OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Dr. Donna Schoenfelder, MD Linda Poirier, FNP-C


Adolescent Girls:
Those Wacky, Wonderful Years

By Donna Schoenfelder, MD & Linda Poirier, FNP-C
Obstetrical & Gynecological Care, Eau Claire

Remember your teenage years? Do you look back fondly on your adventures and friendships or was it a time of pain and loneliness? Adolescence is often when things that once were simple seem difficult and unpredictable: bodies, voices, moods, friendships, even parents.

Sometimes it's hard for parents to talk with their daughters. You may recall when you were on the receiving end of "The Talk" and how your parents handled delicate topics. You know your daughter better than anyone else, so keep that in mind as you plan your approach to discussing the facts and feelings of adolescence.

The Facts:

Girls generally begin puberty between the ages of 8 and 14, and then begin menstruating between 9 and 16. These changes are dependent on two things: genetics and life style. Girls will often follow in their mother's footsteps. However, we also know that diet, exercise and weight play a role in initiating the first period. There are physical signs that puberty is beginning that can signal the time to begin having these conversations with your daughter.


  • Development of breasts
  • Hips get broader
  • Growth of armpit and pubic hair
  • Increased sweating
  • Acne
  • Growth spurt in both height and weight
  • Weight of approximately 100 pounds

You'll want to think ahead and have a plan for the first period. You may want to pack a small “period kit” with feminine products for your daughter to keep in her backpack and explain how to use the products. Some girls will want to keep their news a secret and others will want to shout to the world that they're growing up. Your daughter should be in charge of how and when the information gets shared.

It's not uncommon for periods to be irregular the first year. Girls will often skip a month or can have two periods in one month. We suggest seeing your healthcare provider if the periods are consistently shorter than 21 days apart, last longer than seven days, are very painful, flow is very heavy, or if the periods have not become regular by age 17. Your provider may want to do a health history, some simple blood tests and a brief physical exam.

One of the most common concerns we hear from parents and young girls is menstrual cramps. There are several options for treating painful periods. If these measures don't provide relief, or if your daughter is missing school or activities because of severe cramping, we would suggest a visit to your healthcare provider.


  • Heating pad to lower abdomen
  • Warm bath
  • Exercise
  • Ibuprofen, dose according to weight, every 4-6 hours begun either right before expected cramps begin or as soon as the first twinges are felt
  • Drink lots of water, eat well and get plenty of rest

The Feelings:

Having a teenage daughter does not have to be the challenge so often portrayed in the media. It's important to understand the developmental changes that your daughter is facing. Listed below are books we have found helpful in guiding families.

Mood swings are shared by young girls everywhere. Most often these moods are caused by rapidly changing hormones and can strike without warning. As parents, it's important to be supportive by being a non-judgmental listener, unconditional in your love and positive in your responses. It's equally important to remind your daughter to remain kind and respectful when dealing with emotional changes.

Concerns about physical appearance and development, changing friendships and the exploration of romantic feelings can weigh on the emotions of your daughter. The developmental challenge that parents tend to struggle with most is their daughter's need for space and independence. Young women need to become comfortable in decision making in preparation for the day that they will inevitably leave. As parents, it can be difficult not to take this personally. Remember, she still needs your love and support.

Adolescence is a time for adventure, new experiences, growth, and discovery. With a little planning, education and open communication your daughter will be able to look back on these years with fondness and many good memories.


Celebrating Girls: Nurturing and Empowering Our Daughters by Virginia Beane Rutter

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher, Ph.D

Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Donna Schoenfelder or Linda Poirier, FNP-C » 715.834.9998 Obstetrical & Gynecological Care