What you need to tell your child about menstruation
- By Team TDO
Girls, who have not been told about menstruation in advance, can be thoroughly frightened by the first appearance of tissue and blood. It is very important that girls should know the nature and meaning of menstruation, that it is a completely normal experience, and that it signals the beginning of their childbearing years and a new stage in their life. Menstruation starts at puberty, that period of time in which body changes start to occur and indicates an entry from childhood to adulthood. This is also known as menarche. The cycle will continue till around 40-50 years of age when menopause occurs.
Menstruation is simply a monthly shedding of the inner lining of the womb (uterus) known as the endometrium. Menses or menstrual flow contains blood, pus cells and tissues from the degenerating layer of the endometrium. Each month the uterus prepares for a potential fertilized egg. If pregnancy does not occur, the inner lining of the womb breaks down, sheds itself and the womb restarts to make a fresh lining hoping that a fertilized ovum will embed itself and grow. If this does not happen, then menstruation occurs once again.
The menstruation myths
Over the ages, countless misconceptions have been perpetuated and have put women in a position of inferiority. All these myths are totally false.
- Bathing, cooking, hair washing must be avoided during menstruation.
- Woman should avoid making important decisions before and during menstruation.
- By menstruating, women clear their body of dirty blood each month.
- Menstruation leaves a woman unclean.
Most girls begin menstruation between eleven and thirteen years. However, it is not uncommon for girls to start as early as nine or as late as seventeen. Most girls get their first periods two to three years after their first breast buds appear. Women normally continue to menstruate at monthly intervals until menopause except during pregnancy or sometimes while breast feeding.
Should there be a delay, it is best, especially if the girl is eighteen or over eighteen, to visit the doctor to check if everything is normal. Her failure to menstruate may be due to physiological or genetic reasons. She may have an obstruction of the passage, she may have no uterus, her ovaries may be malfunctioning or she may be suffering from hormonal deficiencies.
Young girls suffering from a medical condition, in which self starvation causes acute loss of weight, almost always stop menstruating. At least 10% of a woman's body weight must be fat, or her hormonal oestrogen will be too low for her to ovulate and menstruate.
Psychological stress may also play a part. Absence of menstruation due to these reasons, however, is rare; more common is menstruation stopping after it has been regularized. The most common cause is a loss of weight. Young girls suffering from a medical condition, in which self starvation causes acute loss of weight, almost always stop menstruating. Alas, normal young women who are extremely lean, gymnasts, ballet dancers, athletes often fail to menstruate. This is because at least 10% of a woman's body weight must be fat, or her hormonal estrogen will be too low for her to ovulate and menstruate. In almost all such cases, menstruation will restart soon after gaining the proper amount of weight, although it may take some months for the period to become regular. Finally, emotional stress is responsible in a large number of cases for irregular menstruation.