Little girls don't stay little forever. And as your daughter develops into a young woman, you'll need to have the "talk" with her about her changing body -- unless you prefer that she learn all about it from TV, the Internet and music videos. Trust us -- you'll thank us later, as will your daughter!
Here are six topics you should cover to ensure she has the information she needs about her developing body.
1. Start early
You can start as young as 3 years old, but use medically accurate terms for body parts. There's no need to go overboard, but your daughter should know where her vagina is and the difference between boys and girls. This will help her establish that there is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about when it comes to her body.
2. Prep her for her first period
Many girls can start having their periods as early as 9 or 10 years old, and it's important to make sure they're aware of what that means. Tell them that when they begin menstruating, they're entering womanhood and they should watch for continued signs of development -- pubic and auxiliary hair, breast buds, mood swings and acne.
3. Talk about sex in the context of a loving, mature relationship
When talking to your daughter about sex, be sure to frame it in the context of a healthy relationship. Underscore that when two people love each other, sex can be a beautiful, compassionate expression of their feelings and that there should never be a time when she feels uncomfortable or pressured to do anything.
4. Talk about her first GYN visit
For many young women, their first GYN visit -- usually around age 21 or whenever they become sexually active -- can feel invasive, to say the least. While it's important to choose a doctor you know and trust, it is equally important to prepare your daughter for the examinations she will undergo. Let her know what she should and should not expect when she's being examined.
5. Explain the differences between yeast infections and STDs
Yeast infections are extremely common for women and occur when there is an overgrowth of the naturally-occurring yeast that exists in the vagina. Explain to your daughter what causes them and that they can be treated with an OTC vaginal antifungal. For her first time, however, she should see her doctor just to confirm the diagnosis. Sexually transmitted diseases usually require a visit to the doctor and are usually treated with a prescription. If she thinks she has an STD, make her feel safe and encourage dialogue -- then get her to a doctor as soon as possible.
6. Discuss the basics of vaginal hygiene
Plenty of women worry about the look and smell of their vaginas and think they need to give them a "fresh" or "floral" fragrance. The truth is, vaginas aren't supposed to smell like a tropical rainforest or an island breeze. Tell your daughter that normal vaginal scents can range from musky to tinny and everywhere in between -- it all depends on her unique body chemistry and pH balance. The only scent that's decidedly abnormal is a strong and unpleasant fishy odor. This may indicate that she has an infection such as bacterial vaginosis, at which point you should get her to a doctor.
There are a ton of ways to talk to your daughter about her changing body and her vagina. These are just a few things to consider as you both go through one of the biggest changes in your lives -- her development. She's going to have questions and you probably will too, but remember that you both are on this journey together. And remember, if there's anything you can't handle, you can always ask your doctor.
Dr. Bohn, Dr. Hill and Dr. Park are chief medical consultants for Insight Pharmaceuticals, parent company of Monistat. The advice and opinions expressed in this article are their own.