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How to talk to your daughter about puberty: Loyola doctor shares tips

Open communication is crucial in discussing physical changes, menstruation

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Some parents may shy away from talking to their daughters about puberty, but Loyola University Health System obstetrician and gynecologist Akua Afriyie-Gray, MD, stresses the importance of sitting down with your tween when the time comes.

“Most girls enter puberty without much education on the topic,” Dr. Afriyie-Gray said. “Parents should be proactive about talking to their daughter about puberty, so that she knows what to expect when her body begins to change.”

Dr. Afriyie-Gray offers the following tips on how to talk with your tween about puberty: Be prepared. Have your talk ready to go when the time comes.

Pay attention to your daughter. Be aware that your daughter may not come to you when she begins experiencing changes in her body. Look out for these changes and let her know what to expect. Puberty typically starts around age 8 or 9 with hair development under the arms and in the pubic area. Breast development usually occurs next at age 9 or 10 followed by menstruation, which begins on average at age 12. Puberty typically takes 3 – 4 years to complete.

Inquire about other girls. Ask your daughter if her friends have started shaving, wearing a bra or menstruating. This takes the focus off of your child and it may be a good opening for discussion about your daughter’s body and the changes she may be experiencing.

Take a positive approach. Let your daughter know that puberty is a natural process, which all girls experience. Stress that there is no need for her to be embarrassed, but be sensitive to what your daughter is ready to discuss.

Dispel myths. Answer any questions and correct any misconceptions your daughter may have about puberty.

Talk to your daughter about hygiene. Let her know what products are available for menstruation and that she can continue with her normal activities when she has her period.

Let her know about fertility. Stress to your daughter that menstruation signals that she can become pregnant.

Turn to an expert. If you do not feel comfortable talking with your daughter about puberty, schedule an appointment for her to see a pediatrician or a gynecologist who specializes in treating children and adolescents.

You also should consult with a physician if your daughter begins puberty before age 8. A gynecologist who specializes in children and adolescents can evaluate your daughter to determine if she has an underlying health issue. The early onset of puberty may lead to early, but diminished bone growth over time due to the impact of hormones on the bones.

Loyola recently opened a Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Clinic. Doctors see patients from 1 – 5 p.m. on Mondays in the Loyola Outpatient Center located at 2160 S. First Ave. in Maywood. To make an appointment, call (888) LUHS-888 and ask for the Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Clinic.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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