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The 5 most important things every teen girl should know about the menstrual cycle

By Michal Sach

As caregivers, we strive to equip kids with as many tools and skills and knowledge by the time they are 18 and potentially out on their own. All we want is to raise kids that are independent and able to make decisions, reliable and take responsibility, have a growth mindset and a sense of self-worth and confidence in themselves. There are so many topics to cover and so many skills to learn, but it is important that we realize and remember that not everything is taught at school. Whether it is finance, meditation or nutrition for example, it is our job to make sure that we consciously take the time to addressing these topics.

One of such topics is the menstrual cycle. Menarche is the first bleed and Menopause starts with the last bleed and in between these 2 significant events are about 400 menstrual cycle and decades of living! You must admit it seems only fair that they have a clue as to what’s going on…

There is so much to learn, so let’s start with the 5 most basic things every girl should know about her cycle and you can make sure she does:

  1. The menstrual cycle is a monthly cycle (between 26-34 days on average), that has a specific pattern that repeats itself. Think of the menstrual cycle like the 4 seasons that follow each other in a pattern repeatedly. Year after year there is growth and shedding of leaves, temperatures rising and falling and fruit ripening. Such is the menstrual cycle in which we have growth of the uterine lining and maturing of an egg (ovulation) to prepare for conception and then shedding of the uterine lining and egg (period), if conception did not occur, repeatedly month after month.
  2. The menstrual cycle is a hormonal cycle in which levels of hormones fluctuate and this is what signals to the body what to do. The main players are Estrogen, Progesterone, Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Testosterone. Levels of these hormones rise and fall during the cycle, and this is what leads to the period at the beginning of the cycle, ovulation in the middle of the cycle and on it goes.
  3. There are 2 main phases of the cycle – The Follicular Phase which starts at day 1, when the period begins and the Luteal Phase which starts at approximately day 14 when ovulation begins (on a 28-day cycle).
    Since all our body systems are connected, the difference in hormone levels between the phases not only affects the reproductive system, but many other things such as sleep, mood, focus, energy levels and appetite, to name a few. These changes are normal and expected and thus embracing them, rather that fighting them, will make things easier for us and we would be able to move smoothly and effortlessly through the phases.
  4. Hormones are very sensitive, and their level is impacted by many things. If their level is too low or too high at the wrong time of the cycle, this will lead to changes in the length of the cycle, absent or irregular periods, anovulation (no ovulation) and so forth. There are many things that can interfere with hormone production such as toxins, lack of sleep, vigorous exercise at the wrong time of the cycle, smoking, dehydration, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition and anxiety to name a few. It is our job to become aware of all these triggers and learn to support our body as well as we can. All the examples mentioned are a type of stressor and when our body perceives “stress” mode, it focuses on urgent survival tasks first rather than producing hormones related to maintaining the cycle.
  5. The most important thing to remember is that the menstrual cycle is natural and was not designed to be full of pain and suffering, unpredictable, irregular or full of undesirable symptoms and thus if that is the case, it is so critical to lovingly guide the teen in the right direction, provide helpful information and professional care. Let them know it is nothing to be embarrassed about or feel shameful about and the more they understand their body, its anatomy and the flow of hormones, the more empowered they will be to make the best choices for themselves and feel their best.

More about the author

Michal Sach
Michal Sach

Michal Sach is a nutritionist from Melbourne with a passion for child and teen health and well-being.

She helps parents support their children through what is called “picky eating” to set them up for success including good long-term eating habits and a great relationship with food.

She also focuses on helping teen girls struggling with period pain and acne manage and overcome these challenges through understanding their menstrual cycle and the critical role food plays in their health.

Michal specializes in plant-based eating, but supports people with a range of eating styles and dietary requirements through online courses and private consultations.