If your child is new to having their period, they might be feeling all sorts of overwhelmed about it. From spotting to the anxiety of potentially leaking in class (don’t worry, we’ve got a guide for that) to assorted period-related aches and pains, it may seem like the number of concerns surrounding their monthly cycle will never end. As a parent, your role is to guide your child or daughter through this time, and be an open source of comfort and compassion they can turn to when they have any concerns or worries about their cycle.
If your child or daughter has come to you recently with complaints that their period has started and stopped a lot during their cycle, and you’re wondering what this could mean for them, you’re in the right place. This post will walk you through the reasons behind the common irregularities of periods, and let you know what could be the cause of your child or daughter starting and stopping their period.
For most menstruating people, the first two years of their period can be wildly erratic and irregular. It’s common for somebody to get their first period (called the menarche) one month, and then not get another period for one or even two months. If your child or daughter falls into this category, rest assured that it’s completely normal. Some periods can last for two or three days while others continue for up to seven (Note: If your child reports that their period is lasting for longer than 10 days, this is unusual, and you might want to consider taking your child to a doctor or gynecologist.) For now, let’s dive into the causes of an irregular period and what might be the reason behind why your child or daughter’s period starts and stops and what you can tell them to ease their worries.
PS: Download our free period guide to learn everything you need to know about puberty and menstruation and share it with your child or daughter so they can learn everything they need to know too!
Why Did My Daughter Start and Stop Her Period?
The average menstruating person loses about two to three tablespoons of blood during their period. Not all period blood, however, is made equal. Some of the blood lost is actually tissue from the endometrial lining of the uterus instead of blood. The tissue separates from the uterus, passes through the cervix and exits the body out of the vagina. This process can be the reason why sometimes folks end up with thick clumps of blood instead of a thin stream. These chunks are called “clots” and they help stop you from losing too much blood during your cycle. Uterine lining doesn’t always leave the uterus at a steady pace, which leads to lighter and heavier days throughout your period. Sometimes, tissue can even block the flow out of the cervix, which might create a start-stop pattern. Talk to your child or daughter about this. How long does their period usually last? If it lasts for the typical three to seven days, you can let them know that changes and variations in period flow are totally normal, and both of you have nothing to worry about.
If your child or daughter has mentioned or expressed concern that their period is starting and stopping, ask if they have experienced any blood clots or “chunkier” periods. This might be the reason behind the variation in flow patterns for them.
What Else Can Cause An Irregular Period?
If your daughter only recently got her first period (aka less than two years ago), it’s very common to have irregular cycles. (Don't forget to teach her how to insert a tampon before she gets her first period.) Remember, your child is still going through puberty. Their body is undergoing some major changes, including some serious hormone fluctuations. And during menstruation, those hormone fluctuations increase. The combination of estrogen and progesterone raging through the body can create irregular period symptoms such as skipped months, heavier flow days mixed with lighter ones, and scarily late — or early!— periods, among others. Speak to your child about this frankly and honestly so that they’re aware of the changes happening in their body, and so they know what could be causing their irregular period. Knowledge is power, and, as a parent, it’s key to make sure your child is armed with the right information. The more they know about various period-related signs and symptoms, the better prepared they will be for anything that arises. Remember, periods are kind of weird, and anything can happen with them, especially in the first two years of having one. That said, not everything is a cause for panic, and it’s your job as a parent to make sure that your child understands as much as you can tell them.
Other factors that can contribute to irregular periods include diet (for example, eating a lot of fats and salt can contribute to a heavier flow), unusually high stress levels, excessive exercise, weight fluctuations, and certain medications, including birth control, anti-depressants, thyroid medication, and yes, even ibuprofen (you might know this one as Advil). If your child or daughter is taking any of these medications, they might be messing with their period cycle and flow, and perhaps even causing their period to start and stop. If you think this might be an issue, consult with both your child or daughter and their doctor to figure out what next steps could look like regarding their period and their medications.
Further reading: Does caffeine help period cramps?
Should I Be Worried About My Child?
If your child is feeling particularly anxious about experiencing these symptoms and irregularities, and especially if your child or daughter is starting and stopping their period every single time, it may be a good idea to speak to a doctor. Let your child know that they can always come to you with any questions or concerns. Find out if your daughter’s period lasts longer than 10 days. That could be a sign that something is wrong– such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or a thyroid issue. Likewise, ask them about their flow- whether or not their period is very heavy, chunky, or to talk to you if they’re experiencing severe symptoms. Some period irregularities are not common or normal, and you and your child or daughter should consider visiting the doctor’s office with any serious concerns for some professional advice.
Ultimately, if you or your child or daughter are dealing with a period that is starting and stopping, it’s not usually a sign of anything serious. During your period, some of the blood you use is actually tissue separating from your uterus. This doesn’t always happen in a clean sweep, and can cause blood clots. (You know, when your period is a little bit…chunky.) Sometimes the tissue can block the cervix, creating a pattern of lighter and heavier flow days, which could lead to your period starting and stopping. If your period is within the normal range of three to seven days, it’s probably not much to worry about. However, if you’re experiencing this starting and stopping pattern as well as other symptoms and irregularities every period, it’s always a good idea to reach out to a doctor or gynecologist.