Everyone knows the teen years can be difficult — for both teens and parents. All those physical changes during puberty can make adolescents feel awkward and unsure of themselves.
This is particularly true for girls when it comes to menstruation. For a girl, getting her first period is a physical milestone and a sign of becoming a woman. But it can also be confusing and scary, particularly if she encounters certain problems like irregular periods or premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Common Menstrual Problems
Most issues teens confront when they start menstruating are completely normal. In fact, many girls and women have had to deal with one or more of them at one time or another:
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
PMS includes both physical and emotional symptoms that many females get right before their periods, such as:
- sore breasts
- food cravings
- depression or feeling blue
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty handling stress
- feeling tense or anxious
Different girls may have some or all of these symptoms in varying combinations. PMS is usually at its worst during the 7 days before the period starts and disappears soon after it begins. But girls usually don't develop symptoms associated with PMS until several years after menstruation starts — if ever.
Although the exact cause of PMS is unknown, it seems to occur because of changing hormone levels in the body, and changing chemical levels in the brain. During the second half of the menstrual cycle, the amount of progesterone in the body increases. Then, about 7 days before the period starts, levels of both progesterone and estrogen start to drop.
Some girls' bodies seem to be more sensitive to these hormone changes than others. Talk to your daughter's doctor if her symptoms are severe or interfere with her normal activities.
Many girls experience abdominal cramps during the first few days of their periods. They're caused by prostaglandin, a chemical in the body that makes the smooth muscle in the uterus contract. These involuntary contractions can be either dull or sharp and intense.
The good news is that cramps usually only last a few days. But call your daughter's doctor if she has severe cramps that keep her home from school or from doing stuff with her friends. Also let the doctor know if the cramps do not improve with over-the-counter ibuprofen.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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