Kotex wants to help mothers prepare for that inevitable moment when their daughter enters her Are You There God It's Me, Margaret? phase ... specifically, when she gets her first period. That's why they've launched U by Kotex Tween, a line exclusively tailored to preteens. In addition to being 18 percent shorter and narrower than other Kotex pads, the tween-sized feminine products were recently described by The New York Times as being "sold in glittery boxes decorated with hearts, stars, and swirls (which are also printed on the pads themselves), the products would look at home on the set of Hannah Montana."
They're launching the pads with a campaign built around encouraging moms to have "the talk" with their 8- to-12-year-old daughters, because some girls get their period that young. Sounds like a necessary and spirited movement, but at the same time, why is NO ONE explaining why girls are getting their periods so young??
From 1920 to 1984, the average age girls got their periods dropped from 13.3 to 12.4, according to a 2007 article in the Journal of Adolescent Health. And a study published in Pediatrics last year found that in the U.S., 15 percent of American girls begin puberty by age 7. 7!? 7!!! Whaaaaaaaaat?!
That's totally outrageous, and to me, it seems to demand some answers. But as far as the new Kotex campaign goes, it seems as though the "why" is being skuttled away into a corner. It's as if they're saying, "Puberty happens earlier now, moms and girls, so let's just learn to embrace it! XOXO"
The real reason behind why girls are likely getting their periods younger now? To a large extent, hormone-disrupting toxins in our food and water supply. In the last six or so years, we've learned that it's best to avoid plastic bottles made with BPA (bisphenol A), look for dairy that's free of rBST (artificial growth hormone), and try to opt for organic meats that are sans added antibiotics and hormones, but before then? What we ate and drank was filled with the stuff, and now we're seeing how that's affecting the age girls hit puberty.
Also, even now, the most organic-focused person cannot completely avoid hormones/pesticides/toxins/BPA in our everyday life. I'd guess that even drinking tap water that's been treated with fluoride can influence a young girls' delicate hormonal system, as fluoride is a proven endocrine disruptor. (Hence, why I switched to Tom's fluoride-free toothpaste a while back!)
Researchers also blame obesity as a factor for earlier puberty, but that kind of begs a "chicken or egg" question. Might hormones and other chemicals in food be contributing to obesity and early periods, or is it just that more fattening food/less activity triggers a hormonal effect on our girls?
Either way, Houston -- and the rest of America -- we have a problem. There's nothing cool, sparkly, pretty, or rockin' about having to cope with menstruating at such an early age. And you know something's seriously wrong when Big Pharma decides early hormonal activity simply presents a new opportunity for them to sell drugs aimed at halting puberty. More and more products are not the answer. What is: Actually asking the hard questions, getting to the bottom of what's truly triggering this disturbing trend, then doing what we can to curb it.
Does it concern you that girls are getting their periods earlier than ever?
Image via Robynne Blume/Flickr