Thursday, 15 March 2012

Menarche and our parent’s role

Puberty is a time of many changes. For young girls a defining event during this developmental process is menarche, which is defined as “the beginning of the menstrual function.”

Menarche according to Wikipedia, is the first menstrual cycle, or first menstrual bleeding, in female human beings. From both social and medical perspectives it is often considered the central event of female puberty, as it signals the possibility of fertility.

Menarche can be a stressful time for young girls, and the event is often met with mixed emotions. Like many other changes associated with puberty, it can be confusing. Many girls experience fear and anxiety related to their first menstrual cycle, largely because of misinformation or, more frequently, lack of information.

Girls who are prepared for menarche often have a more positive initial experience with menstruation. However, studies show that many girls are not prepared. In Delta women’s survey in involving 10 participants each from 25 local government in Delta State Nigeria, nearly one third of the respondents reported that they had not been told about menarche prior to its occurrence. Being caught unawares, the girls did not know what to do when it came.

Some of the most negative experiences have been reported by women who had no education about menstruation or menarche. In one study, when describing their menarche, women used words such as “panic,” traumatic,” embarrassed,” and “ scared” to recount their experience.

The sight of blood generally frightens people, since bleeding is usually associated with pain or injury. Thus, it is not difficult to see that when proper explanation or preparation is lacking, cultural stereotypes, myths, or even plain ignorance can cause one wrongly to associate menstruation with disease or injury or to view it as something of which to be ashamed. Young girls needs to know that menstrual bleeding is a normal process that all healthy girls experience.

There are many sources of information on menstruation, such as school teachers, health-care practitioners, printed material, and even educational films. Many parents find that these sources often provide valuable information on the biology of menstruation as well as menstrual hygiene. Still, girls may have questions and needs that these sources do not address. Even if they know what to do when their period comes. Girls are often uncertain about how to deal with the varied emotions and feelings associated with menstruation.

Mothers, older sister, and particularly grand mothers can help to provide the additional information and emotional support that young girls need. Most often, girls consider their mother to be most important sources of information about menstruation.

What about fathers? Many girls feel embarrassed to talk to them about menstruation. Some want their father to play an indirect role by offering support and understanding, while others prefer that he not be involved.

In some countries the number of single father households has increased over the past few decades.* Thus, more and more fathers will need to rise to the challenge of educating their daughters about menstruation. These fathers will need to be familiar with the basics of menstruation as well as with the other physical and emotional changes their daughters are facing. Fathers may choose to turn to their own mothers or sisters for practical advice and help in this regard.

Globally, the average age for menarche is generally between 12 and 13 years, although it can occur as early as 8 and as late as 16 or 17. In parts of Africa and Asia, the average age for menarche tends to be higher. For example, in Nigeria the average age is 15. Several factors, such as genetics, economic status, nutrition, physical activity, and altitude, can affect the timing of menarche.

It is best to start sharing information with your daughter before she has her first period. Hence conversations regarding body changes and menstruation should begin early, perhaps when your daughter is about eight years of age. You may feel that this is too early, but if your daughter is between the ages of eight and ten, it is likely that her body is already beginning to mature internally in response to surges of hormones. You will notice external physical changes associated with puberty, such as breast development and an increase in body hair. Most girls experience a growth spurt (rapid increase in height and weight) right before menarche.

Girls who are approaching menarche are often curious about what to expect. Likely they have heard other their peers at school discussing the subject. They have questions, but many have difficulty formulating exactly how to ask about it. They may be embarrassed about the subject.

The same is true for parents. Although mothers are usually the primary sources of information about menstruation, they often feel ill-prepared and awkward when discussing the subject.

Pre-teen girls who are approaching menarche are likely to understand simple, concrete information. Such information might include how often a period occurs, how long it lasts, or how much blood is lost. Thus, in the early stages of menstrual education, it may be best to focus on the more immediate and practical aspects of how to deal with menstruation.

You may wish to discuss details of the biology of menstruation. Oftentimes, you can get educational materials from health –care practitioners or from the library or book-store. Such reference works may be helpful in explaining the details. Some girls may prefer to read this material themselves. Others may feel comfortable if you read the material to gather with them.

Pick a quit place to start the conversation. Begin with a simple discussion about growing up and maturing. Perhaps you could says:

“Someday soon you are going to experience something very normal that happens to all girls. Do you know what it is?” Or a mother might start with a personal comment, such as:

“When i was your age, I started to wonder about what it was like to have a period. My friends and I talked about it in school. Have your friends started talking about it yet?” find out what she already knows about menstruation and clears up any misunderstandings. Be prepared for the fact that in your Initial conversations, you may need to do most if not the talking.

As a woman who no doubt experienced your own anxieties and concerns about menarche, you can draw upon your personal experience when discussing this subject. What did you need to know? What did you want to know? What information was helpful? Endeavor to provide a balanced view of the positive and negative aspects of menstruation. Be open to questions.

Menstrual education should be viewed as a continuing process rather than as a one-time discussion. You do not need to cover all the details in one sitting. Too much information all at once be overwhelming for a young girls. Children learn things in stages. Also, repetition of information on different occasions may be necessary. As young girls grow older, they are more able to understand additional details.

Another factor is that girl’s attitudes toward menstruation change throughout adolescence. After young girls gain more experience with their periods, they will likely face new concerns and questions. Hence, you need to continue to share information with them and answer their questions. Focus on what is most meaningful and appropriate for their age and ability to understand.

4.      ^ Anderson SE, Dallal GE, Must A (April 2003). "Relative weight and race influence average age at menarche: results from two nationally representative surveys of US girls studied 25 years apart". Pediatrics 111 (4 Pt 1): 844–50.doi:10.1542/peds.111.4.844PMID 12671122
7.      ^ Magnússon, T.E. (May 1978). "Age at menarche in Iceland.". American journal of physical anthropology 48 (4): 511–4. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330480410ISSN 0002-9483PMID 655271
9.      ^ Frisch RE (August 1987). "Body fat, menarche, fitness and fertility"Human Reproduction 2 (6): 521–33. PMID 3117838
10 Field work 2012(delta state)

11 Wikipedia.

Written by
Agboje Okwualefe Peace, Egbonimali Shadrack and Kirthi Gita Jayakumar

1 comment:

  1. My daughter had her first last month. It was eventful for both of us. I'm glad she got through it. I'm glad I got through it...