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Menstrual Problems

The age at which a girl's periods start varies widely. Some girls are still at junior school, others are fourteen or fifteen years old before they begin menstruation. Either age - or any one in-between - is within normal limits. Girls often follow their mothers, in the age at which they start menstruating.

The onset of menstruation is a sign that the cycle of ovulation has begun. The hormones associated with the release of the monthly ovum, or egg, from the ovary also prepare the lining of the uterus to receive the fertilized egg. If fertilization does not occur, this lining of the uterus is discharged ( again under control of the hormones, 'chemical messengers' in the blood ), in the form of the monthly period.

Regularity of periods

For the first year or two this periodic shedding of the lining of the uterus can be erratic and there may be several months when there is no period. This is nothing to worry about, and mothers should reassure their daughters on this point. In most girls the periods will become regular eventually, although there are many women whose periods are always irregular.

The amount of blood lost at each menstrual period is again, variable, as is the length of time the period lasts. The average duration of a period is five days, and the complete cycle being, again on average, twenty-eight days. But the cycle, too, varies markedly from this average in many women. However, once a rhythm has been established, this will be the norm for that particular girl.

Painful periods

Many women never have problems with their periods; others suffer varying degrees of pain, and this can start in the first years of menstruation. There are two basic types of menstrual pain, or dysmenorrhoea, to give the proper name:

1 Spasmodic dysmenorrhoea is - as the name suggests - a spasmodic pain which usually occurs the first day or two of the period. It comes on suddenly, is cramp-like and makes the unfortunate girl feel sick and ill. She will be pale and in obvious pain. The best treatment is to spend an hour lying down with a hot-water bottle on the painful abdomen, having taken aspirin or paracetamol. Usually after this time, the worst of the spasm will be over and school work can be resumed. All schools should be aware of this problem, and make facilities available for the care of senior girls.

2 Congestive dysmenorrhoea is a dull ache in the lower part of the abdomen and back and tends to occur a day or two before the period begins. Relief is often felt soon after the menstrual flow starts. However unwilling the sufferer is to take some exercise, this really is one of the best ways of relief. This type of pain is not so acute as the spasmodic type, but it can make life miserable for a day or two.

Excessive menstrual loss is sometimes a problem in the early years. If this continues for some time, medical advice should be sought; otherwise the girl will become anaemic through the continuing excessive loss of blood. Hormone tablets for a few months usually correct the problem.

Menstruation for most girls is merely a sign that they are growing-up. Apart from the inconvenience, they experience no other problems - providing the whole process, and what to expect, has been carefully and sensitively explained some time before the first period is likely to occur. For the girl who has received this information, the event is just another stage in growing into young womanhood. For the girl who has not had the benefit of such preparation, it can be a very frightening and traumatic experience.

Any mother who feels at a loss as to how to pass on to her daughter this vital information can be greatly assisted by any one of a large number of helpful books on the subject, available either through a local bookshop or library.

     
     

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