Earlier Periods … What’s a Mom to Do?
February 28, 2017
Dr. Elyse Brock
Your daughter’s first period can be a confusing time for her – and you. When compared to older generations, it seems that girls are starting their periods earlier and earlier. Talking to your daughter about what to expect is the best way to help you both as she journeys through puberty.
The good news is parents don’t have to do it alone! An obstetrician/gynecologist has the knowledge and experience to help.
“Puberty can begin very early – even as early as the age of eight,” explains Dr. Elyse Brock, OB/GYN with the Women’s Wellness Center. “Not that a lot of girls have it that early; however, right now the average age to begin having a period in the United States is 11.”
According to Dr. Brock, the first visible sign of puberty is a breast bud, a nickel-sized lump under one or both nipples, which is followed by menstruation one and half to three years after that.
Once a girl receives her first period, it’s important to establish a relationship with a women’s health specialist. Many women have a special relationship with their OB/GYN, which often lasts for decades.
“I see female patients starting at puberty, and then, ultimately, through the end of their life with annual breast and pelvic exams, family planning through the childbearing years and help with managing female concerns through menopause and beyond,” Dr. Brock said of the special relationship she builds with her patients.
“Now, I don't want to scare any teen patients or moms thinking they have to experience the pelvic exam on their first visit,” said Dr. Brock. “We typically do not perform pelvic exams when a girl comes in the first few years. We answer questions and discuss if there is a need for hormonal management to manage irregular periods that are interfering with their daily life or sports activities. With newer screening guidelines for cervical cancer, we don't usually start pap smears until about age 21.”
“Those early visits are more to build a relationship and comfort level with them so that, ultimately over time, they do become comfortable with their OB/GYN and can come with concerns about things like their sexuality or their reproductive health,” Dr. Brock said.
Common reasons younger patients should consider consulting an OB/GYN are painful or very heavy periods. “While painful periods are not always abnormal, I think it's certainly worth being evaluated,” Dr. Brock said. “More often than not, we can provide hormone management so that you don't have periods as frequently and we can discuss ways to minimize your discomfort.
“In the same way, heavy periods may not mean anything is physically wrong, but certainly you don’t have to live with them,” said Dr. Brock. “There are options to help manage them.”
Dr. Brock sees patients at the Women’s Wellness Center and is now accepting new patients. Call to schedule an appointment today at (605) 554-1020. For more information, view Dr. Brock's profile.
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