Any relief for intense periods in early adolescence?

Hi BPN, my almost-12 year old has had her period for a little over six months. It's still very erratic but seems to be arriving more frequently (like every 2-3 weeks) and is extremely heavy. She's not yet comfortable with tampons (we're working on it) and so she's stressing to change out a high-absorbency pad every hour, which is impeding on her desire to go to school, play sports, etc. I had similarly intense periods (severe cramping and heavy bleeding) when I was a young teen, and finally got relief when I went on the pill at age 15. Are there **any** options for young girls dealing with this? Is birth control an option and when? I'll be speaking with our pediatrician about this as well but am interested in what others have heard from their doctors that I should proactively bring up. Thanks!

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Yes, please talk to her doctor! It takes a body some time to regulate periods, but there are options. What I want to encourage you to do at that appointment as well is to request a test to check for iron-deficiency anemia (a ferritin test). When periods are so heavy and frequent, it can lead to anemia, which is under-diagnosed. My teenager was getting her period every 2 weeks and was severely anemic. We got her an IUD because she also gets migraines so she couldn’t go on the pill. There’s also a medicine that helps reduce the bleeding (can’t remember what it’s called). But thank you so much for advocating for your child!

Hi there! Wanted to share that our pediatrician was very proactive about recommending and prescribing a low-hormone birth control pill when my daughter shared her troubles with heavy, long periods and bad cramping.  My teen is older (17) but I think you should definitely talk with your child's doctor about it.  Unless there is a medical reason to delay taking it, I hope your pediatrician will be supportive.  It is really tough for these girls who are just learning to be comfortable with their bodies, how to plan ahead, take time for what they need etc.  It also seems they don't have enough time between class periods to get to the bathroom to change their pads/tampons as often as needed on heavy days. There needs to be widespread period-justice movement/awareness at our middle and high schools to ensure that girls can go to the bathroom when needed and also have access to supplies. And not feel ashamed or embarrassed!

It is quite typical today to give hormonal BC for painful periods at any age; I've not heard of negative side effects, up to and including seeing a report that it didn't "encourage" earlier sexual activity, either, which has been a concern for some parents. ( I was just looking into it last month to catch up since it's been a while since I was on the pill.

Still, the conversation is best had with the doctor to rule out anything unusual and create a plan together. I too suffered this way my whole life and am glad for my daughter that our doctor didn't blink about going on the pill (although my kiddo is 15; their periods just became debilitatingly painful in the last year). Shorter, easier, less painful periods, and even acne control and the ability to control when they happen and or skip periods for convenience were all discussed at their appointment.

Note: this was at an ob/gyn, not pediatrician. The pill was prescribed without need for an actual gynecological or physical exam beyond taking vital signs, because my kiddo is not yet in need of that.

In the meantime, I can't say enough about period underwear, used with or without a pad for backup. ModiBodi and Aisle are two brands that are free of PFAS and well-rated, and they really do work. It puts the mind at ease.

This is so hard! My DD had a similar experience and her pediatrician shared that this is pretty common when they begin menses. Eventually it evened out, but it did take some time, like maybe 24 months. I second the recommendation for period underwear - DD uses these in conjunction with a pad so that there are no leaks and it works really well. 

I am so sorry to hear this as I had that too and honestly it was the worst pain I ever experienced.

One suggestion is see an acupuncturist who is geared to women's issues or even infertility because then they focus on your cycle. Get someone experienced. I am sure they can help at least somewhat and maybe even a lot. I didn't do this for period pain but I went to an acupuncturist at the recommendation of my IVF doctor because it increases chances of pregnancy and I was amazed to see that within just a few sessions my period was back (I was 39 and hadn't much of a period for about a year) and that instead of the dark clumping period I had had for years, it looked bright red and healthy without all those dark clumps, something I literally hadn't seen in years. So they can definitely change the flow and maybe even lower the pain level. Try it for a month - 4 sessions, she should see results by then.

One pain tip is to put 2 tennis balls in a sock for pressure points in bed at night. Place under the lower back at the end of the tail bone, and move around until finding the spot that provides relief. Another really effective pressure point is at the top of the hip - when standing feel the top of the hip, press thumb down hard but move it around a bit until finding the right spot - usually inward from the hip bone and down a bit  and that should totally stop all the pain - just for the moment you do it but if it is an intense moment then it's nice to have a tool to at least stop the pain for a second.

I also found that stretching helped a relief the pain for 20 minutes or so - not just leaning at sides, but touching toes all of that gets tight. This doesn't really address your concerns but thought I'd throw it out there. I have all the sympathy in the world for your daughter and it's great that you are helping her find some relief.