I look back at those important conversations a girl needed to have with her mother in the late 1970s and through the 1980s, and sadly, the promise of, “we will talk about ‘that’ later” never arrived. It wasn’t the women in my family who graciously answered my curious questions; instead, I learned about my body through friends my age. Yes, it was terrifying to know a period would one day arrive and cause pain across days. The time of embarrassing conversation is over. The day of answers and empowerment has arrived. Whether we are helping to educate our daughters or nieces, or asking our own personal questions, learning about our ever-changing bodies never ends. It is vital that we make a pledge to openly communicate and ask, or offer answers, to those “big” to little questions.
An Honest Relationship
I was confronted with the question, “how did my brother get in your belly?” when my daughter was three. In having a curious, matter-of-fact child, it quickly became important to consider the type of relationship I wanted; therefore, with every question, she received age appropriate but honest answers. As much as I will appreciate her trust in asking me personal questions, establishing a “we can talk about anything” relationship will help us in the many decades to come, especially when more serious topics arise in the near future.
Nikki Bowers, mother of two teenage daughters, writes, “In our house, we started talking about ‘the first period’ in the fourth grade because many girls were getting their period at that time. I let my girls lead with their questions, and I provided the facts, and the reasons, as well as diagrams. Many kids will Google their answers; yet, I wanted to be their Google. I set the rule that I would always talk about anything with them; so, I asked questions and listened to their answers. While their friends tried to teach them things that were not correct, they also had MANY misconceptions. We talk in small bits; so, they can chunk and chew on the information whatever the topic may be! The journey with daughters is always a wonderful ride. Enjoy it!”
The Irregular Period
Frequently missed periods are relatively common; however, it is important for “all” women to pay attention to their cycles, and especially, track each cycle. In asking a doctor questions, the information you present will assist in helping to fix what may be a complicated issue. Katherine Daniels writes, “If only I could talk to my 20-year-old self. I spent several decades experiencing painful and often absent periods when it wouldn’t arrive for four to six-month stretches. My doctor prescribed birth control to help me regulate and ease the pain. At the age of 34, a fertility doctor told me that I did not ovulate and would likely never conceive without assistance. I then understood why ovulation sticks never worked for me. I was grateful to learn the truth about my body. I regret waiting so long to find answers. I know many women who were like me and had irregular periods; yet, my ‘normal’ wasn’t okay.”
- A regular 28-day, moderately pain-free period is a good sign that the reproductive system is working properly and hormones are well balanced.
- Painful or intensive symptoms are a sign hormones levels are either lacking or elevated.
- Frequently missed periods can be an indication of poor health conditions such as a poor diet or underweight, chronic stress or too much exercise.
- Anovulation is defined as “the failure of the ovary to release eggs.” For 30% of fertility patients, this is the cause of infertility for women between the ages of 15 and 40.
- While many women choose not to discuss their periods with a doctor, the lack of information may be connected to any number of serious conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease, infertility or other hormonal complications.
- It is good to define what is your normal and be able to express to a doctor information such as the length of each period, light or heavy, and whether they are painful or pain-free.
While a menstrual cycle is never timely and often changes in degrees of pain each month, as girls and women, we can find empowerment in learning more about our bodies through research and openly asking “big” questions.