First blood

When your daughter bleeds for the first time this marks a significant change – she can now conceive, carry and bear a child. She joins an international sisterhood of fertile women. She takes a very special step on her journey toward womanhood.

For many girls this is an intensely private event and not something they would want to broadcast. You might be required to respect her wish for privacy, even though you may be bursting with feelings – excitement, joy, sadness…

Our first bleed is a threshold experience – in a single moment we pass through a gateway. Most women clearly remember their first time – usually with a mixture of feelings. How did you feel? What was special about it for you? How would you have liked it to be different? Who did you tell? How did they respond? How might your experience influence how you approach your daughter’s first bleed?

A girl’s experience of her first period, coming as it does at a time of great hormonal change, can vary enormously from one girl to another. For some it is a long awaited and welcome marker of a new and special status. For others it can be a dreaded and embarassing event. Some feel quietly, privately special. Some feel full of fear and overwhelmed. Some struggle with mood swings, cramps, and bloating. Others cannot understand what all the fuss is about.

Your daughter will handle her first time so much better if you have prepared her. If you have been able to talk to her about your bleeding time while she was growing up, she is more likely to embrace it when her time comes. And if you really can’t do it yourself, then enlist another women in your family or circle of close friends. Do not leave it up to her teachers or her peer group – this is your domain, not theirs.

It was difficult to know what to call this page – it is a delicate subject to broach. But broach it we must, or risk our girls being uneducated, misinformed, ashamed, awkward, fearful and more. The suicide helpline The Samaritans was set up in 1953 in response to the burial in unconsecrated ground of a fourteen year old girl. She had started her periods, but having no one to talk to believed that she had a sexually transmitted disease and took her own life.

Make sure your daughter knows what to do when she first starts bleeding. She may not be home, or she may want to handle it alone, so give her the information she needs.

- Does she know her options (pads, tampons), where to find them and how to use them?

- Does she know that rolled up toilet paper can do the job is she has nothing else to hand the first time?

- Does she know how to wash blood from her clothing?

- Explain that it is natural to feel overcome by strong emotions – and not to bottle them up.

- Explain that the first sight of blood can be shocking, both because of the hugeness of what it signifies, and because at any other time blood indicates injury and pain.

- Share with your daughter your experiences of mood swing, PMT, sugar cravings, and also how you manage them.

- Make sure that she knows that she can become pregnant now – even when she is bleeding, even if it is her first time, even if she is a virgin.

Give your daughter the gift of preparing her gently – and start long before she needs to know, just adding more details as she matures.

And if you haven’t yet, it’s never too late, even if she is menstruating already. Girls are hungry to know that they’re normal, that periods are not something that need to be hidden, that you are there to support them.

If you find it hard, you are not alone. Take advantage of when the issues are raised on television, radio or in the newspapers and talk about it that way. Find a book. Use humour. Have a giggle.

If you have been having Monthly Moments Together all this may happen a lot more easily. Setting aside private time together regularly can create a climate of intimacy and provide opportunities for talking in this way.


When the time comes – make hers a keepsake memory

When your daughter starts to bleed, or when she tells you that she has started, mark the specialness of the event – but tread carefully, you are on sacred ground, and your daughter requires sensitivity and respect.
Here are some ways that mothers have honoured their daughter’s first bleed:

  • a heart-shaped lavender bag on her pillow
  • a box of quality chocolates ‘not for sharing’
  • a much longed for trip to have ears pierced
  • a clothes shopping expedition
  • a heart-felt letter
  • red flowers on her bedside table
  • a family meal out
  • a spontaneous naked swim in a nearby lake, mother and daughter
  • a new haircut
  • new underwear from a lingerie shop
  • a trip to Greece

This may also feel like the right time to create a rite of passage ceremony for your daughter to mark her coming of age.  I have written much about how to go about doing this here or visit The Journey links on the right hand side of this page.

Visit the thread on my forum for mothers’ sharing experiences of their first bleed and also for how mothers have prepared their daughters.

In the past women were thought powerful because we can bleed without dying, in deed our bleeding indicates our ability to carry new life.

Every period can be a time of feeling that power.

9 or so comments

9 Responses to First blood

  1. Mairi Stones says:

    Thank you for this, it has helped me to see some gaps in my conversations and in preparing my daughter. Also I am moved to tears by the reason the Samaritans was set up, tragic in the extreme.

  2. Rosanne Gough says:

    I no longer menstruate, being past the age. I missed it at first. It was something regular and expected every 28 days, and I welcomed it. I thought of it like a ‘cleansing’ each month. The body washed and clean for a new start.
    My mother used to refer to it as my ‘friend’, that was her name for it. It meant we could talk about it in public, in conversation if we wanted to. eg”has your friend been to see you yet?”

    • Kim says:

      I am glad for my monthly cycle. I feel things more, especially on the first day, and it is like a friend reminding me of what is important to me, what I care about, and what is troubling me. It can also help me to remember to slow down and take care of myself – or at least if I do that, then each month I can welcome it with gratitude rather than apprehension.

  3. […] Check out Kims website- Rites for Girls, and her article on First Blood […]

  4. Sarah says:

    This has been very helpfull thanks. My daughter has not yet menustrated but she wants to be prepared. Are there any legal non-porn places where you can get photos of a girl’s first menstruation and their story of what it felt like and how their family reacted etc.
    That would be great thanks!

    • Kim says:

      I am not aware of any sites of photos or accounts of girls’ first menstruation – that is partly why I created this website. This topic is something that the girls in my Girls Journeying Together groups always ask to return to again and again though – and I invite an ‘old girl’ from a previous group to come back and talk about her experience of starting and answer their questions. We also gather together, mothers and daughters, and share our first time experiences, so girls can hear a variety of different stories. I would be happy to support you in setting up something like this if you wish. And if you do find any good sites, please do post them here.

  5. Martha says:

    Thanks for this info. If only more young women had their menarche celebrated we could feel our true power without all those extra steps of healing first!

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