The first four lessons in this series contain information that you probably already had planned to teach your daughter during puberty to prepare her for this important transition in her life.
Let me ask you this…
When you were your daughter’s age, did anyone explain to you about why you have a period each month and the importance of female hormones?
Maybe, but maybe not.
I think these are some of the most important concepts that you can help your daughter understand. I am going to simplify the menstrual cycle and the hormones that regulate it, which of course, will affect her life for many years to come!
The menstrual cycle consists of all of events that result in your period. It is usually 28 days long but can be a few days more or less.
Here are a few key points:
- Day 1 of the menstrual cycle is the first day of your period.
- The brain controls your menstrual cycle. Although you think of the menstrual cycle as being limited to your reproductive organs, the control center is actually in the brain. It sends hormones to the ovaries to set the cycle in motion and monitors daily hormone levels.
- The purpose of each menstrual cycle is to prepare the endometrium of the uterus for the arrival of a fertilized egg that can grow into a baby inside the uterus.
This illustration from my book, I’m a Girl Hormones!, is a good review of the parts of the female reproductive system that I will refer to in this article.
- Fallopian Tubes
If you’d like to review these structures more in-depth, please visit the first lesson in this series, How to Teach Your Daughter About Puberty | Lesson 1 – The Basics.
To help simplify what is happening during each week of the menstrual cycle, I have created a colorful menstrual cycle calendar with symbols. You can print this and refer to it as you read this article. Click the image to download the PDF!
The First Two Weeks
Here’s what happens:
- DAY 1 is the first day of your period. The amount of menstrual blood coming out decreases each day. The total amount is about 2-3 tablespoons.
- The important hormone during the first two weeks is estrogen. The brain tells the ovaries to make estrogen and increase the amount every day. Estrogen tells the endometrium lining the inside of the uterus to become thick with tiny glands and blood vessels.
- DAY 14. This is an important day. It is ovulation. The brain tells one of the ovaries to let go of an unfertilized egg and it is captured by the fallopian tube that is closest to the ovary.
The Next Two Weeks
Here’s what happens:
- The unfertilized egg travels 4 days in the fallopian tube until it arrives at the uterus.
- If an unfertilized egg joins with a sperm while they are in the fallopian tube, a fertilized egg is formed.
- The important hormone during the second two weeks is progesterone. The brain tells the ovary that let go of the egg to produce more and more progesterone each day. Progesterone puts finishing touches on the thick endometrium so it will be ready to take care of a fertilized egg.
- If a fertilized egg arrives in the uterus, it will wiggle into the thick endometrium and continue to grow into a baby.
- The most likely scenario is that an unfertilized egg arrives in the uterus. In this case, it will simply disappear. The uterus realizes it does not need the thick endometrium and so it starts to break it apart.
- From about DAY 24 until the end of the cycle on DAY 28, you will feel some changes in your body. These few days are called the premenstrual days.
- By DAY 24, the breasts will become a little tender. They are also affected by estrogen and progesterone.
- There may be some cramping as the uterus cleanses away the broken pieces of the thick endometrium.
- Feeling irritable, angry or even a little sad is common. Your brain senses that your hormones are changing.
- If these signs interfere with your daily activities, the condition is called premenstrual syndrome or PMS.
Notice that on DAY 28 this menstrual cycle has ended. The next menstrual cycle begins again on DAY 1 when your period starts as the broken pieces of the thick endometrium are cleansed out in the following days through the vagina. The endometrium now begins to build up again.
This Completes The Menstrual Cycle!
Since it is obvious when day 1 of your menstrual cycle has begun because there is bleeding, it can be recorded on a calendar (there are also some great apps). Then your daughter will always know what is coming and when she needs to prepare for her next period. It is always helpful to know what is going to happen next and not be surprised!
Special Note For Moms:
This content usually does not make it into a school curriculum and yet it will impact your daughter’s life month after month for many decades. She will certainly be the girl in school who is the most informed and confident in her understanding about her body. Also, she won’t be easily thrown off by all the incorrect information that is out there.
If you have any questions that you would like me to answer or you would like to contact me, please contact me through my website, www.anatomyforkids.com/contact, and I will be happy to chat with you.