Motherhood

Ask Erica: “How Do I Talk to My Daughter About Her Period?”

How Do I Talk to My Daughter About Her Period (Photo by Guille Faingold)

Our wellbeing columnist Erica Chidi is here to answer our pressing questions about sex, health and overall wellbeing. Today, she’s talking about how to teach young girls about their periods. Here’s her smart advice…

Q. My daughter is entering adolescence, and I’m nervous about the mixed messages she might be getting about menstruation — from her friends, from school, from media, etc. I want to teach her about menstrual hygiene in a way that feels empowered and shame-free. But I also don’t want to overwhelm her. Any tips on approaching this in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable? Is that even possible? — Cora

A. Great news: It is. And you’re already on the right track by taking such proactive approach. One of the first questions I ask students in my Roadmap: Periods class at LOOM, is ‘What do you remember about getting your first period?’ So often, they’ll describe feeling unsupported by their parents, feeling shame and anxiety, or having no discussion at all around the subject. So kudos to you for wanting to lift that veil and make this a positive experience.

Keep in mind that there’s a broad age range for the onset of menstruation. The average age in the U.S. is 12, but it may happen much earlier. And age can make a big difference here. Depending on how old she is, your daughter may be more fearful or more excited, she may or may not have friends who have gone through this — and either way, you can’t know exactly how she’ll react to her first period. So, when the day comes, it’s important to meet and match her emotions. Don’t express more excitement or anxiety than she is. If she’s uncomfortable or sad — which is a very common response — just affirm that: ‘I totally understand that you’re feeling sad, and I understand your frustrations. But let’s get you set up with everything you need, so you feel prepared. I think that might help make this easier.’

Here’s where hygiene comes in — and again, age matters. If she’s on the younger side, her school may not have menstrual products available in the bathrooms, or receptacles in the stalls to dispose of them. And she may not want to have to leave the stall and throw them away in front of her classmates. I always recommend getting a wet bag, where she can store used products in a discreet, sanitary way, until she gets home. I like the ones from Glad Rags and Aisle. (Of course, she doesn’t have to do this. I wouldn’t automatically instruct her not to toss her pads in public if she doesn’t seem bothered.) I’d also suggest getting her some flushable wipes, in case she has to deal with excess blood or leaks (it happens to us all, right?). [Update from readers: Don’t flush these!] A couple basic accessories like these can help give your daughter a greater sense of autonomy and privacy. That’s key.

As for the menstrual products themselves, I do recommend pads as the best way to start. I like LOLA pads (and tampons — they have a First Period Kit, too!). Give her the basic instructions on how to place them, and remind her to try and change them about every four hours. This is also a good place to remind her that period blood — especially during your first few cycles — isn’t always bright red like in the movies. It’s often more brown in the beginning, and that’s totally normal.

Later, when she’s well acclimated to getting her period, you might introduce tampons, menstrual cups and “period panties” — all of which are wonderful options! Aisle makes period underwear, and Lunette is a great first menstrual cup. For first timers, I always recommend trying out these things out at home on a weekend. She’s in a safe, familiar environment and you’re there if she has any questions. Even if she doesn’t, she might just feel better knowing her mom is around.

When it comes to dealing with menstrual products, I strongly encourage you to involve your daughter in the process. Take her shopping for them or do the research online together. If she’s too freaked out or embarassed to hit the maxi-pad aisle in public, that’s fine. Show her the products in the privacy of her room. But I think it’s important that it be a conversation — rather than just telling her, ‘They’re in the bathroom,’ and leaving her to figure it out on her own. The same goes for period panties or reusable pads. You don’t want to just take them to launder yourself. This is an opportunity to each your daughter about washing her intimate clothing and getting her comfortable with menstruation. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s a key element in mitigating all that cultural shame and secrecy around periods.

On that note, you may also want to offer some helpful books that she can read on her own. My absolute favorite is Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls, by Sonya Renee Taylor. She’s the founder of The Body Is Not An Apology (an online community and educational platform, which is also great to explore).

At every stage, just remember to follow your daughter’s lead. I applaud your intention to instill a healthy, positive attitude about menstruation. But always meet her where she’s at. Don’t push her into a philosophy around menstruation if she’s not mentally ready — just as you wouldn’t push her into tampons if she didn’t want to try them. You’re her mom, and you should always be involved, but if you get a little pushback that’s okay. In fact, that’s just as developmentally normal in adolescence as menstruation. Right now, your daughter is learning a lot about her (rapidly changing) body, and she might feel a little secretive about it. But secrecy is not necessarily shame. Allow her that privacy and let her feel autonomous. But always remind her you’re there.


Erica Chidi is the Co-founder and CEO of LOOM, a wellbeing brand empowering women through sexual and reproductive health. Through her book, Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Early Motherhood and her work as both a doula and health educator, she has guided thousands of people in their transition from pregnancy to parenthood. Erica also educates people on pleasure, relationships and self-care by providing an inclusive and shame-free perspective. She began her practice in San Francisco, volunteering as a doula within the prison system and continues to work with organizations that serve marginalized communities.

Thank you so much, Erica! Do you have a sex, health or wellness question for Erica? Please feel free to share in the comments.

P.S. “I’ve never had an orgasm,” and 10 things Erica always tells pregnant women.

(Photo by Guille Faingold/Stocksy. Erica’s photo by Julia Chesky.)

  1. Christy B says...

    I’m not sure what made my parents decide to do this, but when I got my period at age 12, my parents celebrated with me. My dad arrived home from work with roses as a gift, and then my parents took me out to a nice dinner.
    I thought that was normal at the time! Then, as my friends began to start their periods, they shared with me that they had no idea what they were doing and that their moms didn’t talk with them about it at all.

    • Abby says...

      Totally had the same experience! My parents celebrated that day! My parents got me a new grown-up chair for my desk because I got my period and was a hard-working woman now.
      As for instructions I got a book similar to the one mentioned above from my mum. More important though: my family shared a bathroom openly so I got to see my mum having her period and change pads etc. I knew what I was doing because my mum just was open about what she was doing during her period.

  2. Tiffany Koyama Lane says...

    Love this!

    Also just want to acknowledge that most sex ed tends to be very binary and excludes trans/non binary folx! Not all girls have a uterus and some children who know they are boys will menstruate. Teaching all our kids about the many types of bodies benefits everyone. Can’t be free until we all are!

  3. Stephanie says...

    I told my kids (girl, age 8 and boy, age 6) about periods this year. I didn’t want to hide my tampons and pads anymore. I feel like it’s important to talk to them about bodies (men’s and women’s) in a non-shameful way. They kind of giggled at first, but now they are just like, oh, mom, you have your period? It’s treated very matter of fact and I am really glad they know about it and know not to shame or be ashamed of it. I also felt it was SO important for my son to know about it in addition to my daughter.

  4. Lauren E. says...

    When I started losing my teeth as a kid, I started passing out from the sight of blood so my mom was convinced I shouldn’t be informed about periods too early. So instead I asked my friends! I was lucky enough to have a really informed group of girls teach me about periods, tampons, cramps, etc and when my mom finally did sit me down for the talk, I was mortified. She treated it like this fragile topic that might totally shatter me and so it felt strangely shameful. I hope if I ever have a daughter that I remember this post! Such fantastic advice.

    • Mindy says...

      The maker of “American Girls” dolls makes a book about puberty and menstruation that is incredibly detailed and body positive. I bought it for my daughter many years ago ( she’s now 28) and she loved it and shared it with all her friends.

  5. Liz says...

    Love this–so important for young women not to feel embarrassed or afraid of their bodies! Here’s my tip: if your daughter finds a brand of pads or tampons that she likes, ask her to save the box or take a picture of the box. That way, if mom or dad have to run to the store to buy more, they’ll know exactly what brand to get.

  6. Andrea says...

    Haven’t read all the comments, but I hope I am not the only person to post this fabulous Key and Peele sketch. My teen boys and I have watched it together so many times we quote it to each other: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihRHIGpyspA

  7. Rose says...

    Thank you for this wonderful article. Wanted to share that I read Judy Blume’s “Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret” at age 7 or 8 and it taught me so much about getting your period and that time in a young woman’s life. I liked the book so much that I read it 3 times. This was ~1990 but I’m pretty sure the feelings and sentiments still hold true today. My daughter is 2 now, and I will make sure we have this book in the house when she’s older!

    • Lauren E. says...

      Same!! A neighbor gave it to me after her own daughter outgrew it and I learned so much. That book felt like a safe space.

    • Erica says...

      This is how I learned too!

    • Anna says...

      My son actually read that book when he was 9. His best friend, a girl, was reading it and he thought he would too. It was a totally unintentional parenting win as it opened up so many good conversations.

  8. Nicole says...

    Reading these comments, I’m just so grateful–my mother did such a good job of guiding me through puberty–from prepping me, to demonstrating tampon insertion, to chewing my (male) fifth grade teacher out for not letting me go to the bathroom. My periods have always been rather apocalyptic, and I started birth control at 12–while skipping my period altogether didn’t work for me, it was a life changer. Annoyingly, my pediatrician at the time was not on board, so the prescription came from my grandfatherly dermatologist!

  9. Courtney says...

    This is a good reminder to call your child’s school, no matter what stage your child is in, and confirm that they do have receptacles in the stalls and products available in the students’ bathrooms. If they don’t, they should!

  10. Rachel says...

    Glad Rags! They changed my life. Good for the environment and so much more comfortable than disposable pads!

  11. Bebe says...

    So my mom let us (myself and my sisters) go to the store and buy all the different kinds of pads and tampons off the shelf that we wanted. She must have bought 25 kinds (a fortune I realize now!). Then we took them all home and could open them, compare the different kinds, put the tampons in water to see them open, etc. She also had us make little kits (a little pouch with one or two pads, clean underwear, and a wipe or two) that we would carry around so we would be “ready” at any time. Finally, she had us get little calendars so we could track our cycles and follow along what was happening inside (luteal phase, ovulation, etc). We were encouraged to take mirrors and look at ourselves and even to put our (clean!) fingers up our vaginas to figure out the angle for a tampon.
    Looking back I am SHOCKED at how progressive this was considering her very conservative upbringing (she thought getting kissed could get you pregnant, for ex.). When we got our periods, we got a special “period bracelet” to commemorate the day.

    • Megan says...

      This is AMAZING! Taking notes for my own kids someday!

    • Caitrin says...

      Man that is so incredibly sweet… It sounds like your mom really turned it into a rite of passage for you – that’s beautiful.

  12. Rachel says...

    Thank you for this, COJ, it was perfect timing! Today my 6 year old found some pads and asked what the grown up diapers were for, ha! Normally I wouldn’t have known quite how to answer, but after reading this article (and all of the great comments) I was ready with a response!

  13. Jess. says...

    As the mother of boys, I’d like to add that it’s important to talk to our sons about this, too. They will be interacting with women their entire lives (including us!), and we have the power to banish the taboo of menstruation through conversation! Obviously, there are age-appropriate ways to discuss the topic, but not teaching them about it at all is a disservice to them and to society. I’m trying to raise boys who will be saying to their college girlfriends, “Do you need me to run to the store for tampons?”

    • Jody says...

      After I talked with our daughter about getting her period I brought her younger brother into the shared bathroom and told him about it too. A couple years later there was blood on my sheets from a nighttime leak and the boys asked what it was from. I explained again the whole thing in simple kid terms. They just took it in stride. I was given advice when our first was a baby to just start explaining things in age appropriate ways right from the start, even when they’re babies, so that you get comfortable! I took that advice and now I feel like I just give them the basic facts.

    • Krystel says...

      So true! One of my sons (4 years old) walked in on me changing my hygenic product other day and while I wanted to yell “don’t you ever knock?” I used it as an opportunity to explain what I was doing and told him “its normal, it happens to all women, its not gross or yuck”. He was quite curious.

    • Amy says...

      Important point! I have always been extremely open with both my boys (7 and 3 now) about women’s bodies, periods, etc. They know what tampons and Diva cups are for, that sometimes Mama has cramps when she’s on her period, what boobs are for (they were both bottle fed so this was a revelation!), all the various womanly parts and above all, that women’s bodies are beautiful and miraculous!

  14. Meghan says...

    This is just lovely. Empowering and full of practical, healthy advice. THANK YOU from all the moms of pre- pre-teens :) After my first period, my mom just took me out to lunch and had me unwrap a “present” AT THE TABLE (gasp) which turned out to be a box of super plus tampons (double gasp!)…with a note taped to the outside of the box that said “Read the directions, welcome to the club”. HA!

  15. Nicole says...

    Could you do an article about how to have these types of conversations with boys? I honestly have no idea what the male equivalent of getting your period is… maybe erections unexpectedly? I’m not sure my kids’ father will have those conversations with them and I’d love to support them… but am unsure where to begin. Thanks!

    • Ileana says...

      I echo this, I have a male friend who grew up in a very religious household and they didn’t discuss any of these things. When he had his first wet dream he thought he had some kind of infection!

    • E says...

      Yes please!!

  16. Emma says...

    “But secrecy is not necessarily shame.” – Love that reminder.

  17. Jessie says...

    Anita Johnston writes a chapter in her book “eating in the light of the moon” about starting your period. It’s lovely. I wish my mom had given me a story that Anita told her daughters when I got my period.

  18. Sarah says...

    My mother grew up poor, in the middle child in a family of twelve. Nobody had time for these kinds of conversations. She was 10 years old when her first period came and she was terrified. So when I was born, she made damn sure I wouldn’t end up like her. At seven years old she sat me down and with the best of intentions and utmost kindness, she terrified me ahead of time. Looking back now, I’m very thankful, but oh my god, did I ever avoid her when it was time to talk about sex!

  19. Kim says...

    As a pediatrician who is passionate about adolescent relationships and reproductive and sexual health, I love to see Cup of Jo addressing this topic. It’s so important for our girls to have someone they can talk to about periods and other aspects of reproductive and sexual health with no judgment and get the facts. And it can help counter when, as with my daughter’s school counselor, they have experiences like being told that their period is a “condition” that requires special accommodations (!!). Thank you, Erica and Cup of Jo!

    • Melissa Burgett says...

      Same thoughts from this pediatrician too! By the way, do you know about The Center for Young Women’s Health at Boston Children’s? I really appreciate their Q&A website for adolescent girls https://youngwomenshealth.org/ They have instructions on using tampons, how to shave, vegan diets, etc.

  20. E says...

    Thank you for this article! My daughter is still years away from this (she just turned 1) but it is good to start thinking now about how this will be a series of discussions, not just one conversation.

    I wish there was more knowledge in general out there about women’s health and periods. I have a close friend who suffered from endometriosis for years before finally getting a new doctor who was able to get her a diagnosis. It’s believe that the endo is part of why she miscarried her first child, and just in the last few months she was able to get surgery to improve the period situation and her ability to carry future pregnancies to term. I feel like it’s just another symptom of the patriarchy in medicine that we don’t treat menstrual cycles as anything more than a nuisance or unfortunate time when really periods & fertility cycles tell us what is happening with the health of our bodies.

    • Hilary says...

      I agree and would also add that even as a 30 yr old woman, I know nothing of menopause. It is never taught in health class. My mom has never told me her experience. I feel clueless! Would love if this topic could also be covered so I can educate myself and my baby daughter one day.

  21. Caroling says...

    As a swimmer who started there period at a taper meet (tech suits! No leaving the pool deck! Cramps during races!) I wish people would realize that you can play sports on your period. And you can swim on your period. I had to use tampons right away so I could swim, but it really wasn’t a big deal. It was a bigger deal to take off my tech suit than to change the tampon. You never need to sit out on a beach day (unless you want to).

  22. Kate says...

    My mom sent me to a class at our local hospital when I was in 5th grade, because my friends were getting their periods and my very, very conservative Lutheran grade school refused to say anything on the subject.

    The class was a full morning, with videos, tutorials, round table discussions(!) and I still feel so grateful that my mom rebelled against the very religious world we were both stuck in and signed me up for that class. The only problem? I went to this class and then didn’t get my period for 3 more years! I was on high alert for 3 years and VERY prepared when it finally happened!

  23. Laura Rennie says...

    What a helpful and thoughtfully written post! My mom wasn’t in in town when I first got my period, so my dad took me to the store to buy pads and my older brother randomly hugged me throughout the day. SOB. My older sister over-nighted a care package with period goodies, and everything was labeled with a note. Chocolate and pretzels for cravings, meds for cramps, tissues for tears, etc. It was all so dear.

    My 4 yr old daughter said the darndest thing last night at the dinner table. “MOM. I’m not going to ask you this again. What. Is. PMS?”

    • jane says...

      Oh my gosh how sweeet your family are 💖 VERY good to hear thank you.

  24. Courtney says...

    This is so timely! My seven year old daughter just came up to me and asked “Mama, what’s a period?” And I said “It’s the little dot at the end of a–oh wait …” when I realized what she was really asking. Luckily she already knows the birds and bees basics, so I was able to meet her where is now, as you suggested, and just tell her on a very basic level what happens. I also tried to convey that while there’s blood, it’s normal and not gross or bad … we didn’t get into menstrual products or anything–I’m guessing that will come later.

    I’m lucky that my mom was also very open about this stuff, and got me products beforehand and told me how to use them, so it was (mostly) NBD when the time came. I wish she’d talked about flow, though! I had no idea it could be so heavy at first so there some accidents in the beginning. Ah, 7th grade, I don’t miss you.

    • silly lily says...

      I never thought of it, but for girls, a period is the beginning of something huge and important…..but is also the end of something — a sentence. And a sentence can be the beginning of a very long period of time. No wonder there’s so much confusion for young girls. With, I don’t know, MILLIONS of words in the English language, we haven’t come up with better ways of explaining things.
      When I first asked my Mom about it (having found sanitary napkins in the closet I shared with my sister) I was told that my body was getting ready to have a baby. I LOVED babies (still do, 55 years later) so that was a wonderful way to learn about it. Let’s all agree to continue to present this to the girls in our lives as the beginning of something wonderful. And not the end of anything.

  25. Tracie M says...

    Be honest and answer any and all of their questions honestly! I used the American Girl Doll book, the Care and Keeping of You, with my daughter. It covers not just periods, but also how to care for your growing and changing body. It answered a lot of her questions in a matter of face and not embarrassing way. And she was able to keep it and reference it as needed. My husband and I have worked hard to make periods just a part of how a woman’s body works, and not something shameful. She knows that if she needs pads or tampons and I’m not around, she can ask her dad and he can get them for her!

    • Amy says...

      Yes, I want to second this wonderful book! It has been great for me and my daughter to use in our discussions.

    • Alyssa says...

      I’m 30, but that was the book that I used growing up to explain things. My parents were (and are) open and honest and caring. But sometimes, your brain wants to process something without having to ask someone when it might feel embarrassing or you might not have the full means to articulate it. But that book was great!

  26. thank you so much for this article. perfect timing, and such great advice. and thank you for the product referrals!

  27. Jacquie says...

    This reminded me of when I first got my period, the summer before 6th grade. I was lucky enough to spend childhood summers at the beach with my family and I didn’t want to miss out on wearing a bathing suit or swimming. I don’t remember if I asked about tampons or if my mom did this unprompted, but she DEMONSTRATED ON HERSELF how to insert a tampon!! It was actually less awkward for 11 year old me than you’d think.. we were (are) close and my mom never hid her body from me so I wasn’t that shocked by seeing my mom’s vulva (lol so strange to talk about my mom’s vulva on the internet). But I think it’s so funny that my mom, a middle school teacher, couldn’t help but be a teacher and explain tampons visually!

    • Amy says...

      My mom did the same thing! She was a high school biology teacher haha.

    • MN Hazel says...

      Mine did the same! She never hid it from me when I was growing up (if I was in the bathroom while she was for instance). I was so excited when I got my period and she took me to get hot chocolate to celebrate. It’s one of my best memories with my mom. I pushed through the cramps because she made it so special.

  28. sue says...

    Thank you for a gentle and informative article on how to speak to your daughter about getting your period. I’m the mom of a 13 year old son.
    I’d love guidance on how to speak to him about it. Many of his friends are girls who are going/have gone through it and it’d be wonderful to offer him ways to understand that are sensitive and gentle, with a bit of humour to address any awkwardness. Thank you.

    • Tracie M says...

      Make sure he understands the biology of periods. I work with a lot of students and the boys often have no idea how it works and so they are apt to make inappropriate comments. I have a 14 year old son and a 16 year old daughter and I’ve explained to him how tampons worked because he asked! So be honest and if you are super matter of fact about it, it makes it less awkward!

    • Eva says...

      When he was about nine, my son asked me what the “diapers” in the bathroom were for, and I had a chance to explain it to him very matter of factly, and answer his questions, such as if it hurts to bleed every month. I’m grateful I had this opportunity.
      I agree this is a great and so important article, but right when I read it, I thought What about boys? How and when do we talk to them about periods?

    • L says...

      Another happy copper IUD user! I’ve never had kids and didn’t find the insertion to be a big deal. I’ve had it for 6 years and really wish I had gone to it immediately, but never knew it was an option and honestly..it scared me! Hormonal birth control pills were terrible (ugh, side effects) for me. The copper IUD isn’t scary, promise. My period is a little heavier but it was super light before so, there’s also that. We’re all different and I’m just glad people are finding birth control that works for them! L

  29. Emily says...

    My 10 year old daughter played the Period Game (https://www.periodgame.com/) in school with her class (both boys and girls) and came home raving about it. We got one to have at home and have played as a family – I highly recommend. It’s a great way to answer questions in a fun and engaging format.

  30. Mara says...

    I’m so interested in the comments saying that the IUD helped with lighter and more pleasant periods. My [copper/hormone-free] IUD experience was a nightmare. It might be important to note that I’ve never had kids. The insertion was the most painful experience of my life and I almost passed out and vomited at once, it was quite the dramatic scene in that room. For three years I had by far the heaviest and longest periods of my life, so bad that I couldn’t last my one-hour commute without leaving the subway to find a public bathroom to change my tampon. I also needed a special diet for that week due to the heavy loss of blood. I eventually found out that the IUD had dislodged (?) and was not where it was supposed to be, which probably explains why sex had become painful. Now I’m happily back on Nuvaring. I wonder, for the women who liked the IUD, if it was hormonal, and if they’ve already had kids. I hear it’s one of the most popular options for women of all ages in Europe, so to this day I’m curious what happened with me.

    • Olivia says...

      Hi Mara, I’m a PA and a happy hormonal IUD user for ten plus years. Your experience is absolutely expected from a copper IUD. In school and on my rotations, I was taught to expect heavy, irregular bleeding with copper IUDs. We thus never offered them unless a patient requested. “Hormones” are a dirty word, it seems, but hormonal IUDs are an excellent way to reduce/nearly eliminate heavy flow.

    • Christine says...

      Hi Mara!

      Oh my goodness, I had a similar experience with the IUD (vomit, diarrhea, passed out on the floor of the doctor’s office, in that horrific order). I must also mention that I have never had kids, and I find that women who have given birth have much more positive experiences with the IUD insertion and side effects. The next problem was the spotting that went on for months…And then the cherry on top: my partner felt the IUD and it poked him every time we had sex. All of that pain for nothing! I never recommend the IUD to any of my friends who have not given birth yet.

      Thank you CofJ team for another thoughtful article…I really wish my mom had a conversation with me about my period 30 years ago when I first got mine!

    • Christina says...

      Hi Mara! I’m a hormonal IUD user of 3, almost 4 years now. I haven’t had any children yet in life. It was uncomfortable and painful to be inserted, but my OB-GYN was compassionate and caring. She prescribed a single Valium and ibuprofen, to take about an hour before the appointment. I think that helped a lot. I had pain for a few days, just significant cramping. I spotted almost daily for about 3 months. Since then, I’ve had no issues at all! My periods are much lighter, although I do still get PMS and cramping – which is odd considering the periods are so light.

      I just wanted to share a positive experience with a hormonal IUD, and I appreciate Olivia’s comments affirming that hormonal is not negative in this context. I hope this helps!

    • jane says...

      WHY ARE COPPER IUD’S STILL LEGAL if this is “common”??? Now that there are alternative they should be banned globally.

      How would we make that happen, anyone?

    • HG says...

      Hi Mara and Christine,

      I’m sorry to hear about both of your terrible experiences.. I remember investigating options on the internet for IUD types, I went with my current Mirena hormonal IUD after consulting with my GP. There’s so many stories out there and if I read too many I probably would have changed my mind. Alas, I have been lucky with the process (and no, I haven’t given birth before).. I’m writing this so hopefully women don’t get alarmed from the stories. There’s a measure of risk in most anything you do, as in a health procedure so take time and do what’s best for your body.

    • Emily says...

      Mara, I’m so sorry for the experience you had. I wish women didn’t have to bear the burden of birth control! But that said, I’m on my third Mirena hormonal IUD (2 pre-kid, 1 post-kid). The insertion pre-kid was awful! I completely sweat through the paper on the doctor’s table and had to pull gummy strips of disintegrated tissue paper off my back. Post-kid, I barely felt it ha. And while I’m on it, zero periods at all. It’s the best

    • GG says...

      Sorry to hear about your bad experience w a copper IUD! Just wanted to chime in bc someone said “they should be banned.” They’re a great option for a lot of people. They last a decade and don’t involve hormones (not saying there’s anything wrong w hormonal BC for many people). We need more information about different people’s reproductive health experiences and more birth control options, not less. I’m on my second copper IUD (no kids) and I while the first insertion was truly the worst pain I have ever experienced, and the first year kinda sucked, 12 years later I’m really glad I stuck with it. I was nervous about getting the new one inserted recently and the pain was like your average Pap smear. I add this here bc I couldn’t find much info about it online! Not trying to covert anyone here, just alarmed by the comment that it should be banned.

    • Jane says...

      Jane: with all due respect to Mara’s experience, hormonal IUDs have side effects too. For some women, they’re negligible and for others (me) they’re not. Mirena caused me to gain 60+ pounds in under 3 months. The copper IUD (Paragard) gave me slightly heavier bleeding for a few months; now things are back to normal. Different things work for different women – that’s why we have options in the first place. No need to ban anything.

    • S. says...

      Another happy Mirena user here, four years in! I haven’t had kids and I felt a horrible prolonged pinch when I got it in, followed by very light cramping for a few days, but that was it.

      I’m one of a small minority who still get their period, which I honestly don’t mind, except that my cycle became very unpredictable. I used to be incredibly regular, but now they’re a bit shorter, a bit lighter and just show up whenever! I still get one per month, but it moves around. I still get PMS though, so I do get advance warning when it’s coming! That might make it seem not so great, but it’s been so worth it! The most reliable and stress-free birth control I’ve ever had. For what it’s worth, I’m in my early 30s and live in Canada, and all of my friends who menstruate and have sex that could create a baby have IUDs!

      To the commenter wondering why the copper IUDs are still allowed – for some folks they are the absolute best thing! It just varies SO much depending on your body and your cycle. A good family doctor/gynecologist should be able to go through all of the options and find the one that’s best suited to your needs – though sometimes it still takes a bit of trial and error (I had the absolute worst experience with the Nuvaring when I was in my 20s, but I knew other folks at the time who loved it!)

    • Katie says...

      Mirena user, so hormonal IUD, and no kids. It’s the best thing in regard to reproductive health that I did for myself.

      Insertion was absolutely fine, however I did have regular cramping for the first three months while my body adjusted.

      Prior to my IUD, I had extremely heavy periods with cramping that caused me to throw up. I was anemic due to my heavy period and the first day had to change a super tampon every 30 minutes. For that reason, my doctor said I wasn’t a candidate for the Copper IUD.

      Anyway, post IUD I have occasional period cramps, but much more bearable, and way less bleeding, maybe two regular tampons once a month. I’m no longer anemic. Sex is still good.

    • Mara says...

      Wow, thank you all for the great feedback about IUD experiences! It’s amazing how different they can be. It’s too bad we have to put our bodies through so many birth control trials until we find what works for us. My longtime Nuvaring was my 8th option! Hopefully someday hubby will get that vasectomy…

    • Truly sorry to anyone who had an awful experience. I had a hormonal IUD inserted when I was 26, before having kids, and still consider it to be one of the most horrific things that ever happened to me (I am also very fortunate to have never been hospitalized, dealt with significant pain or broken a single bone in my body.)

      That said, 2 hours later I was up and able to work a busy 12 hour shift in an ER just with some Ibuprofen, and had zero problems with it moving forward. Would definitely recommend any woman considering an IUD speak with a trusted care provider. They can be a great option for birth control

    • Kerry Scott says...

      Just wanted to add another positive Mirena experience in case it can help. I had my first one in 2012-2017 (pre-baby) and loved it. Had a kid in 2018. Got my second Mirena inserted in 2019. I am a huge fan. The insertion both times was an uncomfortable pinch, like a deep period cramp, but that was pretty much it. My periods tapered off over three months to nothing.

      I don’t know if this is useful but I personally needed this reminder: There is often a strong negative bias to what ends up online on discussion boards. Most people with a good experience of anything are less motivated to comment than those with a bad experience. This does not minimize or negate the fact that some people have really suffered with various types of birth control including the Mirena. Their experiences matter and should be recognized and understood. But I almost cancelled my appointment to have the Mirena inserted in 2012 after reading numerous negative stories about it online. I am grateful that several other women in my public health PhD program gave me a little shake and reminded me of this negative bias.

      If you browse discussions online you may feel that at least half of women have terrible experiences with their IUDs. However, the research suggests that the vast majority (~80%) are happy with their IUD:
      – At follow-up survey 83% of 100 women (mean use 13.4 months) were ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ with their IUD , and there were no differences in satisfaction between the two IUD types (Mirena and copper). Some 75% of participants stated that the insertion procedure went ‘very well’, despite 78% rating insertion pain as moderate to severe, and 46% experiencing vasovagal symptoms. The 12-month continuation rate was 89%, with discontinuations for expulsion (3%), side effects (6%), lack of anticipated benefit (1%) and pregnancy (1%). (Hall & Kutler 2016, DOI: 10.1136/jfprhc-2014-101046)

      – Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) satisfaction was high: 80% happy/neutral, 73% would use LARC again, 81% would recommend to a friend. 78% of women with LARCs continued using it 12 months after insertion. (Hubacher 2018, DOI: 10.1016/j.contraception.2018.02.001 — this study was extra interesting because they managed to enrol women who initially came in to the clinic looking for short-acting contraceptives; this means the study population isn’t a special group of women who were already primed to want IUDs. Instead they’re more like a typical population of women in the US who just want some birth control.)

      Anyway, I wish I had time to fully go down the rabbit hole and do a literature review of IUD satisfaction, but that’s all from me for now. Good luck everyone on finding the approach to contraception and menstruation that works best for you.

    • LK says...

      I have the Mirena IUD and after about a year of getting it, my period went away (I do get cramps, but no bleeding). I just had my first one replaced after 5 years. The process for me is a bit more intense than normal (I get an IV for some meds and light anesthesia) but afterwards, no pain or cramping. And to not spend money or worry about birth control for 5 years. I’ve never had a baby and can have it removed when I’m ready.

      The Birth Control Pill gave me dangerous high blood pressure.

  31. silly lily says...

    When my husband was a young teenager, 50+ years ago, and first learning about the opposite sex, he was under the impression that all women got their periods on the same day every month. As in, all of us together, at the same time. Which is hysterically funny, but on the other hand, it kind of makes you wonder…..maybe the world WOULD be a better place, if the ladies could harness all that power. And use it only for good!

    • Sarz says...

      That sounds like the premise of a really great movie. :D

    • E says...

      This is comical and adorable in a very strange way. When did he learn otherwise? Also WHAT A DAY THAT WOULD BE.

  32. Abbe says...

    Any other brown girls out there who had to have a puberty ceremony when they got their period? It’s a religious Hindu ceremony in which rituals are conducted by the girl’s family to aid her transition into a woman (although in earlier times it was also to alert the community the girl was eligible for marriage, which, yuck). In theory it could be nice but as an 11 year old who had just gotten her period for the first time I was SO EMBARRASSED. I avoided telling my mom for several months to try and get out of it. It ended up getting blown up into a 500 person party complete with fog machine and pancake makeup. I still laugh at the photo album we have of awkward 11 year old me in my first sari posing with props like peacock feathers and a flute(??).

    That was followed by years of period shame — I was a heavy bleeder and I remember getting admonished many times by my mother for leaks (which I was never told how to clean). I hope if I ever have a child with a period I’m able to teach them how to handle it without shame. I like the idea of having a ceremony which informs them that their family is there to support them through their transition into adulthood, but also that that transition takes place over many many many years and that getting one’s period is simply a part of it. Also, that there is no shame in any part of puberty — from bra shopping (which I also hated, I have big breasts and my mother always seemed upset with me for having a large chest), to sexual awakenings, to periods.

    • Hannah says...

      Hi Abbe,
      I just wanted to thank you for your inclusive language: “a child with a period.” Small choices like this make a BIG difference!
      Thanks,
      Hannah

    • Sarz says...

      Abbe, thank you for your story! I’ve never heard of such a ceremony. As an awkward adult/formerly extremely awkward teen, I blush at the very notion of such attention. If there’s any upside to that embarrassment you faced, it’s that it likely had some part in the formation of the insightful, empathetic person that you obviously are now. :-)

    • t says...

      Yes for gender neutral period discussion. Boys/men and other genders can have periods too.

  33. Genevieve says...

    Great advice :)
    Especially about the colour of the blood. I thought I was totally prepared, had a pad in my school bag “just in case”, but I had always been told to look out for “a few bright red spots of blood” and when I actually started my first period one day at school I was totally confused as to what it was and spent all afternoon in a panic (and didn’t even use the pad I had ha).
    I’d also say as a general plea to people everywhere: always have a bin in the your bathroom, even if you don’t need it yourself.

    • Katie N says...

      YES! Bin in bathroom. Beyond periods, it’s so useful. I grew up without a trashcan in our small first floor bathroom and it always made things awkward, esp for friends who didn’t expect it. At 13 I didn’t think to bring it up to my mom. Gosh, maybe I should make my new housewarming gift to friends a bathroom trashcan.

    • Anne says...

      AND, if you can, a bin with a top! When I was younger, I had one friend whose dog LOVED going into the trash and… well… you can imagine the horror of going to a sleepover and waking up the next morning and seeing your products strewn about, and hearing the parents come down and exclaim, “what happened here!?!” I think I died, then and there.

  34. hm says...

    Some good advice from my mom: it never hurts to have a spare pair of pants in the trunk of your car (or your locker). You could get cold at a bonfire! You could have an unfortunate leak! You could spill something! Related: she also made me carry an emergency $30 cash, folded and hidden in my wallet (in our small town, $30 was enough to get out of almost any bind). I only used my emergency jeans and cash once or twice, but they gave me tremendous peace of mind.

    And one piece of early-menstrual advice I wish I’d been given: white pants and periods are natural enemies. Wait until you’ve got a better sense of your cycle before you take that particular risk.

    • Amy says...

      This is a wonderful idea! I’m going to put spare pants in my car now, for me and for my daughters!

  35. E says...

    When I was 5, I was in a public restroom with a family friend and I asked her what the tampon dispenser was for. She told me “every month a woman has a chance to get pregnant and if she doesn’t, she needs those.” I still think it was such a lovely, age-appropriate response, and am impressed that she had a ready response even though she didn’t yet have kids.

    • Jen says...

      Yes! This is what I tell my 3 and 5 year old daughters whenever they notice a menstruation related item in the house or a restroom. As they get older we’ll add more details. This way there’s never one Big Talk about these things, just a slow continual dialogue that evolves as they’re ready. I also want to set myself up as someone who will give real answers now so they keep asking me questions when they’re older.

  36. Rosie says...

    Thank you for this post! My daughter started a little more than six months ago just shy of her 12th birthday. We were prepared with supplies at home and a period ‘kit’ that she was taking to school in the event it happened there but are still learning her cycle since it seems all over the place at this point. You’ve shared some wonderful tips.

  37. Angela Chaisson says...

    Seconded!

  38. Julia says...

    I’m planning on making this cute little bag filled with different types of pads, tampons and things so she can take it with her and doesn’t have the embarrassing ‘a tampon dropped out of my schoolbag in the middle of the hallway’ moment (which, in retrospect isn’t that embarrassing but oh, those puberty years)
    And I hope it will make her feel special, seen and celebrated because becoming a women isn’t something she has to Be ashamed or feel dirty about.

  39. Nikki says...

    Haha this reminds me I got my first period while camping with my dad, who was mystified. Weird story.

    Also where is Erica’s jumpsuit from? It looks beautiful and I wonder if I could pull it off….

  40. Kate says...

    Oh this is perfect. Also perfect – Welcome to Your Period, a brilliant and inclusive guide for kids and parents. I literally teared up reading it, thinking about how much 13-year old me NEEDED this book! xx

  41. Amanda says...

    As a mom of a 13 year old girl who started her period 2 years ago, I’ll offer a few other things that were useful for us.
    Love the Lola pads and first period kit mentioned above.
    Period pantie, bathing suit and sleep shorts are great! The bathing suit meant not having to sit out a fun pool day or explain anything to girl friends not yet getting their own period. The sleep shorts are saving our sheets!!!
    For those near Stanford in the San Francisco Bay Area, their Heart to Heart classes are great!
    And a funny story – Just as her body started changing and well before she was thinking about her period, I gave her the American Girls, My Body book. We had a great conversation where she told us her opinion on pads (ok) and tampons (weird and don’t want to talk about it yet) and my husband volunteered to answer any questions and help and in case I was traveling for business to get my sister on the phone to help. Our daughter piped up with “Its ok Daddy. I know you want to help. You just don’t have right equipment.”

  42. SuzieQ says...

    Moon Time by Lucy Pearce changed my life. Women’s cycles are tied to the phases of the moon. You experience four different emotional cycles within the mensuration cycle. When I read it, my mind was blown and my life forever changed. Why, why, why does sex ed teach this?!?

    • Em says...

      Because theres absolutely no scientific evidence that menstrual cycles are affected by the phases of the moon.

    • SuzieQ says...

      Yes! Science under-studies female-identifying persons and their bodies. I find the shared experience of a multi-generational BIPOC community of women to be a helpful offset to fill the informational void discounting nature and the female.

    • shannon says...

      No scientific evidence…hmmm…maybe no modern scientific evidence, but could this be because we are constantly bombarded by artificial light and disconnected from the natural rhythms created by moonlight and daylight? Before I ever used artificial hormones, I had my period at every full moon for years. It was very handy and easy to track! Lots of ancestral/storytelling wisdom aligns with the menstruation with lunar cycle idea. It’s fascinating to learn about even if it’s no longer occurring due to modern lifestyle shifts.

    • Jane says...

      @em There is no scientific evidence because the field of science has historically largely ignored studying women in general and needless to say, anything moon related, specifically. Were you not aware?

      I very scientifically noted throughout my life that if I got my period on a full moon, for reasons unknown it would be a literally blissful experience. I knew it was a hormonal experience somehow triggered by the full moon because it happened without fail to the point that I looked forward to it and loved that time.

      Of course my period would often land elsewhere in the moon’s cycle and on those occasions it would be a normal period. Diet plays a huge role, until I figured it, out in whether one has it rough or it is a breeze.

      On that note if you are not planning to get pregnant, avoid protein which you will crave just before and during your period. It radically lowers both blood flow and cramps – and the same goes for caffeine.

  43. Elise says...

    Thank you for these tips, I’ll pass them on to friends with daughters. If I ever have a daughter I’ll make sure to approach this topic, and any other, at her pace, as you recommend. It’s so important. On the topic of talking about your period, there’s a great ‘period’ scene in the movie “20th Century Women”, somewhat cringy but also very open about getting your period and being on your period. I highly recommend watching it.

  44. Ann says...

    Looking back at the emotional and physical toll my periods have caused in the 25+ years I wish I’d had more knowledge.
    From ovulation to the day the cycle begins I am lost to myself.
    I cry. I want a divorce. I can not stand myself and my worthlessness.
    The day I start bleeding the curtain lifts and my brain is flushed.
    PMDD is an old friend named only recently and my hope is that it doesn’t rob any more enjoyment out of this life. Or the lives of those close to me.

    • Hilary says...

      I have a friend with PMDD that was really interfering with her life. I had no idea they had anti depressant regimens specifically designed for this. If you haven’t spoken to a therapist and/or psychiatrist about it, it might be worth a conversation!

    • Anna says...

      If you haven’t already researched it, there’s some interesting info out there on bioidentical hormone therapy possibly helping with PMDD. It’s taken me a while to find providers to work with, but some natural progesterone has helped me a lot with cycle related depression. ( It’s also supposed to be much safer than the synthetic hormones in birth control.) Hope you can find a solution- I know how miserable it can be to feel like your brain doesn’t work for two or three weeks a month.

    • Jen says...

      PMDD pal here–you got this! It took me a while to figure out what works for me (little-to-no-alcohol before period, exercise regularly, eating well, a solid therapist, and CBT techniques). Best of luck–these things take time to figure out.

  45. Sara says...

    Erica, I love when you post; such great info! Helpful for being there for my niece who’s in the middle of puberty.

    On another note, thank you for your amazing book! I had my third baby in October and your book was the best I’ve read for prep and after. I’ve gifted it a few times as well. You are in your zone of genius and and I was definitely basking in your light.

    Warmly,
    Sara

  46. Mara says...

    This is such fantastic advice, I love it! I had to feel my way around blindly when I got my period at 13…my mom was very conservative and I think to her, the first period= MY DAUGHTER IS GOING TO HAVE SEX and that clammed her up for sure. I never got the talk or any other mother-daughter first-period bonding that all my friends got. The first time I got my period I was too afraid to tell my mom, and stole pads from her bathroom. Well, four months in, the family dog apparently had enough and decided to out me. In a fit of separation-anxiety rage he went into my bathroom and took out a week’s worth of period trash and spread it all over the top floor of the house (hellooo white carpets). My mom was brought to tears that I didn’t tell her as soon as it happened, my dad couldn’t quite make eye contact with me for a few days, and my little sister had enough teasing fodder to last a year. I look forward to one day being an open resource for my lovely nieces with this!

  47. Tanya P says...

    Please consider investing some time in teaching your daughters Fertility Awareness along with how to navigate the outward signs of menstruation! Please educate early about what their bodies are actually doing. So many girls and women have no idea and I didn’t till I was in my 20s how to understand cycles and fertility and take charge of my body more fully.

    • A says...

      Yes! Lisa Hendrickson-Jack, host of the Fertility Friday podcast and author of “The Fifth Vital Sign,” is a wonderful resource for this.

    • Stephanie says...

      This is so important!

    • katie says...

      Not only daughters, but sons too. Men need to take more responsibility around fertility than many historically have and part of that is understanding women’s bodies.

      More often than not, the burden of birth control is placed on women. I’d like to see men actively navigate and participate with their partners.

    • Meredith says...

      100% agree with this — it’s been so empowering to understand what is actually going on in my own body!

    • Sara says...

      THIS! One other huge thing I wish I was taught about as an adolescent is changes in cervical fluid throughout your cycle. In middle school I remember occasionally having copious amounts of stretchy egg-white cervical mucus appear in my underwear and on toilet paper after wiping and not understanding what it was and being really baffled. But because it was clear, didn’t smell funny, there was no itching or pain, and it would go away after a day or two, I figured it was normal (and it was) – but I never asked anyone about it, not even my ob-gyn! I stopped experiencing this after I went on hormonal birth control around 15/16 and had totally forgotten about it until I had a serious lightbulb moment when I read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” (as a then-30-year-old woman, trying to get pregnant and now wishing desperately for the fertile cervical fluid of my adolescence…) I feel like my sex-ed classes taught the science of what was going on throughout a woman’s cycle, but not what that could actually look like physically in our bodies!

  48. bethany says...

    So, I got my period pretty early, at just 10 years old. My mom told me to use pads, because she said that until I was older, using tampons might risk popping my hymen (my parents were conservative evangelicals, ugh). Long story short: I never learned to use tampons. I’m 32 now and I’ve always felt like I need to “get over” the weirdness of never having used them, but every time I try, it just feels so uncomfortable and like I’m not doing it right. I’m mostly fine with using pads, but there are times when I wish I was adept at using tampons so that sleeping is more comfortable or so that it’s more conspicuous with whatever outfit I’m wearing. Anybody else dealt with this, at this age, and have recommendations?

    • Mara says...

      Yes! My Catholic mother pushed pads on me too — I’ll never forget how awful it was to be running track in high school, in the hot and humid city where I live, wearing a bulky, diaper-like pad that may or may not have been showing through my nylon shorts. I don’t think I really because comfortable using tampons until I was in my early 30’s…up until then they’d be so uncomfortable and feeling like they were halfway out. A friend had to finally tell me what to do — what helped me most was knowing to angle downwards, not up, and to push it far in. Use a tampon with a plastic applicator (not those tiny OB ones). Doing those things plus practicing and not resorting to pads/panty liners out of frustration really helped me a lot! I can say I’m at least partially recovered from being raised by a conservative mother…

    • Kate says...

      I had a similar situation growing up! I started trying to use them in my twenties and never felt comfortable. I found out during my first pregnancy that I have a tilted cervix which is totally normal but can cause discomfort when using tampons! Talk to your gyno about it. I have figured out which brand works best for me and have figured out better positioning!

    • Cris F says...

      I’m 37 and never used a tampon – only pads. I’ve always had a very heavy flow (with very frequent leaks… yep TMI) and this has been my ‘excuse’ not to try them (as I would need to change hourly or so) but honestly, when thinking about it, it might be because my mother only used pads and never even mentioned tampons. Also, this was never a topic with my friends and although I’ve always known the mechanics of it, never got to try.

    • Anne says...

      I’m there with you (though not with the evangelical parents). I never used tampons when I was younger – I guess I was too shy around my own body to work out how to do it – and still now it is not something I like to use. Only when I’m swimming do I use one.

      I did get a better relationship with tampons after I discovered the insert holsters – it kinda gives you an idea of how far you actually have to get it up – by often I have to do it twice (with 2 different tampons) before I feel that it works.

    • Hayley B says...

      Bethany, I can so relate to this! I too have a life-long hangup over using tampons, mostly stemming from struggling to use one for the first time as a teenager on a beach holiday with my friends (probably not the most conducive environment to try it for the first time ever!). Not only was i low-key freaking out over why it was so impossible to do, the whole experience made me feel there must be something wrong with me. To top it off i was in the bathroom so long that that my friends were starting to notice/wonder what was going on with me!

      To answer your question, unfortunately I don’t have any helpful suggestions as to how to overcome this, and as I’m now 33 I’ve basically resigned myself to being a life-long pad user. I just buy the slimmest, longest, most comfortable ones (with wings!!) I can find and have since made my peace with that.

    • Agnès says...

      Maybe try the lighter ones, that absorb less; and try hunkered down. I haven’t used tampons in 20 years, but I did for a long time (for the same reasons you mention).

    • Sharon says...

      Hi Bethany! So, I got my period late, at 14 I think? And at the time, I was very active in cheerleading. My mom just gave me a tampon and I inserted. Done and done. At the time, I had no experience with sex, so it wasn’t like I was “familiar”, but I promise it was easy enough. Worse case scenario, it’s uncomfortable because you don’t insert far enough. You should not be able to feel it once fully inserted. Start with a light day one that will be small. You will want to sit on a toilet as it’s easier to angle correctly. I would also start with the cotton ones that are cylinder shape (vs the ones that are short and round). The string will likely always hang out a bit so you can always remove if you are uncomfortable. You can do it!!

      Today I use a silicone cup, which I prefer to tampons, but it’s a bit more of a learning curve to insert and remove the first time. But I agree, wearing a pad or liner for multiple days is not comfortable. My favorite part of the silicone cup is being able to sleep with it in and just wear sleep shorts to bed so everything can breath.

    • Barbara says...

      I was also not a fan of tampons (my mom also advocated for me to use pads, so I tried tampons once or twice but always found them uncomfortable). Then at age 24 I got a summer job as a lifeguard so couldn’t rely on pads anymore! What I did was switch to a menstral cup, which came with its own awkward adjustment phase but OH MY GOSH LIFE CHANGER. I’m now 30 and that’s one of the best life decisions of my 20s!

    • TJ says...

      Try a few different styles/ brands and also sizes. I didn’t wear tampons until my late 20s and found them to be awkward for months. Even now I switch between pads & tampons depending on the day. Wearing tampons does get easier. Also, you do feel them sometimes (not uncomfortably).

    • Anne St.Jean says...

      I also came to tampons pretty late compared to many of my friends (early 20’s) and my sister, who’s your age, still never uses them, and she’s given birth! What I advise for first time use is to wait until your heaviest flow day to try, because it’ll provide more lubricant. Relax your body as much as possible, take whatever position makes it easier (full squat tended to be the easiest for me – lie down on your back if you have to! no shame!), and make sure you use a nicer brand with a smooth plastic exterior. Those cardboard-y ones make me cringe.

      Also make sure to fully insert the applicator before pushing the tampon into place – it’ll help avoid the feeling that the tampon isn’t far enough in. If it feels uncomfortable, give it a few minutes, maybe walk around a little. Either it’ll settle into place or you’ll have to try again. And give some thought to which size you want – maybe try a junior size one (as mentioned in the above article) to start with! It won’t do the job long term but using something smaller may help you get more comfortable using one.

    • E says...

      I was uncomfortable with Tampons until the ones with plastic casing came out.

    • Jess says...

      I got my period at 10 and only used pads, too! My mom tried to teach me how to use tampons, but I’d always start panicking and they’d get “stuck.” I understood the logistics of using them, and actually taught friends how to use them. I just couldn’t get comfortable enough to use them myself. So I dealt with a couple of decades of heavy periods in thick pads. Ugh.

      I gave birth at 29 and thought that would have changed things enough to make me more comfortable, but it really didn’t. Finally, at age 33, I was ready to try again. Mostly because my childbirth-related hemorrhoids would get really irritated by pads.

      I asked my co-worker to show me what to do and coach me through it. She was really sweet about it and answered all of my questions. I found the brand L. Organic Cotton Tampons (I get them at Target) and I really like them. The plastic applicators have kind of a lip on them, so I’m able to grip that part with my thumb nail when inserting. It makes me feel like the whole applicator isn’t going to slide in, and I can get it in far enough that the tampon feels like its placed comfortably and properly when I pull the applicator out. I’ve used other brands of tampons in a pinch, but I really hate any applicator that isn’t this one with the little lip!

      Their light flow tampons are also really slim, which might be a good option to try when starting out/practicing. Also, don’t be afraid to be awkward. I’ve only been using tampons for a couple of years and I feel like my “style” of inserting tampons probably looks ridiculous to those who have decades of experience- but it works for me!

      I know this sounds like I work for L., but I swear I don’t! Just a fan of the brand that kind of changed my life.

      https://thisisl.com/products/l-organic-cotton-compact-tampons.html

    • S says...

      I am 31 and I’ve used tampons and pads. I started my period at age 9 and went to a very strict Christian school. My mom never said anything about pads vs tampons but I think due to my church/school upbringing I was kind of scared of anything going inside me. I didn’t use tampons till the very end of high school. Now as an adult I’ve actually just turned back fully to pads. I just prefer them and I don’t see any reason to switch. I kind of just prefer letting it all come out and be free haha. Don’t know how else to describe it.

    • Meg says...

      I found tampons very awkward for a long time, but there were a couple things I did to help make it easier. 1) I used a mirror to help with inserting-a small hand mirror in one hand 2) I found the best position was standing with one leg propped on a stool or even side of the toilet. 3) I only use them on my heaviest day/s…they are much more comfortable to insert and remove if fully saturated and personally my flow was never heavy enough to use more than one or two days of my period. 4) along those lines use the lowest absorbency until you are more comfortable—junior at first if you can find them or regular. 5)type of tampon makes a difference, I know it isn’t the greenest option but I love the smooth plastic applicator that doesn’t require putting a finger inside myself and the applicator itself gives you a guide to how far it should go in—playtex sport tampons have a comfortable applicator and the shape of the tampon is easy to remove (tapered at end as you pull it out so doesn’t feel so wide). I hope some of these tips help you! Good luck!

    • Christina says...

      Hi Bethany,
      Honestly, I would advise seeing an OB-GYN and asking them to help you the first time! My doctor is incredibly compassionate and easy to talk to, and I’m sure they would be happy to help you. Bring a few different types – I agree with others here who have commented that a plastic applicator will help, and maybe start with a light flow tampon. Wishing you the best!

    • Anne says...

      Hi Bethany,
      I only started using tampons in my twenties after I had unsuccessfully tried them as a teenager. It was a real piece of work, I just didn’t seem to be able to get them in. What has helped me the most (besides some of the other suggestions here like starting with the smallest size and lying down on the floor) was to put a little vaseline (and later lubricant because probably healthier for the inside of my vagina) on the tampon. It makes it so easy to put it in and move it around until it feels comfortable. I did this until maybe two years ago and I’m now 35 and finally feel comfortable to just use the naked tampon, or now a cup (which I also lubricated in the beginning until I had figured out the technique).

    • bethany says...

      Oh my gosh, I’m so grateful for all of these amazing replies. It’s so comforting to know I’m not the only one who’s been through this and the tips are super helpful. Thank you! I love the CoJ community. xo.

    • Celeste says...

      My mum has always used pads but I was determined to use tampons! I think I started using them around age 14 or 15. I still have trouble inserting them sometimes but I’ve found a few tricks that help –
      1. using the smallest tampons I can (luckily I have a light flow)
      2. I prefer the plastic coating – bad for the environment, good for my vagina
      3. Use lubricants – i cannot insert a tampon without it
      4. Using pads or period underwear when im at home or sleeping – i only use tampons on my heaviest days and when im out and about.

      I love all the tips everyone else left as well! So much information and so many of us going through the same experiences.

  49. Elizabeth says...

    Damn, Erica, I feel like just reading this post healed like 20% of the period trauma I have from growing up in the 90s. Bless you.

  50. Natalie Kenley says...

    Love this post! I think its so wonderful that we are getting better at talking about and normalizing menstruation! I once heard, Claire Baker, a period coach speak and it was truly life changing. I later took her online courses and am so excited that she has a book available for pre-order, “50 things you need to know about periods”. What I like about her approach is she describes the menstrual cycle as all four seasons. The first day of bleeding is the winter (when you need extra rest, comfort and nurturing), then you move into spring and your energy starts to lift, day 14 (of a 28 day cycle) is when you ovulate and enter summer when you are your most extroverted and social and then you enter the autumn, a time she describes for “inner truth telling”. She encourages people who menstruate to track their cycles and journal so that we can get better at offering ourselves the right kind of support for the season of our cycle that we are in. I find it so positive and empowering and it really shifted how I view my cycle xo

    • Sara says...

      Natalie, this is aligned with the period knowledge that legit changed my life 7 years ago from a woman named Alisa Vitti. She founded a company called Flo Living that’s all about the power of our periods. Her first book was eye opening but her second book came out a few months ago and it’s phenomenal. So helpful!

      Her info if you want to check her out: https://www.floliving.com/about/

    • Natalie Kenley says...

      Thank you, Sara! I’ll check it out! XO

  51. MG says...

    My midwife once told me a patient told her that she called the brown at the beginning of her period “rusty pipes” blood, like it all just needed a good flush to get to the bright red. It still makes me smile when I think of that apt description.

  52. Julia Smith says...

    Thank you for this – very relevant for me and my daughter right now. I have to say I’m blown away by open my daughter (and slightly older son) are about puberty and periods – we never even talked about them in my house growing up! Gives me hope – and I think our school did a great job too. Love this advice, thank you xx

    • Sharon says...

      So good! I had a boyfriend in my 20s that was one of five brothers and he was absolutely clueless as to menstruation. Mind you, he had plenty of experience with sex. It blew my mind.

  53. Molly says...

    I’ve already been pretty open with my kids about these things. I joke that my son probably knew how tha change a tampon at age 3 because he’d never leave me alone.
    My now 12 year-old daughter read The Care and Keeping of You a few years ago. I asked her how it was and she responded, “It was good and I learned a lot about needing to wash my face soon and maybe needing a bra or deodorant, but then it got to the pads and tambourines and I decided I didn’t need to know all that yet.” So now we call them tambourines!

    • Amanda says...

      Love this! Made me laugh out loud!

    • t says...

      Hilarious! yes, my kids have watched me insert and remove tampons from day one. They are now 7 and don’t choose to watch it but we don’t close the bathroom doors in our house so if they have a question and that’s what I am doing then that’s what they will see.

  54. Kamina says...

    The first time I got my period was in the middle of the night, so I stained the sheets I was sleeping on. I was so embarrassed – but it was my DAD who helped me the next day to put salt on the spot and soak in cold water, not hot, to avoid setting the stain. I remember him shrugging his shoulders and saying “I’ve had girlfriends, I’ve been married, I know about this stuff.” He made it so not a big deal. That casual approach mitigated a lot of my shame and made it easier to deal with period mishaps. Plus, the simple act of teaching me how to clean bloodstains was so empowering. It meant that I was able to take responsibility and wash my own underwear and sheets when I leaked, and I didn’t even have to mention it to my parents if I was feeling embarrassed – I could just take the stuff to the laundry room and fix it. (But since they’d been involved in teaching me about it the first time, I knew I didn’t have to feel embarrassed if they saw a bucket of stuff soaking in the laundry.) Being able to clean up after yourself when you’ve made a mess and not have to ask for help is a big deal to a young person, especially when the mess involves intimate bodily fluids.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      your dad sounds wonderful!

  55. Kim says...

    this is totally great on all the important fronts but NEVER FLUSH WIPES! They do not break down and cause a ton of issues in sewage!! Otherwise, great tips, buying the book. Thank you!

  56. Chelsea K says...

    My brother is a single dad of two young girls (8 & 10). I want to provide support to him & my nieces now to provide a smooth path through this, often complicated, time. He has a beautiful open communicative relationship with the girls & I don’t want to encroach on this at all, but also want to know the right way to provide him (or them if need be) the information they will need.

    Thank you in advance for any advice here. c xx

    • Liz says...

      I’ve got nothing but you are an awesome sister.

    • Amanda says...

      I think just being there for all of them matters. He may need the prompt from you for him to ask you questions so he can best support them and you can then ask him how you can best help him. Periods are probably not a big part of your sibling conversation and he probably would value you making the first overture. So good to know that those girls are surrounded by such caring adults!

    • Chelsea K says...

      Thank you, Liz & Amanda :)

  57. Monica says...

    What wonderful, thorough advice. My mother never mentioned anything to me (!) about periods or puberty or sex or anything. I was a late bloomer and didn’t get my period until I was 14, so I learned from my friends. I was embarrassed to even ask my mom for pads, and she acted equally embarrassed to give them to me. I can’t wait to do a 180 with my daughter, and this post is really helpful for that!

  58. Marie says...

    This was lovely to read. Erica seems so wise and kind. I only have sons but will certainly make sure I teach them about how all bodies change as they grow.

    This might seem silly, but I wonder if Erica could give us adults some advice re: menstrual cups? I’ve only ever used pads/tampons (often both at the same time due to dreadfully heavy periods) and would love to try a menstrual cup but honestly don’t even know where to begin. I feel like a period first timer over here in that regard :)

    • Meg.F says...

      Marie!

      My menstrual cup honestly changed my entire relationship with my period, it is the best. I have a Lunette and am a fan but have friends who have tried different brands and all had similarly positive experiences.

      My advice from my experience is:
      – Try one out on a day at home for the first time (best part is, you can also sleep with them in as they don’t carry the same risks as tampons)
      – Insert it for the first time in the shower, with your leg on the edge of the bath or down in a squat and anticipate that it might take a couple of goes for you to feel like it is in correctly
      – Youtube for different folding methods, there are really great helpful videos
      – Remove it, empty it and replace it morning and night in the shower aka…try and do as many changes in the shower as it is the simplest place for cleaning/feeling relaxed/getting into the right position
      – Wear a liner or a pad till you feel comfortable that you have got the placement right or on heavier days, team it up with some period underwear if needed
      – It will take 2-3 periods for you to feel confident, give yourself some grace and maybe use a cup one day or pad/tampons the next while you adjust

      I hope some of this is helpful and that you find a cup to try, I wish I had tried one much sooner x

    • Britta says...

      This article gives a lot of great advice for using a menstrual cup (for the first time): https://vulvani.com/en/how-to-use-the-menstrual-cup-correctly-your-step-by-step-advice-guide
      There are also several other articles on how to find the perfect cup for you or how to change the menstrual cup in public bathrooms. Highly recommend reading these articles if you are about to explore menstrual cups – lots of helpful information!

  59. SarahN says...

    As someone who works with water and wastewater (read: sewer) NO NO NO. Nothing other than pee, poo and toliet paper flush. Wipes and non-toliet paper don’t break up quickly or easily and cause blockages – and what’s worse than period shame? Sewer overflow!

    • Maddy says...

      Even wipes advertised as flushable? I like to have those handy so definitely want to know if the advertising is misleading!

    • Liz says...

      Maddy, even flushable. They do not break down.

    • Jenny by the sea says...

      As someone who lives up sewer from a neighbour who regularly flushes wipes and dental floss, can I beg you – please, please don’t flush wipes. We are in an eighteen month cycle of our (nearly 200 year old) sewer getting blocked. The web of dental floss combined with wipes which have turned to to papier mache down there is not pleasant to deal with. We now know the guy from water board by name. Poomageddon is *not* pleasant.

    • Amanda says...

      Advertising is definitely misleading! Had the big plumbing bill to prove it!

    • Genevieve Martin says...

      yeah aren’t wipes the cause of fatbergs in the sewer? There was a huge one in the UK a while ago and the news was saying it’s caused by wet wipes that don’t break down like toilet paper (even the biodegradable ones) and then get stuck together with fat. Grim.

  60. Jules says...

    I was 11 and visiting family with my parents. My god mother was entering menopause and all she had to hand were MASSIVE diaper style pads. Her sons, one 15 at the time the other 17 were pretty used to teasing and roughhousing. I begged my aunt not to say I’d started my periods. So her response was to announce “don’t tease your cousin, she’s become a woman. I don’t know what was worse! However, it was a fleeting moment. We seemed to get over trauma, perceived or otherwise back then. ;)))

  61. Stephanie says...

    I loved this article! I’ve actually always been open with my kids about my period (mine are 3 and 6)- this is a natural part of being a woman and that’s how I treat it. My daughter has asked some great questions and my son now understands that this is something mom goes through and so will his sister- and that’s that!

  62. Joy says...

    I love this! Wow, I wish this had been my experience as a scared 12-year-old trying to navigate everything on my own. I’m so glad there are so many resources for me when the time comes with my (now 4-year-old) daughter!

  63. Hilary says...

    My daughter is four and we’ve already started talking about it, since she sees me changing pads or cleaning blood in my underwear. She just knows it’s the amazing way that mamas’ bodies are ready to make a baby if they decide they want one – she’s totally unphased by the whole thing! Same as my son, who is completely unembarrassed by the notion of sex. All he wanted to know was whether his dad and I had done it twice, once for him and once for his sister, or once for both of them 😂. I told him that people do it other times too, just for fun, and he barely batted an eye.

  64. Sarz says...

    I don’t have any young girls in my life to help meet this new challenge, but I still felt greatly comforted by your advice. You’re a marvel, Erica, with a gorgeous esthetic on top of it. I’ll just echo the other requests for advice on changing cycles in maturing bodies. Thank you for your work!

  65. Charlotte K says...

    Bless you dear Erica!!
    This was such a taboo topic when I was growing up. The way I was introduced to it was not at all. Just one day I had to deal with it. I am literally in tears right now (I’m 62) wishing I’d had such kind and compassionate education and grateful knowing the world CAN change and culture CAN change. Thank, thank, thank you.

  66. Julie says...

    I haven’t looked at it in a long time…but I loved the Care and Keeping of You from American Girl. I still remember feeling like it was a very approachable puberty book. I’m 31 now and I got it when I was 9, I think I referenced it through high school.

    • Rezia says...

      I had the same book! My mom knew that I read everything I could get my hands on, so she just bought it, along with a few other books, and put it on the bookshelf in my room, sure enough I just educated myself. I don’t think she was avoiding any conversations per se, she just knew my preferred method of learning. She was always welcoming of any questions and conversations so she knew I knew I could go to her with any questions

    • S says...

      Same here! I’m 31 and my mom bought that book for me around 9 or 10, and it was fantastic. Super informative, and answered all the questions I wanted answers to but didn’t want to have to ask my mom about directly. I saw it on the shelves at Target a couple of years ago, so it must still be in print.

    • Amy says...

      Yes, wonderful, wonderful book!

  67. Alex says...

    This is really helpful advice.

    I am nonbinary and puberty was a nightmare for me. As an adult, I use birth control so that I don’t have to have a monthly bleed—no pads or tampons. I still get cramps but I don’t have the same dysphoria that characterized my late teens and early twenties. You can look up medical studies—it’s not necessary to have a monthly bleed, although I know (and respect) that others may want or need to know when a period arrives. But it is an option, and one that has made a difference in my life.

    • Becky says...

      I identify as female and puberty was a nightmare for me. I can’t even imagine what it was like for you.

      I got an IUD due to middle-aged lady issues and should have got much sooner. And it got rid of my period and my cramps (which I have had pretty much since I got my period). I can’t recommend enough!

    • t says...

      Love this, Alex. Super important part of the conversation. Thank you for sharing.

    • KJ says...

      I, too, spent years taking BC so I didn’t have a period. However, just want to put it out there that the brand I took (Seasonique) has been linked to liver cancer and there are even some class-action lawsuits out there.

    • Emily R says...

      Alex, I also don’t get my period because of birth control, and I can’t really imagine going back! Thanks for mentioning this.

  68. CT says...

    This is SUPER timely. My 9 year old seems to be just starting to have changes in her breasts (which I noticed after she complained of an ‘insect bite’ on her chest and a little bit of B.O. on occasion. And the MOODS! I remember having v painful breast buds and my mum being TOTALLY clueless and unhelpful. I felt very alone and ashamed because my body was so wrong. I want to bring this up with my daughter without drawing attention to something she perhaps hasn’t noticed yet. Anyone got some useful thoughts? She has had a book for quite a while but claims to not remember anything about sex or puberty when it comes up.

    • JB says...

      Hi CT—my daughter is also 9, almost 10, and going through the same thing. She has painful breast buds but luckily was very excited when our wonderful pediatrician chatted with her about her changing body and suggested she wear bralettes (like sports bras) to help with that. I bought her the book suggested In the article a few months ago and she LOVES it. She is an introverted, private child but she wanted me to read that book with her cover to cover twice and has since read it alone at least twice more. Highly recommend! Also, the moods…my sympathies.

    • CT says...

      Thank you JB! She is also quite private and finds puberty gross I think. Hard to tell if the moods are response to changes, hormones or loss of school and social life. I try to think of them as squalls that pass.

  69. Mimi says...

    I’m not a mother but I would recommend making sure she has a few items packed in any bags if she takes trips without you! I got my first period at a college football bowl game with my Dad and my brother. I asked my dad for cash to buy a hamburger, then asked a vendor for change in all quarters and I bought out the whole stadium bathroom pad supply and stuffed it in my (thankfully baggy) jacket. It was a long 3 days before I came home to my mom!

  70. Oh my goodness I remember my first period! It was the day after a family get together and were driving on a highway- worst possible timing! I told my Mom and she jumped right into action, showing me how to use a pad in the bathroom of a rest stop gas station. She started crying about me growing up and becoming a woman, and while 12 year old me cringed I really appreciate how much care and attention she showed me those first few months, which can be extra heavy and painful.

  71. Cookie says...

    This is great but let us not forget about the boys going through puberty. They are going through a lot too and it’s important to talk to them in a similar way. When my son was 13-15 we had conversations all the time. At one point he was too embarrassed to talk to me (single mom) so I arranged for him to talk to a male doctor which he told me later he really appreciated.

    We also talked about girls and how they change too. These conversations started when he was young (4 and 5) when my son asked me if he could use the girl’s bathroom because “there’s a candy dispenser in there”. I knew I did a good job when I sitting at the dinner table grimacing from a cramp. Concerned, my son (7ish?) asked me what was wrong I explained that I had my period and didn’t feel well. He leaped up from the table and brought me a maxi-pad from under the sink and said, “Here Mom! This might make you feel better.” :)

    • Erin says...

      I have two sons, and I’d love it if Cup of Jo could publish a similar post about discussing puberty with boys.

  72. Joy says...

    This is a great post and topic! I am a public health professional and my daughter got her period when she was 9, in the fourth grade. Her periods were super heavy and she had a hard time doing all the fun things she liked to do-swimming, horseback riding etc….she struggled to use tampons when she was young and manage the flow even when she did. So, I did A LOT of research, I work for an organization that does contraceptive technology research. I spent about three years advocating for her pediatrician to prescribe oral contraceptives, and take them without the placebo week, so she could safely skip her period all together. They were finally prescribed when she was 12 and it was LIFE CHANGING for her. Also, added bonus: she is now 18 and we did not have to have a panicked discussion about her needing pregnancy prevention methods, it was just already there and normalized. I highly recommend factoring in a contraceptive method to help with period management for adolescent girls, especially those with heavy periods.

    • MK says...

      I LOVE THIS. Also, Joy- you sound like an amazing mom. :)

  73. Rue says...

    Oof, I feel like I learned a lot by growing up with “how not to parent” parents. My own first period, and basically periods through college, until I figured out a workable system of products, were shame-central. What a gift, if fewer kids grow up with that shame. The first time my best friend shared a goofy article making fun of the woes of periods and period products, it was a revelation. We can make fun of this thing? We don’t have to just hide in the bathroom about it?

  74. This is a great start! A small difference in age can be a huge difference in maturity at this time in a child’s life.

    I would add getting your child the Care and Keeping of.you: The Body Book for Girls. It’s appropriate for girls as young as 9 and covers lots of topics in a friendly, intimidating way. I recommend it to a lot of my patients. And of course make sure she knows know question is too weird or silly, for you or another adult she trusts. Lastly, your pediatrician’s office can be a great resource- know that we are here to help both you and your child during these big changes. :)

  75. Em says...

    I think I’m in a weird mood but this made me tear up! I felt so much shame and embarrassment around my period when I was young and I really needed somebody to be there for me and help me feel comfortable. I think this is beautiful, loving advice <3

  76. Lise says...

    I’m not a parent, but this was still interesting to read! I highly recommend listening to the first 10 minutes of this podcast episode (https://grownupsreadthingstheywroteaskids.com/episode/516), where Debra reads from her childhood diary about what it was like getting her first period. It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, and hilarious all at once.

  77. Kelly says...

    When my daughter got her period, we celebrated the milestone by getting her ears pierced. It felt ceremonial and celebratory and since then I have heard her bring up the story many times with others when the subject comes up.

  78. Meghan says...

    I was a synchronized swimming coach for many years, and dealt with many swimmers getting their first periods during our athletic season. It was important to tread lightly, as having a young girl to use a tampon the first time she menstruated could be a big ask. Depending on the cultural attitudes of the family, or our training schedule, I’ve had some delicate negotiations. One particular situation sticks out in my mind.

    It was the end of the season, the morning of our big showcase (think of a dance recital, but in a pool). I get a panicked phone call from one of the swimmer’s mothers that her daughter had just gotten her period for the first time. This mother was normally very even tempered and logical, so I wasn’t quite sure why she was so crazed. Then she abruptly hung up the phone. As I waited, dazedly staring at my phone, wondering what had just happened, she called back. In a much calmer tone she apologized for hanging up on me and explained that before she and her husband adopted their daughter as a toddler she had experienced sexual trauma. Trying to insert the tampon had triggered her (the daughter), causing a panic attack.

    I was in my early twenties at that point, and not at all prepared for this situation. So I did the only thing I could think of, which was to try to solve the very specific problem at hand. My solution was for the daughter to use a pantyliner in her competition suit during our on-land warm up. Then, a few minutes before her team was to swim, I gave her a signal (a quick nod of the head) and she ducked into the bathroom to remove the pantyliner. Her mother had said that her flow was light, and our routine was only two minutes long, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be a problem. As soon as their were done swimming, she ducked back into the bathroom to change.

    I went on to coach the daughter for a few more years, but we never actually spoke about periods. I just made sure to schedule in a bathroom break right before we swam, just in case she needed it. I know that we’re supposed to normalize what is a basic bodily function, but in this case I think discretion was the kindest thing.

    • AB says...

      Somehow your story made me tear up — I think it’s the quiet and thoughtful way you responded. I wish we could all look out for each other in this matter of fact way.

  79. Jennifer says...

    As much as I applaud you for posting this information out there, I would like to please make a correction about flushing “flushable, biodegradable” wipes down the toilet. The labelling of these wipes is misleading, as they do not break down and are in, in some cases, not actually biodegradable. They may flush down the toilet, but create havoc by plugging up local sewage systems in the pipe network and also at the wastewater treatment plants. From working in the public utility sector, these wipes and tampons are a huge issue for the system, and I thought I should write to suggest that you throw these wipes in the garbage instead of flushing them down the toilet.

  80. Paige says...

    Aww loved this! I really loved Erica’s advice to follow your child’s lead. I think that’s such a good barometer for lots of “growing up” issues. One friend explained that she answers her kids’ questions as simply and age appropriately as possible and then follows it up with, “Does that answer your question?” as a way to make sure they feel heard but not totally overwhelmed. Such good advice all around.

  81. Nicole A. says...

    I was a young teen when I got my first period. My parents did not discuss menstration with me, and I was too shy to confront them about it when it began. Instead, I shoved the blood stained underwear under my bed. My mom caught me adding to the heap in which my secret came out. She was upset with me not telling her as I costed her my entire undergarment drawer.

  82. Emilie says...

    Thank you so much for this helpful and insightful post, Erica!
    I was wondering if you could give me some advice: my 15-year old stepdaughter was told by her church that tampons were inappropriate and even evil because they took away your virginity/broke your hymen/something along those lines. And since then she’s refused to try them. I know I shouldn’t pressure her because it’s her own body and should be her choice, but knowing her refusal was brought on by such a macho and old-fashioned viewpoint (not because she actually prefers pads) makes my blood boil as a non-religious liberal person. I’d be so grateful for any advice you may have!

    • Christine says...

      Candace Cameron has a section on her Instagram stories about using a menstrual cup and answers some questions from followers about that very issue. Since she’s widely known as devout Christian, her words might carry some credibility with your step daughter. Candace explains that feminine health is not in conflict with virginity.

  83. Erin Duff says...

    Thank you for this great info, Cup of Jo team! Could you consider broadening some of the language in this post to communicate that not all people who menstruate are girls? A lot of resources about menstruation exclude trans people. Teaching our kids about periods is a great opportunity to normalize the fact that menstruation is not tied to gender!

    • Emma says...

      I second this comment! Thank you, Erin, for saying something. More inclusive language isn’t just a nice touch, but an essential element when it comes to being an ally.

  84. Ana says...

    I got my period when I was 10… somehow, now that I am 36 and have a daughter it seems much earlier than it did then. And I think part of it is the way my parents conducted things. My mom got her period even earlier, she was just 9. And despite being from 1948 and raised in a catholic family, she is a very modern and progressive woman in many many ways. I have zero memories of being traumatised or scared. She talked to me calmly and explained everything that was important on that moment. We discussed all the options, tampons were also considered and then we went to the supermarket to get my own supplies. I also remember going on a walk with her where she explained everything it entails to me, with real names, terms and everything. Now that I have a daughter, I think about making her feel comfortable and aware of her body just the same way. She is 4 soon but since pretty early she is aware of my period… I guess the need small kids have to be with us even in the bathroom comes with this perk! haha But I tell her what that blood is, what it means, what I use and that she will one day have it too!

  85. I love everything about this approach. Wonderful advice and insight!

  86. Deanna says...

    My school had a mother daughter tea party in 5th grade to discuss all the changes and basics of how to use pads and whatnot. It was great, except by the time I got my period 5 years later, I’d forgotten all of the “how to use a tampon” information (if they’d even covered it) and my mom had thrown out the directions for EVERY SINGLE BOX. I though tampons were so uncomfortable and couldn’t figure out why anyone would wear one until we were on vacation and my period struck and I finally got a box with directions and learned you don’t just shoot them in like a torpedo! I had serious loyalty to Tampax Pearl for ages because of that.

    • Can’t tell you how many people have that same allegiance to Tampax Pearl for very similar reasons… myself included!

    • Kristiana says...

      25 and still only use Tampax Pearl as well! 🙃

    • Charlotte says...

      I got my period at church when I was 13, and I was so excited! When I told my mom, she acted like she was disappointed in me. Almost as if I had done something wrong. She kept asking me if I was sure, almost like she was in denial. To this day, I still don’t understand why my period was such an inconvenience for her.

      I vow to do better with my 2 year old daughter. She will be celebrated (if she would like to be – I’ll follow her lead). I loved this article so much. Pinning it to reference in 8-10 years.

  87. Jo says...

    This is such an important conversation. My mum never had any kind of chat with me about it and I remember feeling deeply embarrassed when my period started. I am a mum myself now, to a boy. He is four and he knows that blood comes out of my vagina every month, that it’s perfectly normal and that it doesn’t hurt. How did the topic come up? He sees me using my mooncup!

  88. Sara Adamson says...

    I’ve been looking for a book to introduce my daughter to puberty but a review of Celebrate Your Body says the book talks about “the awesome gift of the body God gave women.” We aren’t a religious family and I’m hoping someone can recommend a secular book on puberty? I have 2 boys and a girl so I would love any recommendations for boys and girls!

    • Megan says...

      I did a search and the book itself doesn’t mention god. My guess is that comment is the reviewer’s own spin on body positivity.

    • Jess says...

      I have two boys, 8 and 6, and they both like “It’s So Amazing!” by Robie Harris. It’s maybe more focused on where babies come from than just puberty, but there is a whole section about periods and body changes for boys and girls. It’s illustrated in a comic book style and I think that is a big part of the appeal for my kids.

    • Julie says...

      I haven’t looked at it in a long time…but I loved the Care and Keeping of You from American Girl. I still remember feeling like it was a very approachable puberty book. I’m 31 now and I got it when I was 9, I think I referenced it through high school.

    • Joy says...

      We have the fantastic Celebrate Your Body book and I’m pretty sure it does not mention God, but normalizes puberty changes for youth who are developing breasts, getting their period, etc. We are not religious and were referred to the book by a pagan/witch friend!

  89. B. says...

    My mother always talked about it in front of my father, using the real words, expressing no sense of shame or embarrassment that she was doing something 50% of the population did. She said it was like being embarrassed that you grew hair or lost a tooth. I remember being 11 and 12 and getting super aggravated with her for asking me every time I had a stomach ache if I was maybe getting my first period. And when I finally did, she got all mushy on me and I think I caught her getting choked up. Evidently I had accomplished something substantial. This is what growing up with a mother who is a psyche nurse is like – we use real words, we talk about real things, and we don’t apologize for being a woman. Incidentally, be careful what you say to your spouse. I remember her asking my dad to go to the store to get her pads, and she told him to get the extra long ones. He teased her, asking why she needed extra long and she told him “because I have an extra long vagina”. I spent most of my teenage years believing my mother’s vagina reached from her belly button to her spine.

    • Agnès says...

      your mum sounds like such a great character!

    • Blythe says...

      YES YES YES! This! My mom and I talked at length about our periods in front of my brothers and dad. My dad did all the grocery shopping and regularly picked up all of my period essentials. We had a code word – we called tampons “popsicles”. He would always ask what color popsicle I needed and stock up on them.

    • Anna says...

      Love this!

    • Amy says...

      Blythe, (btw such a beautiful name)
      I love the code word popsicles! That’s adorable!

    • Kara says...

      But Blythe….what if you also really wanted popsicles?

  90. t says...

    LOVE this!! Thank you Erica.

    Question- I was thinking about having my daughter’s drawer just stocked with period underwear for every day use when I thought she was at the age when she might get her first period. Thoughts?

    I was so embarrassed when I got my period, not because of the period itself but because I leaked and had to sit through the rest of the school day.

    • I think that’s such a nice idea! I work with Thinx as a brand ambassador, and I’m actually a little jealous of the teen girls who get to use our teen version, BTWN – imagine having period underwear as a tween or teen? What a game changer!

      My mom was super unprepared when I got my first period, which is fine, but it would have been really meaningful if she had prepped for the day to make it just slightly less humiliating.

  91. Jana says...

    Awesome article and can we get a shout out to whatever brand that outfit Erica’s wearing is from? It’s gorgeous.

  92. Robin says...

    For a future post, I am wondering if Erica could speak to how to navigate changes in our periods and bodies as we enter our 40s. I know that bodies can go through changes as we approach menopause, but there’s not a lot of information out there (and some of it just scares me!). I am not yet 40 and perimenopause has been kicking my butt.

    Love this column so much, thank you.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Great question, I’ll ask her! Xo

    • b says...

      Yes! I am two years away from turning 40 and would love some insight on what the future holds. This is not a conversation I can have with my mom.

    • Amy says...

      I second this. I’m 42 and everything I’ve read so far makes me so pissed. It sounds awful!! Why why why? Clearly I need some reframing.

    • Colleen S says...

      What have you been experiencing? I’m almost 37 and I am having difficulty losing weight, sleeping on occasion, I run hotter than usual once in a while, and my periods are usually non-existent.

    • Rebecca says...

      Yes!! Perimenopause is already giving me fits :(

    • Tis says...

      Yes please! Since 14, my period has been 28 days and started at 2:30 pm. No lie! But my last cycle was 18 days…!? And this time, 34 days? Come on!

    • Kate the Great says...

      I would also like to know this. My mom already went through menopause, but she wouldn’t tell me anything else but shudder. And my stepmotherinlaw says once menopause hits, it’s a lifelong thing. These two opinions are such polar opposites.

  93. Sonya says...

    This is fantastic. I would love to hear Erica’s thoughts on changes to our menstrual cycles as we get older.

  94. Jane says...

    I’m white and yet it is still SO – enlivening? – (don’t know the perfect word), to see that gorgeous little black girl as the lead photo. Not just now – in the aftermath but it’s always felt good to see reflections of diversity. The people of the planet are beautiful! We need all the colors! Even Star Trek knew this back in the 60’s.

    Erica is beautiful too, obviously, and I think her work is incredibly valuable! Thank you Erica, for doing this for the girls of the world.

    • Cait says...

      So funny, but I’ve been thinking about Star Trek in this regard a lot lately!! It helps that my husband watches almost every night (and sometimes I watch with him). They have amazing main characters of all colors.

    • Kim says...

      I agree, Jane, I was struck by the beauty of that photo and I’m a Black woman. It’s also refreshing to see images like that accompanying articles that are not even about our Blackness, but about something universal like menstrual health. COJ does a good job with representation.

    • Lauren says...

      Yes. Being white I’ve always had a tendency to think of black people as being more black than they are anything else, and it probably doesn’t help when images of black people are always connected with black-specific topics, whether good or bad.

      Lots of my neighbors are quite openly racist and I’m not interested in arguing but I do like to have good talks and I’ve REALLY found that before people are open to hearing about racism or violence or prejudice, people first have to personally experience and see that black people are normal everyday people like them. Maybe that sounds strange but I’ve seen it a lot: you talk about someone who’s run into a normal frustrating problem that everyone can sympathize with (bureaucracy, incompetent professionals, the worst coworkers, etc. etc. etc.), people say things like, “whoa I’d be mad”, “that’s crazy” “what a bunch of ****”, then you work in ‘offhand’ that the person’s black, and there’s some pausing and shifting that goes on.

      If you just go off on someone who’s racist they just double down. I wish more people understood that racist people are human beings too, and you shouldn’t talk down to them or disrespect their entire person any more than you would anyone else. I’m not criticizing protesting, I’m talking about when people are having normal conversations. Hm this is off-topic and not about periods at all; I guess it’s pretty easy to keep going there!

  95. Anecdotally, as a middle school teacher, I have noticed over the past few years that my female students seem much more comfortable talking about their periods, using specific/scientific language, and not being ashamed of carrying a tampon or pad to the restroom. I hope this continues — I find it so refreshing!

  96. Kids are SOOO different! Despite my willingness to talk all things period, my girls are pretty reserved — one didn’t even tell me she got her period for three months, and I only learned about it then because I saw pad wrappers in the trash! So I try to normalize things by openly talking about my period and, because guys need to know about this stuff, too, I work to educate the whole family. Two examples: we watched the period documentary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrm2pD0qofM), and for family night movie we watched Pad Man. Funnily enough, when I wrote about my switch to diva cups, a change inspired by one of your posts, I think, it was my teen son who posed with the box when it came in the mail! (https://bit.ly/2UQH3mB)

  97. Nadege says...

    We should also be teaching our sons about periods right? They should know the basics too since their friends and sisters and other people in their lives get periods. When my 6yr old son found a box of tampons and asked what they were I was taken aback by the little jolt of shame I felt. That motivated me to talk to him about periods as a totally normal thing. He gets a lot of nosebleeds, so to be honest I explained it as kinda like a nosebleed but uterine… I moved the tampon box out of hiding and a few weeks later mid-nosebleed he suggest sticking a tampon up his nose (!?) and I was like, why not? And it worked great. Now that is his go to. He’s 10 and un-phased by how he looks walking around the house with a tampon jammed up his nose.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I couldn’t agree more, Nadege. I have been talking openly about periods to my boys since they were babies. I’ll say things like “I just need to change my tampon before we go to the playground“ and I’ve told them many times about how everything works. I don’t want there to be any stigma or awkwardness around it for these growing boys.

    • Abbie says...

      Yes!!! I have three sons and we have openly discussed my period since they were toddlers. None of them have hit puberty yet but I’m so hopeful my openness makes them much more pleasant for the women in their lives than the “i can’t trust anything that bleeds for seven days and doesn’t die” attitudes of my own adolescence.

    • Ker says...

      Such a good point!

      And I love the idea of your son walking around nonplussed with a tampon up his nose.

      I have an IUD so don’t get periods these days. I guess I need to find ways to casually discuss menstruation to my son anyway, once he’s a bit older (he’s 1.5 now).

    • Bonnie says...

      Fun fact, this is legitimately something otolaryngologists (ear nose and throat surgeons) do when someone comes into the emergency department with an ongoing bloody nose. “Nasal tampons” are a real thing (if you’re not squeamish, look up “rhino rocket”!).

    • Quinn says...

      Fully agree and trying to do the same over here. Also, that story is so great. :D

    • MB says...

      Yes! I had a (smart, sweet) college boyfriend who asked if you just sort of squirted out blood once a day for the days of your period. When I said no, it was continuous, he said “wow that’s really annoying!” …yup!

    • Rue says...

      Yup, I am a field scientist and wilderness expert, and tampons are a standard first aid kit item for nose bleeds, especially for high altitude kits!

    • Eliza says...

      I have two sons (by birth assigned sex and according to them by gender identity also) so I bought the “boy” version of this book, thought about it for a minute, then added the “girl” book to my cart too and will have both in our library for when the time comes. The books say they’re appropriate for age 8+. Does this seem like a good age to take a closer look?

  98. NH observer says...

    This is absolutely wonderful. I recall vividly getting my period at 11 (!) and a) feeling consigned to an endless future of menstruation and b) searching unavailingly for any book or other narrative including menstruation as part of the plot. I invariably felt cheated and betrayed to read even those stories featuring female protagonists (few enough in any event) that failed to mention what to me was a huge and overwhelming part of life. I am so grateful on behalf of today’s women and girls that this experience is now finally becoming visible. I do have a question for Erica, Joanna, and my fellow readers: how do you celebrate something that is so painful and uncontrollable for many people? Speaking from personal experience: when I was a teenager, I bled copiously and seemingly uncontrollably, despite every conceivable combination of pads and tampons (all that was available at the time). I can recall multiple family vacations in which I bled onto car seats and other surfaces, not to mention my high school graduation, in which I bled through my underwear, tights, a slip, and my dress. Before being prescribed 800 mg Motrin tablets — truly a lifesaver! — I had such bad cramps that I once fainted from the pain in ninth grade. BCP didn’t help in the formulation that was available at the time, though decades later, it again was a lifesaver in reducing cramps and flow. Despite the technological advances of the last few decades — for which, again, I am profoundly grateful — I am certain that legions of women are continuing to suffer. Would love to know what you all think and if there’s some strategy to reframe this experience as positive and empowering!

    • Amy says...

      I despise my period. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like a rock star for my miraculous body giving birth to three babies 💪🏻
      Butttt…..as I get older, I get VERY overwhelmed with emotions around my period. I know when I start questioning my life choices that well, it’s time for my period again. It’s so frustrating to be taken over so completely by these emotions. Every. Single. Month.
      I fake positivity to my daughter and sons…but I truly hate it. :(
      Maybe I should read more about this to help me see it in a new light.

    • CH says...

      excellent point! I became very anemic at 13 from my first periods, they arrived like a roaring lion and it was traumatic. I couldn’t believe that women and girls looked forward to this milestone. It felt like I was being punished for being a girl.

    • Abesha1 says...

      I hear you. Sometimes I feel like people who talk about their periods openly are often people for whom they’re not overwhelmingly heavy or painful…. I struggle because while I’m not embarrassed about it, I do think it’s gross. It’s bodily waste that’s dirty, messy, unpredictable, and painful… who wants to talk about that? And people who don’t have it so bad think you’re exaggerating; they truly have no idea.
      I have a day or two a month where I am often tied to the bathroom, because the clotting and bleeding is so heavy while the hormone shifts give me nausea and digestive upsets. And I know I’m not alone, but I really don’t want to talk about it with my friends. It’s awful!
      Just saying: My husband helped me thru two miscarriages and two births, but I’ll be damned if I want to tell him about my period.

    • Tamara says...

      This was me too until I was 35 when a dr. told me it wasn’t normal to bleed that much and we could work to change it. I was so anemic I had to have iron infusions! I remember walking a quarter mile back and forth to bathroom all night on one especially poorly timed camping trip. I tried lots of things to control my period including uterine oblation, acupuncture, advil dosing, oral progesterone, even weird gross herbal tea. The solution ended up being a pretty simple IUD. It was a tiring 2 years trying things that didn’t work, but I’m so glad to have found something that did. Turns out a large percentage of women have estrogen dominance, one of the symptoms being heavy bleeding. The mirena IUD delivers progesterone to balance things out. Not only do I hardly have a period anymore, my moods are also much more stabilized. I know this reads like an IUD ad, lol! But if your period is making you suffer, I really encourage talking to you doctor/naturopath/whoever you need to until you find something that helps.

    • Erin says...

      I think it’s a good idea to give girls both messages — it’s empowering that your body is maturing, and also, periods can be hard to manage. And parents should be willing to take their daughters *to the doctor* to get help reducing heavy bleeding — since several types of birth control can help — and dealing with cramps. Personally, I really wish I’d gotten a prescription for the painkiller naproxen earlier than I did; my life from age 14 to 20 would have been a lot more comfortable if I’d had decent analgesics for my periods instead of just believing I had to tolerate the pain.

  99. alison says...

    My daughter is almost 11 and I have found that being open about having my period when I do, around her (and my 13 year old son) has normalized it. I never remember my mother talking about her period and was ashamed when I finally got mine. She has not gotten her period yet but we have practiced with pads and she carries a little bag in her backpack (when school is actually happening!) just in case. I love the suggestion of a wetbag and wipes.

  100. ursula says...

    I used only organic tampons until I discovered the cup when it first came out. Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops so even if it is not further dyed it’s still not anything you want near your uterus.

  101. A.M. says...

    Thank you for this, Erica! My daughter is 9 and starting to ask questions that lead me to believe I will need to start the conversation about sex with her soon. Would love to hear advice and resource ideas!

  102. Tineke says...

    Such good advice. I remember my mom taking me out to dinner, just the two of us, to celebrate my first period. We literally never went out for dinner as a family so that was huge.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s really sweet, tineke.

    • Sarah says...

      I’m stealing this for my girl. Thank you.

  103. meg says...

    There is a great collection of stories I read for myself years ago, and later gave to my daughter when she had her first period called “My Little Red Book.” If you’ve not heard of it, it’s a series of essays about first periods, collected from women around the world. Some are well know: Meg Cabot, Erica Jong and Gloria Steinem, but most are perspectives and memories from average teens. The authors differ in race, faith and cultural backgrounds which made it even more interesting to me. The woman who put it together was a freshman at Yale at the time. This is not an ad :) I just really, really loved it. Thank you for the great post. xxx – M.

  104. Mikaela says...

    I don’t think I’d start a first timer off with a menstrual cup, but MAN are they game changers. I’m never going back to tampons. I think it’s important to get the word out about them. Cups are more sustainable, cost less over time, no used items to dispose of, potentially healthier, it’s cool to be aware of what’s actually coming out of you, no need to carry around wads of tampons…etc.

    • ursula says...

      Amen

    • Amy says...

      +1 for cups! My cervix dips really low during my period so I struggle to use a DivaCup (the most common brand in my area).

      I found this comparison chart really helpful for finding a brand that was shallower without being too narrow for my post-births self, and then I flip it inside out to make it even shallower: https://putacupinit.com/chart/
      My cervix is higher the rest of the month, so I use it for post-coital collection too.

      I also use cloth pads, as after having kids my body decided it was done with disposables (we’re talking a three week rash after a two hour exposure the last time I was caught without my usual cloth pads). So far I’ve been using Aisle (made in Vancouver, BC and super gender-inclusive) and am interested in trying out the Hannahpad brand too (Ontario).

      My 9yo loved the book recommended above (Celebrate Your Body)!

    • Maria says...

      Which one do you use?

    • Megan says...

      Yes, they are brilliant! I have an Organicup. I was skeptical of menstrual cups at first, but after you get used to how to put it in, it is super convenient as you only have to empty it a couple of times a day. I basically forget it is even there. I only wish I’d made the switch years ago!

    • Mary says...

      Diva cup is too long for me as well, but you can flip it inside out and it’s much nicer.

    • Charlotte says...

      Absolutely, menstrual cups all the way. As soon as I bought a cup (Lunette, love it) I was so irritated that I spent so many years dealing with tampons. Not ever having to worry about not having a tampon when you need it is reason enough in my book, let alone the enormous reduction in waste. I’m someone who really struggled with having a period, hating it since I was in my teens. The cup has really turned that around for me. It’s really empowering to have a clearer understanding about what’s going on in my body and not ever going into a panic about not having what I need to take care of myself.

  105. Olivia says...

    God, this article hit me. I was recently reflecting on my non-existent relationship with my mother, and I thought of how I didn’t feel I could trust her enough to tell her when I got my first period. I also remember her reaction to that being anger. Sigh.

    I think so much about this subject with my daughter. I am most troubled by the common teachings in our church (orthodox christian) that women who are menstruating can’t take communion or venerate icons. I honestly don’t know if that’s just “tradition” Passed down, or actual church teaching. I converted when we married and want to ask the priest this so badly. I am SO, so deeply troubled by this, and struggle with the thought of giving my daughter the message that there is something dirty about her or wrong with her when she has her period. But I also don’t want her to not know the unspoken cultural rules, either. It’s a lot.

    Thank you, COJ and Erica!

    • ursula says...

      Find a female pastor to ask. Save yourself the sexism. Trust me.

    • Mariam says...

      Hi Olivia! I also converted to (Ethiopian) Orthodox Christianity after getting married. In Ethiopia, women can’t even enter the main bit of the church when they are menstruating. The explanation I’ve been given is that it isn’t because menstruating women are considered “dirty” but simply because there should be no blood whatsoever in church apart from the holy kind during Communion. If a man fell and had a bloody knee, for example, he also wouldn’t be allowed to enter the church until it had healed. I was satisfied with that explanation (having been, like you, very troubled when I first found out about this church teaching), but I think you shouldn’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with your priest. P.S. I know just what you mean about unspoken cultural rules! It is a lot to learn :)

    • Master’s in Theology over here. That is not biblical! I see where they might have come up with that reasoning (cleanliness laws in the Old Testament) but no, there is no biblical basis for a woman, menstruating or otherwise, being excluded from any part of worship or ritual! In fact, many stories of Jesus show him radically (for his time) including women in lots of ways.

    • Olivia says...

      Thank you ladies for your replies!! So helpful and heart warming.

    • Megan says...

      Hi Olivia! I’m Eastern Orthodox as well and my priest leaves this completely up to the woman. All that to say – not all priests think alike, even in the Orthodox church! :)

  106. Lee says...

    This is great advice! However, I hope that Cup of Jo will allow the post to be updated to take out the recommendation for Thinx underwear. PFAS chemicals have been found in Thinx products, including their brand marketed to teens and tweens. It isn’t clear how much PFAS can be absorbed into the skin through underwear; however, these are very dangerous chemicals (see info from the Environmental Working Group below. As soon as I read about this a few months ago, I got rid of my Thinx underwear.

    “PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” – they build up in the body and do not break down. PFAS chemicals can cause numerous health harms, including weakened childhood immunity, low birth weight, endocrine disruption, increased cholesterol levels, weight gain in children and dieting adults, and other health problems. They have contaminated drinking water in almost every state, as well as at many military sites.” Source: https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2020/02/toxic-pfas-chemicals-found-organic-period-proof-underwear

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for this, lee!

    • Emily says...

      Wow. I’m so bummed to read this. I love my Thinx underwear and have another pair coming in the mail soon. I read the Thinx response and am not sure what to believe: https://www.shethinx.com/blogs/thinx-piece/how-we-ensure-thinx-are-body-safe

      Any scientists out there who could comment? Would only wearing them once or twice a month still put someone at risk?

    • Courtney says...

      Wow! I recently switched to Thinx because my forever favourite Dear Kate always seem to be out of stock. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Hilary says...

      Hi Lee!

      I don’t know much about PFAS, so I don’t want to comment on those. However, many scientists do not agree with the EWG in general. Here are a few interesting reads about why the EWG might not be your best source for scientific info:

      https://www.acsh.org/news/2017/05/25/dear-ewg-why-real-scientists-think-poorly-you-11323

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/kavinsenapathy/2016/07/12/would-you-rather-buy-organic-or-poison-your-family-ewg-wants-you-to-pick-one/#1f98f9ac63ac

      https://accountablescience.com/issues/funding-in-science/foundation-and-activist-group-funded-research/environmental-working-group/

    • Caroline says...

      Hi! I’m an epidemiologist, and I was curious about the EWGs claim so pulled some more information. As an aside, while I support their mission, the EWG is an independent organization that has been known to make strong claims that researchers cannot verify. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135239/ and https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/2751513

      Regulatory organizations limit the amount of PFAS (and other chemicals) that can be included in products to try to keep our exposure below the understood safe level. Thinx publishes the results of their metals test, and their PFOS/PFAS levels are 0 parts per million (PPM), a.k.a not detectable. For context, the threshold for their regulatory body which meets US and (stricter) EU guidelines says up to 1,000 PPM is within the safety limits. https://www.shethinx.com/blogs/thinx-piece/how-we-ensure-thinx-are-body-safe

      I truly believe we need more research in this arena (and environmental epi in general), so respect all people following the EWG guidelines. Since we’re exposed to PFAS and PFOS through a myriad of sources, it makes sense to avoid exposure if you’re already worried about them. But even by that metric, Thinx are safe.

      (Also I own no thinx, I was just curious about the science).

    • Emily says...

      Thanks so much Caroline for your thoughtful response!! I work in public health and love picking the brains of our epidemiologists :) Take care.

    • Fernanda says...

      Dermatologist here.
      I know it must be complicated to know which sources to trust nowadays, and I also haven’t studied PFAS to have an overview to share.

      I do, however, think is important to say EWG has misinformed and misinterpreted scientific studies regarding cosmetics and dermatological products before.

      I’m sure we all mean to avoid unnecessary risks for our health, but we need to be careful before condemning substances ;)

    • Laura says...

      Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge, Caroline! Like Emily, I also love thinx and am waiting for another pair to arrive, so I’m it’s still safe.

  107. Kate T says...

    This is so wonderful. Thank you! I was especially struck by what you said about matching her emotions. I tend to be way more excited that my daughter and need to remember to quiet down and be support.

  108. Alex says...

    Thank you Erica for this sweet, thoughtful answer…luckily I remember being very proud of my menstruation (thanks mom! :) And hope I would be able to do the same for my daughter.

  109. Meghan says...

    Love this! Do you think you could do a similar write up about talking to boys about sex and puberty? How are you handling it Joanna? I also have 2 boys (who are 7 and 5) and they already have questions! I try to answer honestly but age appropriately right now – but to be honest – I feel like I’m a bit clueless when it comes to boys and puberty (besides the whole facial hair and voice changing)! I guess I need to do some research…

    • Agree I also really loved this post – super helpful for my 8 and 6 year old daughters. And yes please, another vote for talking to boys about puberty here too! I have 10 and 4 year old boys (and a baby) and find it’s hard to keep the conversation clear, factual, and not feel like I am repeating slogans that I was taught in the 80s.

    • jane says...

      Spectacular idea. Boys need to know about periods too as well as their responsibility for birth control. The other thing I’ve never heard mentioned but they totally need to know is about how to respect that for girls sex is about LOVE and FEELINGS GET HURT SO BE CAREFUL.

      Sorry for all caps but it’s always appalled me that mothers have let centuries go by without teaching their boys about how to respect girls and their feelings especially around sex and romance. How long are we going to neglect this? And yes, toxic male culture will attempt to damage this but we have them first, often spend the most time with them, and at their most teachable years and what we impart provides guiding wisdom as they grow into men and encounter ignorant behavior in men.

      I’d love a post that discusses bringing this info to young boys.

    • Michelle says...

      I have an upcoming 6th grader and can recommend a great book- “What’s Happening to Me” for boys by Alex Frith (UK’s Usborne books). It is super age appropriate, and covers pretty much anything that will come up in middle school about puberty and sex without going “too far”. There are great illustrations and the text is friendly (lots of matter of fact talk about how boys at this age all look very different). It also covers girl bodies and periods which I thought was great.

      I gave it to him casually, explained a bit about why I was giving it to him and told him to ask me or my husband anything. He was embarrassed when I gave it to him but to my surprise he asked us so many questions! I feel like he is better prepared for middle school and seeing through all of the misinformation that goes around with kids that age. Highly recommend!

    • Agnès says...

      That would be a great topic for a post. My son is 6 and an only child, and I’m making sure he’s comfortable with his body and sexuality. I’ve told him about periods and we name the body parts with their real names. I feel proud of that (my upbringing was very conservative and I discovered so may things about anatomy and reproductive health so late in life). I think one should answer the queestions honestly.

    • Amanda H says...

      Great idea! I would love this as a mom of a boy, too! I talk about my period with him and talk in a non shame-based way about genitals but would love insight from Erica and the CoJ community.

    • Erin says...

      Thanks for the book rec, Michelle. The boy and girl version are coming to our house. We have the American Girl press Care and Keeping of You books, which my oldest (female) liked, but it’s nice to have more than one good book.

      I think it’s so great that the boys book covered girls bodies. I don’t *think* CAKOY books have boy puberty in them, and I’d been thinking whether it would be helpful for us to have the boys version (“Guy Stuff”?) around the house. My oldest two kids are girls, so we won’t have a boy in puberty for a while, but I’ve been thinking lately about how boys and girls were separated for the puberty sections of health class and if my best friend (a boy) and I hadn’t traded summaries, I wouldn’t have known a lot of useful information about boys.

  110. Amy says...

    I’m an enthusiastic convert to Knix period panties myself. Is anyone else in perimenopause slightly chagrined that all these great tampon/pad alternatives only showed up at the end of our menstrual lives?

    In more seriousness, I think the sheer variety and added comfort of some of the new options could be of great comfort to young girls just starting out. I’d have been so happy for period panties back in the day.

  111. Tamara says...

    I love this post so much. Empowering discussion around being a woman always make me cry! I did all this with my kid and they were still super uncomfortable with their period. Well, turns out he is trans and actually a boy. He doesn’t have a period anymore thanks to HRT but just a reminder that some boys have periods too and puberty is a common age for kids to realize they are trans as their body changes. But keeping an open, honest, and shame free dialogue with them through childhood and puberty and beyond is so key. Thank you so much Erica! I always love your posts.

    • Amy says...

      For anyone else interested, Aisle makes great gender-inclusive period products! Their products are made in Vancouver, BC and they recently rebranded to make their brand even more inclusive. I’ve been buying their stuff for years and it’s holding up really well.

  112. Nicole says...

    Thanks for this. My daughter just started getting her period and not being ready for a menstrual cup and not loving the bulkiness of fabric pads we wanted to find a greener alternative to disposable. Trying out the Thinx.

    • Tamara says...

      Just a head’s up, Thinx have been found to have high levels of PFAS in their underwear, chemicals which are toxic even at low levels and found to cause fertility problems. Luna makes some period underwear that is 100% cotton.

  113. SG says...

    Great advice! I bought lots of different brands of menstrual products suitable for girls my daughter’s age and put them in the bathroom cupboard without much comment. That way she can browse, experiment, and see what works for her. I keep a discreet eye on supplies and replenish as needed. This has proved a good method for a girl who doesn’t feel comfortable talking about the topic directly.

  114. Cara M says...

    My daughter just turned three, but I’ve had several moments where I’ve thought about how I would hypothetically address the issue of a first period. This is an excellent and thought provoking article – I wished my own period had been handled this way. While my Mom did an amazing job of making me not feel shame, I remember my Dad making a joke and I was endlessly embarrassed. Thank you for this brilliant approach!

  115. celeste says...

    Love this! My 12 year old got her first period in March, when the home quarantine started. I had gotten her pads before to keep in her school backpack in case hers started but also said she should share if anyone needed them. She is a little afraid of putting stuff in yet but I will remember Lunnette when she is!

    (I haven’t gotten a period in 10 years due to an IUD and it is downright fabulous!)