About Periods- for parents and carers of girls and women with a learning difficulty or disability
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Girls and women with disabilities get periods too. All have different support needs and all can be helped to cope in some way.
How can a parent or carer help?
Girls and women with disabilities may have fewer opportunities than other women to learn about periods and sexual matters from school friends, books or magazines. They may be confused or have received inaccurate information.
Parents and carers can help a girl or woman with a learning difficulty or disability to:
- understand what is happening to her body when she has a period
- learn the skills necessary for managing her period (menstrual management)
- feel good about herself
The skills you have used in teaching other self care tasks will be helpful.
When should I start discussing periods?
The earlier children learn about body parts, the easier it will be to talk about body changes during puberty, including periods.
While most girls start menstruating between the ages of 9 and 16, it is a good idea to start talking about periods before the age of nine.
No matter what the age, it's never too late or too early to talk about periods and sexuality.
What information should be included when talking about periods?
Discussion about periods should include:
- 1. physical aspects
- 2. general information about periods
- 3. information about pads and steps in how to manage periods
While each situation will be different, these general guidelines should be useful:
- Keep the language simple.
- Give as much information as can be taken in and understood.
- Let other family members and carers know what you are doing and saying. Encourage them to reinforce the most important messages that you are giving.
- Include discussion of sexuality issues when talking about periods and puberty, and talk about the possibility of pregnancy if sexually active.
- Encourage her to practice wearing pads before she starts her period.
Have a calendar, so that she can record when her period is due.
How do I talk about periods?
Presenting information in simple terms can be difficult. Consider the following ways of explaining about periods.
1. About periods (physical):
- A period means that blood comes from inside a woman's body. It comes through an opening between her legs. This opening is called a vagina (showing a simple diagram might help).
- The blood that comes out is clean and healthy. It doesn't mean you've been hurt.
- Most girls start having their periods between the ages of 9 and 16.
- Other body changes may be happening when you start your period. Breasts get bigger and hair starts to grow under arms and around the vagina.
- You will have a period about once a month. Your period will last for a few days (about 3 to 7 days).
2. About periods (general information)
- Getting periods is healthy. It is a natural part of growing up and becoming a woman.
- Most women stop having periods when they are about 50.
- Boys and men don't get periods.
- Tell a trusted adult at home or school when you see blood on your pants for the first time.
- Periods are private. You can talk about them with people you know and trust, but not to just anyone.
- Everybody is different, so everyone's experience of periods is going to be different.
3. About pads
Wearing a pad stops the blood from getting on clothes.
Pads should be changed every 2 to 4 hours ormore often if necessary. Check your pad when you go to thetoilet to see if it needs to be changed.
Change your pad in a private place. The toilet, bathroom or bedroom are private places when the door is closed.
How do I explain about changing a pad?
When explaining the 'how to' of changing a pad, break the information down into easy steps. Focus on one point at a time.
The following is a suggested list of what you might say: Take a clean pad from drawer (or bag, if away from home).
1. Wash your hands Go to the toilet and close the door.
- Pull down underpants and sit on the toilet.
- Check if the pad being worn needs to be changed.
2. Take off your used pad Wipe between legs with toilet paper.
3. Wrap the used pad in toilet paper, or put in a paper or plastic bag
4. Put on a clean pad
- Peel off strip and put the strip in the bin.
- Stick the pad down on your underpants.
- Pull your underpants back up. Tidy your clothes.
6. Put the used pad into a bin
- Do not put pads in the toilet.
- Flush the toilet.
7. Wash your hands
NB: You may need to explain about the need to change underpants if they have blood on them, and incorporate this in your teaching.
What about premenstrual syndrome?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menstrual pain can happen to any woman.
Symptoms can include:
- sore breasts
- fluid retention
- an increase in seizures for some women with epilepsy
- outbreaks of recurrent infections
- back pain
Gentle exercise and healthy diet, a hot water bottle or warm bath can help ease some PMS symptoms. Medication and naturaltherapies are available for pain relief, but consult a health professional if other medications are being used. What about using tampons? Tampons can be particularly convenient for certain activities, such as swimming.
Check the information and instructions inside the packet to ensure tampons are used correctly. You might want to check that the instructions are understood before encouraging practice.
Tampons are not recommended for women who cannot comfortably manage their own menstrual self-care.
Where can I get more help?
For more information about FPQ services or menstrual management,contact FPQ Education
FPQ clinics can also help with sexual health care and contraceptive advice.
Note: This fact sheet has been developed for parents andcarers of people with learning difficulties. Publications are most effective when used as part of a comprehensive sexuality education program.
Family Planning Queensland (FPQ) has taken every care to ensure that the information contained in this publication is accurate and up-to-date at the time of being published. As information and knowledge is constantly changing, readers are strongly advised to confirm that the information complies with present research, legislation and policy guidelines. FPQ accepts no responsibility for difficulties that may arise as a result of an individual acting on the advice and recommendations it contains.
© Family Planning Queensland
Version 2 / August 2008