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Dr Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
During puberty, it can be hard to know what’s “normal” and what’s not. In this article we share some of girls’ most common concerns, with expert advice so you can be sure you’re helping your daughter through puberty in the right way – and seeking support when she needs it.
Heavy, painful periods
No one should suffer excruciatingly bad period pain.
Regular cramps feel like mild to average prolonged pain in the lower abdomen, lower back and even upper legs. They are normal. Our Helping Her Manage PMS And Cramps article is full of useful tips you can share with your daughter.
Severe period pain and extreme cramps are different. They’re the ones that regularly keep her home from school or don’t respond to over-the-counter painkillers.
Between 5-10% of women experience period pain severe enough to disrupt their daily life Source: Women’s Health Concern 2017
They’re most likely to occur on the ﬁrst day of her period, or just before. They can be caused by an underlying medical problem, or a condition called dysmenorrhea. In these cases, it’s best to consult your doctor.
Hair sprouting everywhere!
While most girls expect hair to grow on their arms, legs and pubic area, your daughter might be surprised to ﬁnd it springing up in other places, too! From upper lips to nipples and chins, it’s normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
It’s up to her to decide whether she wants to remove it, but there are no rules. You can help by reassuring her that this hair growth is normal, and by discussing the different ways in which she can remove it, if that’s what she wants to do.
Extreme mood swings
While many of us experience irritability or moodiness during our periods, helping your daughter through puberty means keeping an eye on the extremity of her mood swings.
If she shows ﬁve or more of the following symptoms to a worrying degree, she may have a syndrome called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD):
Deep sadness or despair, with possible suicidal thoughts
Thankfully, PMMD can be managed with treatment so, if you think your daughter may be suffering from it, speak to your GP to get a diagnosis.
Spotting between periods
Spotting between periods can be confusing, to say the least.Spotting is light vaginal bleeding that happens between periods. If it’s happening just before or after her usual period, it’s most likely normal. However, if it’s happening often or unpredictably, consider taking her to the doctor.
Weight gain during puberty
As much as she might not want it to happen, a certain amount of weight gain is normal. Part of helping your daughter through puberty involves providing reassurance that this is natural, because adult women have more body fat than young girls.
However, if she’s gaining a lot of weight, you’ll need to support her in adopting a healthier lifestyle. Rather than focusing on the scales, encourage her to eat well and stay active to keep herself physically (and mentally) ﬁt.
Early or Late developer
There’s no ‘right’ time to start puberty, but most girls show the ﬁrst signs of puberty between that ages of 9 and 13. If she’s experiencing early puberty, read the article Supporting Your Daughter Through Early Or Late Puberty for tips and advice.
If you haven’t noticed any pubertal changes by the age of 13, it’s worth taking your daughter for a check-up. Certainly, if she’s 16 and hasn’t had a period, you should take her to the doctor.
Problems making friends
Friendships can be a challenging part of puberty. Your daughter may not be particularly sociable, but if she seems generally happy there’s no need to worry. However, if she ﬁnds social situations tough, these tips on how to help your child through puberty can help:
Encourage her to plan an activity – like having a sleepover with a friend or playing football in the park.
Give your daughter lots of praise for her efforts to help build her self- esteem.
If she lacks conﬁdence, help her identify other kids who share similar interests, or suggest she joins a club where she might meet like-minded people.
Try not to pressure her about friends or constantly discuss the situation.
There’s no need for your daughter to go to the doctor when she gets her ﬁrst period. However, you should book an appointment if she: