Women's Health Topics

Talking to girls about their changing bodies

Discussing with young girls the physical changes that come with puberty can be challenging for parents and legal guardians. However, it’s a women's health topic that shouldn’t be ignored or put on the back burner.

The approach an adult takes can lead to a healthy conversation. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Begin with your foundation. Consider your relationship. Have you known her since birth, when you were changing diapers and begging for sleep, or is your connection more recent, as in the case of a step-mother, adoptive parent or new legal guardian? What are the things that you share? How do you make her laugh? As you approach this conversation, remember you do have a shared foundation you can build upon.
  2. Pick the right time. In my family, it’s when we’re alone, together in the car. Maybe for you it’s during a walk, shopping, or cooking. When she is comfortable and talkative she’ll be more likely to engage in conversation, ask questions, and listen.
  3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Look for small opportunities to allow her to open up about the changes she’s going through. If you’ve never talked about bras, puberty, or periods, don’t sit her down to explain everything all at once. Throw out a line, see if you catch anything, then build on that.
  4. Stay neutral. She’s probably heard things from her friends at school – some correct, some completely off the mark. Address each issue in a nonjudgmental, matter-of-fact way, bearing in mind you want her to be safe. Harsh reactions on your part may prevent her from sharing openly with you in the future. You want to keep that line of communication open.
  5. Bring her to the gynecologist. We enjoy meeting adolescent girls and helping them develop good health habits. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that adolescent girls pay a first visit to an OB/GYN doctor between the ages of 13 and 15. This visit most likely will not include a pelvic exam. It typically is a candid discussion about pubertal development, normal menses, healthy eating, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy prevention, and other issues.

“The Talk,” or rather a series of discussions about your daughter’s changing body, can be a rough experience if not approached with care. Strengthen your bond with her by approaching such matters in a calm, respectful manner. Remember to build on your preexisting relationship and solid foundation and contact our OB/GYN doctors if you need additional assistance and expertise with women's health topics.

Dr. Kristin Lyerly
Kristin Lyerly, MD, is a board certified physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.