Oh the teenage years, soooo many things changing and an unpredictable period can be the last thing the teen needs too. So here’s the back story to explain why those periods are so damn irregular.
Every menstrual cycle our brain and ovaries are in a conversation and it’s this dialogue which determines if we ovulate. Now as adults that conversation is well established. So every cycle our body knows what to do – recruit follicles (which produces oestrogen) and ovulate (which means we produce progesterone). Around 2 weeks after we ovulate our period arrives. Voilà! Then the whole cycle repeats.
For the first few years after you get your period, and for up to the first 5-7yrs, your body is still establishing that conversation between the brain and the ovaries and the chit chat isn’t always smooth and regular. This causes irregular cycles, heavy periods and PMS symptoms like mood swings and sore boobs.
Once our cycle has regulated, a healthy cycle will be 25-35 days long. But in those first few years a normal cycle length would be anywhere from 21-45 days, with an average cycle length of 32 days.
A way to empower your tween on how to predict their period’s arrival is to teach them to notice their changing cervical fluid. As ovulation happens 12-14 days before we get our period, noticing when we get this pre-ovulation stretchy, slippery fertile fluid can help us predict our periods arrival.
I teach this “menstrual maths” in my Period Ready Workshops as it’s a really handy life skill for teenagers to know as periods can be irregular in the first few years when you start your periods. Frankly, it’s handy for us to know in our 40s too as our periods becomes more irregular through perimenopause!
I would mention that if at anytime there is excessively heavy periods, excruciating pain, periods missing for *many* months, that’s not normal. In that situation we need to consider if there’s anything in the teen’s diet or lifestyle that we can improve (FYI a bad diet and/or high stress levels really mess with your period and moods, irrespective of your age!).
Should there be those issues and despite a few cycles of trying diet and lifestyle tweaks, there is no real improvement, you need to see a doctor. But please do not accept the doctor offering the hormonal birth control pill to “regulate’ her period, as that is just a plaster to cover up whatever underlying health issues there are and there is a zillion bad side effects.
On my Period Ready workshops I prepare both the pre-teen and parent/caregiver on what to expect during the teen years so our young people can have a positive relationship with their period right from the start.