The average American girl will experience her first menstrual period, known as menarche, between the ages of 12 and 13 years old according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. However, some girls can experience this life event much sooner.
comments powered by
“It is not uncommon for girls to start their period as young as 8 or 9,” says Dr. Sara Kreckman, UnityPoint Health pediatrician. “This can be both emotionally and mentally challenging for girls this young, as well as their parents.”
If a girl starts menstruation at a young age, it’s usually because the hormones in her body responsible for puberty are being produced earlier. In most cases, there is no obvious or abnormal reason for why the body has started producing these hormones early, although body weight, heredity, ethnicity and activity can be important factors, according to Dr. Kreckman. However, if a child develops breast buds before age 8 or periods before age 9, Dr. Kreckman advises a visit to your provider.
“If your daughter is going through puberty earlier than her friends and classmates, she may feel isolated and embarrassed. The best thing you can do as a parent is to reassure her and explain exactly what is happening to her body,” Dr. Kreckman says.
Dr. Kristin Millin, pediatrician, echoes that sentiment. She tells parents to begin talking with girls about their changing bodies as soon as they start asking questions or when parents noticing changes in their child’s bodies.
“Be honest, be straightforward,” says Dr. Millin. “Children respond very well to the truth and are usually more resilient than we give them credit for.”
No matter the age, Dr. Millin advises parents use a few tools to help girls understand puberty.
“American Girl has an amazing book series, The Care and Keeping of You Part 1 and Part 2 that I recommend every girl receive. It not only discusses a girl getting her period, but also reviews all of the physical and emotional challenges/changes with puberty,” Dr. Millin says.
Dr. Millin also recommends amightygirl.com, a website which encourages girls to be strong and embrace themselves. It has links to both fiction and nonfiction books addressing puberty in girls. Parents can also buy a fun Dot Girl: First Period Kit, which has all the supplies a girl will need during her period.