A Mighty Girl's recommended books and resources for preparing girls for their first periods.
Do you remember having your period for the first time? Were you relieved, scared, or confused? Did you know what was happening, or were you told after the fact? Did you think you could bleed to death, or believe that you couldn’t swim or go to gym class? Did you hear someone make joking references to women being “on the rag” and think, “I’ll die of embarrassment if anyone knows?” Did you feel like you were prepared?
In a world that is increasingly public about all sorts of previously private topics, menstruation is often still a taboo subject. What information girls do hear around them is often negative or incorrect, and even school health classes that discuss the subject often focus on the “nuts and bolts” without ever touching on the real, practical experience of a monthly cycle. As a result menarche — a girl’s first period — is still likely to be disconcerting for her.
But parents, mentors, and friends of Mighty Girls can turn this milestone of womanhood into a much more positive experience. By providing lots of accurate information, real-life experience, and practical advice, girls can learn to view their menstrual cycle in a totally different way: as an important element of their female nature and as a key sign of coming adulthood. In this blog post, we’ll help you turn a girl’s first period into an empowering experience.
If you’re looking for more great material for teaching the Mighty Girls in your life about their bodies, make sure to check out our blogs Body Smart, Body Safe: Talking with Young Children about their Bodies and A Time of Change: Talking With Tweens and Teens About Their Bodies, as well as our Guides for Girls section which provides resources for Mighty Girls on all aspects of their physical and emotional developments.
How It All Works: Learning About The Menstrual Cycle
An important way to make girls more comfortable with menstruation is to make sure that they have accurate information, not just about how and why it works, but also on the day-to-day, real life business of managing hygiene. The more informed she is, the more comfortable she will be with how to handle both menarche and her ongoing experience.
Girls are starting their periods younger — sometimes as young as 9 or 10 — so it’s a good idea to introduce the idea of menstruation to girls sooner than you might expect. It's So Amazing is about general sexuality education, but includes a discussion of the menstrual cycle and its role in a woman’s body. If you want to introduce this idea early — and especially if your daughter seems to be an early developer — this is a great book to start talking more seriously about the changes that come with puberty. Author Robie H. Harris and illustrator Michael Emberley have collaborated on three books about sexuality education; in addition to this one, parents can check out the introductory-oriented It's NOT The Stork for ages 4 to 8 and the more advanced It's Perfectly Normal for age 10 and up.
Of course, reproductive health is about more than just ovulation and periods. In fact, while we don't talk about it much, the whole pelvic region has a remarkable effect on health and well-being. In this new book from the Women's Health Foundation, girls will learn the whole picture of pelvic health, from good urinary and bowel habits to strengthening pelvic muscles to tracking and managing periods. This unique book is sure to be a frequent reference. For younger children, the Women's Health Foundation has also published a picture book, Riding The Potty Train for ages 3 to 7.
This much beloved guide includes general information about growth and development, as well as specific period-related questions like what to do about menstrual cramps and how to use a tampon correctly. Girls who understand the basics of puberty but want more information will find this book accessible and reassuring, and it's also an excellent option for parents who want a book focusing strictly on anatomy and hygiene, without a discussion of sexuality and intercourse. Parents of younger tweens should also check out the first volume, The Care and Keeping of You 1, which covers similar information with slightly less detail for ages 8 to 12.
Bunk 9's Guide to Growing Up: Secrets, Tips, and Expert Advice on the Good, the Bad, and the Awkward
Bunk 9's Guide to Growing Up: Secrets, Tips, and Expert Advice on the Good, the Bad, and the Awkward
This puberty book takes an unusual tone by using the voices of nine fictionalized girls to pass on accurate, girl-friendly information about growing up! The girls of Bunk 9 are ready to answer all your questions about puberty -- from what changes you'll notice in your body to how to manage mood swings to details about health and hygience that every girl should know. The accessible framework and friendly voices make this a book girls will be eager to read, and the information is all pediatrician-approved!
Puberty is difficult and confusing at the best of time — but for autistic girls, there's an additional challenge: most guides about menstruation use confusing, figurative language, and avoid photographs, which are critical to make learning easier for neuroatypical kids. Autistic author Robyn Steward, in consultation with medical professionals and young autistic people, has created this matter-of-fact, reassuring guide to understanding your body and your period. Detailed step-by-step photos — shot over-the-shoulder rather than from a confusing mirror-image perspective — help girls understand how to use pads, tampons, or alternative period products, while an included screen helps tweens and teens limit the information on the page to one step at a time. This revolutionary guide is the perfect choice for autistic girls.
This is definitely not your mother's puberty book! HelloFlo founder Naama Bloom's mission is to create informed, empowered young women who are unafraid to ask questions and make the best choices for themselves and their bodies. In The Guide. Period, she's created a celebration of women's bodies and all the confusing, uncomfortable, silly, transformative, and powerful changes that occur during puberty. This full-color book features bright, diverse, approachable illustrations and infographics (on everything from how to insert a tampon to a timeline of body hair trends throughout history), doctor-vetted information, and personal testimonials from real girls and women.
Older girls may be getting used to their menstrual cycle, but that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from further information. Cycle Savvy goes into much more detail about female reproductive anatomy, general gynecological health, and physical and emotional changes during the menstrual cycle. Author Toni Weschler also advocates charting your cycle, not just so that a girl knows when to expect her next period, but also so that she is in tune with her fertility and reproductive health, and therefore more alert to changes that could signal a health issue. After reading this book, girls will be confident that they understand just how their menstrual cycle works.
Be Prepared: Ready For Menarche
If you ask women about the most disconcerting thing that happened in their early years menstruating, many of them will describe a time that their period started and they weren’t ready: they didn’t have the supplies they needed to hand, and didn’t know how to get them. By providing your Mighty Girl with a kit of supplies, she’ll be ready when the time comes!
In addition to the resources below, you can find a step-by-step guide to making a First Period Kit for your Mighty Girl in our blog post, DIY Period Power.
The Be Prepared. Period Survival Kit gives you everything you need to go with the flow, no matter where it happens! This complete period kit that can easily fit in your purse, backpack or gym bag to ensure that you're always prepared. The set comes with a sequin bag full of eco-friendly products, including two natural pads with wings, a pantyliner, disposal bags, and a wipe. Plus, it's meant to be refillable; you can replace the products from their website or with additional products of your own.
Since their launch, women have loved Thinx period underwear, either alone or as a backup to another period product; now tweens and teens can enjoy them too! Thinx are washable, reusable period underwear with an absorbent layer in the gusset. Just like women's Thinx, there are a selection of absorbency levels to choose from, regular and super, so you can pick the pair that's perfect for you. Available in girls' sizes 9/10, 11/12, 13/14, and 15/16.
These period underwear from Tanscan are a terrific option for tweens and teens as a backup for their favorite period product so she'll never have to worry about leaks! These 95% cotton, 5% spandex underwear have a leakproof lining just in case a pad shifts or a tampon or cup leaks. Each pack comes with three colorful pairs, so she'll have enough for a few days before she needs to do a wash. Available in sizes to fit girls 70 to 100 pounds, 100 to 120 pounds, and 120 to 145 pounds.
This six pack of bamboo menstrual pads from Wegreeco even comes with its own wet bag! Wegreeco pads come in multiple sizes, including this small 8" long size that's perfect for tweens and young teens. The bamboo layer is soft on the skin, while the outer cover is both waterproof and comes in a variety of fun, colorful prints. Plus, girls will love how easy it is to pop the pads into the included bag for cleaning.
If she'd like to try a menstrual cup for her periods, this menstrual cup from LENA is a great place to start! Made from 100% medical grade silicone and registered with the FDA, this cup is available in two sizes: the small size is best for first-time users and girls and women with a light flow, while the larger size is best for older teens and women or those with a heavy flow. While using a menstrual cup takes some practice, girls will love being able to do whatever they want — dance, run, even swim! — for a full day without worrying about their menstrual product.
The Emotional Side
Of course, even if she is totally prepared in every way for her first period, a girl at this age has a lot of emotions that she needs to express: about her developing body, her complex moods, and her changing place in the world. Many girls this age find it helpful to keep a journal or diary where they can freely explore these feelings in a safe space. Blank journals are great, but sometimes it’s helpful to have a guided journal with writing prompts and other material to help her sort out her complicated thoughts.
The partner to the American Girl Library book The Care and Keeping of You 2 is an excellent way to help girls manage their feelings about how their body — and life — is changing. In addition to including tips, quizzes, writing prompts, and checklists, it also includes designated space for tracking their periods. The guidance this journal offers will give her a great way to understand her whole body better — when she enjoys exercising most, what foods she needs more of, and what makes her feel most comfortable in her own skin. For a similar journal for slightly younger girls, check out The Care and Keeping of You Journal 1 which is suitable for girls aged 8 to 12.
Journaling between mother and daughter can be a great way for girls — and moms — to talk about some of the changes in puberty that make them uncomfortable. Mother and daughter authors Meredith and Sofie Jacobs have created a joint journal that moms and daughters can use to write out conversations that might be awkward spoken aloud. The writing prompts cover much more than general development, including topics like friends, school, and dreams for the future. But when the emotions of puberty get hard to handle, girls can use this journal to help find out more about their mother’s own journey — and what she can learn from it for her own. The same authors have also created two follow-up volumes, Just Between Us: Sisters and Just Between Us: Grandmother and Granddaughter.
Read All About It: Books About Menarche
One of the reasons menstruation can seem so strange is that we just don’t talk about it. Think of how many TV shows, movies, and books that feature characters in their tween and teen years never address the experience. Fortunately, there are some good books out there your Mighty Girl can read — or better yet, that you can read together — to introduce the idea that this is something that happens to every girl.
In Are You There, God?, Judy Blume frankly addresses a common concern for tween girls: wondering if that first period is ever going to happen. Margaret is only 12, but it seems like all of her friends are maturing faster than she is. Fortunately, coming to peace with puberty — and how it happens on its own time — is easier when you know you’re not the only one waiting, which makes this book particularly valuable for tweens. This modern classic has been beloved by millions of girls, and speaks to kids today as much as it did when it was written.
Omakayas is an Objibwe girl in 1852 whose family has been displaced and needs to find a new home. Amidst the difficulties of finding a new place to live and a place in a new community, Omakayas is also faced with menstruation, a key transition into adulthood for her culture. However, with warm, loving guidance from Nokomis, her grandmother, Omakayas is left feeling confident and ready to take this big new step into adult life. This sequel to The Birchbark House andThe Game of Silence may take place in a very different place and time, but her feeling of being caught somewhere between childhood and adulthood is sure to resonate with girls of today.
12-year-old Tahlia Wilkins has plans for the start of the summer — including making a splash at the popular kids' pool party. She's also eagerly awaiting signs that she's really growing up, like her first period. But to her dismay, that milestone arrives the day before the party — and right after her mom leaves for a work retreat. She can't bear to talk to her dad about it, so with the help of her best friend Lily, Tahlia sets out on an adventure that includes "borrowing" coins from a fountain to use in a bathroom dispenser, tricking a teen neighbor into using her bathroom in an effort to "rehome" a few tampons, and more. Fortunately, it's not long before Tahlia realizes that her dad is more than willing to help — and that, in his words, "nothing about your body is embarrassing." This laugh-out-loud and all-too-real story about menarche is a modern version of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, perfect for young readers waiting for their own first periods.
8th grader Riley Dunne is passionate about investigative reporting for her school newspaper, and about the Red Club, a girl-run puberty support group that keeps a locker with an emergency stash of pads, tampons, and spare sweatpants. Then the principal shuts down both the paper and the club, and cracks down on the girls' dress code. As the club protests by making maxi pad art and openly wearing now-banned leggings — joined by several boy allies — Riley decides to investigate the complaints behind the rule changes. This important novel tackles multiple issues, including period stigma and dress code double standards, while providing an empowering model of how tweens can raise their voices in protest.
Sasha is horrified on her second day at Hazelton High School when Christine, Abby, and Brit pull her aside to tell her that her period has leaked, and quickly whisk her into a bathroom to help... only to discover that the tampon machine is, once again, empty. Abby is particularly furious, but when she approaches the male principal about the issue, she's told it's "her little problem." Now the group of four friends are determined to make a change — but that's challenging while also dealing with all the usual craziness of high school. And when Abby decides to start a one-woman period power campaign, even their friendships are tested. Funny, realistic, and empowering, this graphic novel celebrates the power of friendship, the importance of women's health issues, and the change that comes when girls raise their voices.
This book, also by Judy Blume, features a main character going through lots of turmoil — moving, starting middle school, parents who are separating — when her first period gets added to the mix. But to Stephanie's surprise, her first period isn't just a physical change: along with it come changing feelings about boys, friendships, and herself. This book will help girls understand that these emotional changes, just like their physical changes, are a natural part of nearing adulthood.
Of course, there’s another special way that mothers — as well as all the other people in a girl’s life — can be a part of menarche: by celebrating it! Many cultures have a variety of rites and celebrations for a girl’s first period, and marking the occasion in some way is a great way to welcome her into womanhood and make her feel like her cycle is a special part of her.
For thousands of years, cultures have welcomed the arrival of a girl's first period as a key signifier of adulthood, but in today's culture we've lost the sense of the significance of menarche. Janet Lucy and Terri Allison encourage mothers to use myths and rituals that use the moon as a symbol to welcome girls into the community of womanhood. By encouraging mothers and daughters to form new connections as the daughter matures, Moon Mother, Moon Daughter is a celebration of female gifts and generational wisdom.
Menarche only happens once, but most women will have hundreds of periods before their cycle stops during menopause — why not find ways to celebrate each one of them? 105 Ways to Celebrate Menstruation was written to help women understand their own cycle — and their daughters’ — in a new light. The tone is one of honor and respect for a woman’s body, making it perfect for helping girls find balance in their new skin. Some of the suggested rituals are more suited to adults than teens, but even the ideas that you don’t want to use are sure to inspire other ways that you can celebrate her female nature.
If menstruation wasn’t something you discussed in your home, this can all feel a bit strange at first. But by making it an open topic for your Mighty Girl — something matter-of-fact, not mysterious, and maybe even a bit special — she will feel a new confidence about this very important transition.
Additional recommened Recommendations
- To prepare your Mighty Girl generally for discussion about puberty and the physical and emotional changes that come with it, check out our blogs Body Smart, Body Safe: Talking with Younger Girls about their Bodies and A Time of Change: Talking With Tweens and Teens About Their Bodies.
- Since body image can be an emerging concern as a girl’s body changes so rapidly, check out our blog about Ten Body Image Positive Books for Mighty Girls.
- You can find our full selection of books about maturing and puberty in our Health and Wellness section.
- Our Guides for Girls section provides books for girls that address all types of concerns that they may have during this challenging time, from dealing with friends to eating well.
- For fiction about coming of age and the transition between childhood and adulthood, visit our Coming of Age section.
- For songs about the challenges — and the joys — of growing up, check out our selection of music focused on Growing Up.