be irregular for the first 18 months and, with so many hormonal changes already occurring both physically and emotionally, it would be close to impossible to identify any PMS signs that may normally be present in a woman who has been menstruating for a number of years.
My only suggestion is to ensure she is prepared when not at home, by having a period kit in her school or sports bag. Lots of girls also like to wear a pant liner on a daily basis, so if their period arrives unexpectedly in class they don't have to suffer any of those embarrassing leaks.
Q. OhWesternWind: Can anyone recommend a book for my 10-year-old daughter? She's had all the younger children books, the hair in funny places and so on, but wants something more teenage-y and I'd really appreciate some help with this.
A. Vicki: Have You Started Yet by Ruth Thomson is always a good read, but if you have already given your daughter a number of books in the style of Jacqueline Wilson then she may find this is just another one to add to her collection. Girls as young as ten are very computer-savvy and find all the information they require online.
If your daughter's very focused on become a teenager, she may find the Lil-Lets Becoming a Teen website more informative than a book and it's updated regularly so she can be sure the most up-to-date information is supplied. There is also a Q&A section on there called Ask Vicki if she has any questions she wants answered.
Q. Jugglingwithpossibilities: I'm wondering if my daughter will need to use towels at the beginning of her starting her periods, but how soon after would she be able to use tampons, and which would be best? Is this what tampon starter packs are for?
A. Vicki: The products selected in our Lil-Lets teens starter pack are ideal for girls whose periods have just started, and, whilst there is no medical reason why a girl cannot use internal sanitary protection from her very first period, I always advise that towels are offered for the first five or six periods, so they can grow accustomed to their flow and monthly cycle.
Once a regular routine has been established, then a 'good' first tampon is an applicator-free type, which girls very often find easier to place than tampons with applicators. Remember, too, that widthways-expanding tampons may be more comfortable for a young adult as their vaginal passage may not be fully developed.
Q. Yummumto3girl: My daugther is 12 and yet to start her periods. I have bought her the teens starter pack, which I was very impressed with. I've spoken to her about the products and directed her to the teen section of your website, which she found helpful. I'd like to ask for advice on how soon to encourage tampon use after starting periods and whether there are any issues with early use of tampons.
A. Vicki: As with all users of tampons, the very rare illness Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is something that all menstruating females should be mindful of. I'd recommend your daughter to familiarise herself with TSS by reading the section in the Becoming a Teen booklet you will have found in the Lil-Lets teens starter pack. This discusses TSS in such a way as to not cause fear or concern, but ensures girls whose periods are just starting know about the syndrome.
So, if your daughter is comfortable with the idea of using internal sanitary protection then there is no medical reason why she should not try them when she feels ready. Lil-Lets has two videos on its website that show how to insert and remove a tampon and it would be useful for her to watch these before trying. It would also be a good idea for her first attempt to be on one of her heavier days when there is plenty of menstrual fluid for the tampon to absorb.
One of the biggest complaints of young girls is discomfort when first trying tampons, so strange as this sounds, advise your daughter to give a little cough just as she is about to insert the tampon, as this relaxes the vaginal muscles and ensures the tampon is inserted high enough into the vaginal passage so as not to sit on the sphincter muscle.
Q. FuckingWonderwoman: How do I persuade my oldest daughter that tampons are so much nicer to use than towels? She tried them on holiday last year (because it was either that or not go swimming) but as soon as she got out of the pool she rushed to get dressed and pull out the tampon. I have extolled the virtues of Lil-Lets, how you just whack it up with your finger, and no nasty scratchy applicator, but she's just not interested.
A. Vicki: It may be that your daughter is not yet comfortable with the idea of internal sanitary protection, so why not suggest that she uses a combination of the two for a while, using a tampon when wanting to be active and a towel when at home and relaxing.
Our lite applicator-free tampons are shorter and narrower than most others and initially may be easier for her. Finally, you may also have to consider that she may never feel truly comfortable with tampon use - lots of girls and women are happy to continue using towels for their entire menstrual life.
Q. troisenfants: I always tried to use tampons when I was younger, but just never got the hang of them, and found them difficult and even painful to put them in. When I did eventually get them in, they always popped out as soon as I started to move around leading to potentially embarrassing situations!
What advice (apart from the usual 'try to relax and don't tense up') would you give to mums on teaching their daughters how to insert a tampon and how to position them correctly? I would like her to have the freedom I never had.
A. Vicki: Honestly, the biggest tip I can offer is, as you say, to relax! Very often girls look at tampons and struggle to believe something so big will fit inside them, so find a tampon that is less imposing and will not be alarming to first-time users. If not inserted correctly, as you say, tampons can be uncomfortable or even fall out, and this is almost always because the tampon has not been inserted high enough into the vaginal passage.
Reassure your daughter that there is no way a tampon can get lost or be inserted too far inside the vagina, but also the importance of correct insertion. She may find giving a little cough just as she is about to insert the tampon will relax her vaginal muscles and ensure the tampon is inserted high enough into the vaginal passage so as not to be uncomfortable. Finally, like anything tampons can take a bit of practice, so let her know that it's OK for her to need a few tries to get it right!
Toxic shock syndrome
Q. LaBelleDamesSansPatience: I'm collecting information for a talk I have to give to Year 5 and 6 girls in my class next week about feminine hygiene, and I haven't even thought about toxic shock. I've never done this before and can't find any materials at school - any tips, ideas, warnings?
A. Vicki: Why not download our Becoming a Teen lesson plans, suitable for Year 5/6 pupils and discussing topics such as friendship, communication, emotional and physical changes, puberty and of course periods. The lesson plans come with activity sheets, PowerPoint presentations, video clips from other girls and teacher notes and are available to download for free here.
You can also request our Becoming a Teen sample packs for the girls to take away and the booklet inside each one contains information on Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is written in a format they will understand without causing undue alarm.
Q. Notmyidea: How can we, as mums, get them to appreciate the importance of personal hygiene, like showering and frequent pad changes etc, ideally without nagging. Especially for the still-at-junior school starters who don't seem to have the vanity to care. (Is it just mine?!)
A. Vicki: I can assure you, you are not alone in this query. Pre-teens seem to be oblivious to personal hygiene and some would say that this is the calm before the storm, because once they do enter puberty, cleanliness and their appearance can take over their every waking moment and you may not see your bathroom for a great many years.
Back to your original question, start slowly by introducing products especially for her, so she feels special. And make it as low-key as possible, so she does not start to feel insecure about her body. Why not have a shopping trip with both of you choosing key items such as an antiperspirant deodorant, a shower gel and maybe some intimate wipes to use in between towel changes which she can keep in her school or sports bag. Hopefully, by allowing her to make her own choice, she will be more inclined to use them on a regular basis.
Q. ripseshere: Why are your products so expensive compared to others?
A. Vicki: We believe the Lil-Lets range of products offer excellent value for money. Our teens range of towels and liners have not only been designed to be comfortable, absorbent and sized to fit younger bodies, but also, and more importantly for girls new to menstruation and discharge, their discreet pretty packaging makes them ideal for school or sports bags without being overtly obvious (which is something we know from talking to girls is a big area of concern).
Q. Morethanpotatoprints: I would like to know if two ranges could be brought out, one with mixed tampons and towels, and the other with just towels?
A. Vicki: We are constantly looking at our teens consumers and take our reference from the girls themselves.
We have recently launched Lil-Lets teens pant liners following literally thousands of queries from girls as to how to manage the staining and discomfort they notice when experiencing discharge.
There are several other areas of concern for teens and pre-teens and we continue to work closely with them to offer the best possible sanitary formats for their particular needs.
This Q&A was sponsored by Lil-Lets