Average age of first menstruation and how parents should handle it – Times of India

Average age of first menstruation and how parents should handle it – Times of India

If you have a daughter, inevitably, she will come to you at some point, breaking that her menstrual cycle has started. It’s unlikely that she will call it a ‘menstrual cycle’ but whatever she says, respond calmly. You can’t help freaking out within but handling it in a composed manner will normalise it for your child.

Menarche: The onset of menstruation

Bengaluru based Dr Prathima Reddy MBBS, MRCOG (London), FRCOG (London), FACOG (USA), Director, Senior Obstetrician and Gynaecologist- Fortis La Femme Hospital, Richmond Road explains, “Menarche is the onset of menstruation for the time. There is no right age for menarche, but the receding age at menarche seems to be a universal trend. Previously it was 14-16 years, but now in the middle class and above socio economic strata of girls it is 12-13 years. In a smaller group of children, the age at menarche is even less. Early menarche has sociocultural, emotional and health consequences. It can predispose to diseases such as cancers, heart disease.

Dr Sarada M, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist,Yashoda Hospitals, Somajiguda, Hyderabad adds, “As the human race is evolving, the age of menarche is becoming earlier. If girls don’t start periods by the age of 14 then we should worry and consult a doctor for further tests. If girls develop periods before age of 8 it is early menarche and should consult a doctor. If a girl starts her period before the age of 6, then it is definitely alarming and should be evaluated.”

What affects the age of first period

Moreover, there are many factors that do affect the age of the first period. Mothers’ age of menarche correlates with their daughters’ age of menarche. Girls who are overweight start periods earlier than underweight girls. Girls who do more physical activity, eat less junk food start their period a bit later than those who don’t exercise.

Some studies have also said that increased intake of animal protein and milk could lead to an early menarche. It was also noted in some studies that the girls in rural areas attained menarche slightly later than the girls in the cities.

How should parents prepare their girls

Menstruation is still a taboo topic in a large part of India whether it is the rural or the urban areas. “Seventy one percent of Indian girls are unaware of menstruation till they start their first period. Menstruation is surrounded by various psychological and religious barriers due to lack of knowledge. Many girls are unaware of what actually happens during the menstrual cycle.

Hygiene during menstruation is a very important and inevitable part of a woman’s life. Improper hygiene during menstruation can lead to infections,” shares Dr Reddy.

The following points would be helpful when talking to girls about menarche and menstruation:

Initiate discussions about menarche before it happens and talk often about it, not just once

Give them practical advice regarding what menstruation is, when it will start, will it be painful, how long will it last, what menstrual hygiene methods are available. Also tell them the importance of changing menstrual products appropriately and hygienically.

Tips for menstrual hygiene

The United Nations defines adequate menstrual hygiene management as “women and adolescent girls using a clean menstrual management material to absorb or collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period, using soap and water for washing the body as required, and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials. Particularly in poor countries, girls and women face substantial barriers to achieving adequate menstrual management.

Since this is a very vulnerable and sensitive time in a girl’s life, parents should deal with menarche with sensitivity and understanding. It is also important that they encourage a discussion about menarche in the children and dispel myths and taboos, adds Dr Reddy.

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