You definitely want to start talking to your daughter about menstruation before her periods begin. While she may have some information from other sources, if she gets her period before she's been prepared, it can be a very scary experience. On average, a girl will get her first period around two and half years after she starts puberty. So plan ahead.
Ideally, your daughter has already started to ask you questions about puberty, including menstruation. When she does ask a question, listen and then answer the question she's asked. Don't try to tell her everything she needs to know about menstruating all at once; it's too much for her to take in. So make sure this is an ongoing conversation. If she hasn't asked you anything, you'll have to start the conversation yourself. You might ask if she has any questions when you're shopping together at the drugstore and you're picking up some pads or tampons for yourself. Another opportunity would be when a relevant commercial comes on television.
As you talk to her about periods, she'll take cues from your tone. If you're negative or complain about it -- that's how she'll feel about it. If you present it as a natural part of growing up, with its beauty (periods are what let women get pregnant) and challenges (she can get pregnant), that will help calm her fears about the whole issue.
Your daughter might feel too uncomfortable to ask about some concerns. Here are some typical topics you want to make sure you cover:
- What's actually happening in her body during her period?
- Does it hurt?
- What happens if she gets her period in public?
- What if she stains her pants?
- How often will it happen? How long will it last?
- Will people know when she has her period?
- Does she have to limit her activities during her period?
- What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?
- What is good hygiene?
- How does she use pads and tampons?