How to Teach a Pre-adolescent Girl about the Menstrual Cycle
Initially, it is important to ensure that age appropriate language is used in the explanation of menstruation to the pre-pubescent child to facilitate clear understanding of the concept, physical changes which occur during menstruation and the impact this has on her future both sexually and socially6. Personalising the language to include the child’s own body enhances understanding that this is happening inside her own body rather than happening to her body.8 Ensuring this language is used contributes to the girl perceiving the menstrual cycle as a positive occurrence rather than a difficulty to be endured. For this purpose, using factual terms regarding biological anatomy and processes while explaining in plain terms what they mean can result in an acute awareness of the menstrual process.
As mentioned previously, a time should be offered where questions and/or myths may be clarified. After this, a conversation about menstruation should begin where a model or picture of the ovaries is provided to the child. Using a model can allow the subject to appreciate menarche in the context of her own body.6 The talk could begin in this way:
“Sometime in the next few years, your body is going to start to change so that it can become more like mine – a grown up body. This will mean that your body will be able get pregnant. Your body will prepare for this by releasing the eggs which are stored in your ovaries once a month. When this happens, it is called ovulation. At this time your egg will be able to be fertilised although if it is not fertilised, then your egg will leave your body through your uterus. When this happens, the lining of your uterus, called endometrium will start to change and you will begin to shed the lining of your uterus. This special lining looks like blood and this blood will have to leave your body through your vagina.”
Combining the talk with indications on the model allows the child to freely explore the aspects which she may not understand while creating an interactive experience. Ensuring that the information is both biological and inclusive could promote a holistic comprehension of the female body, its processes and potentials which are important for understanding the body and preventing unwanted pregnancy.
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- Mansfield PK, Stubbs ML. The menstrual cycle:feminist research from the society for menstrual cycle research. Women & health. 2007;46(1):1-5. Epub 2007/11/23.
- Rembeck GI, Moller M, Gunnarsson RK. Attitudes and feelings towards menstruation and womanhood in girls at menarche. Acta Paediatr. 2006;95(6):707-14. Epub 2006/06/07.
- Oinas E. Medicalisation by whom? Accounts of menstruation conveyed by young women and medical experts in medical advisory columns. Sociology of Health & Illness. 1998;20(1):52-70.
- Bancroft J. Human sexuality and it’s problems. 3rd ed. United Kingdom: Elsevier Limited; 2009.
- Rembeck GI, Gunnarsson RK. Improving pre- and postmenarcheal 12-year-old girls’ attitudes toward menstruation. Health care for women international. 2004;25(7):680-98. Epub 2004/10/19.
- Stubbs ML. Cultural perceptions and practices around menarche and adolescent menstruation in the United States. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2008;1135:58-66. Epub 2008/06/25.
- Charlesworth D. Paradoxical constructions of self: Educating young women about menstruation. Women and Language. 2001;24(2):8.