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The female reproductive system

You can use this information to answer tricky “how does that work” questions

Introduction

When talking to your child about things like periods, how babies are made and contraception, it can be helpful to have an understanding of the female reproductive system. You can use this information to answer tricky “how does that work” questions and to make sure you are giving your child the right information.

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The ovaries contain eggs (also called ova). During puberty the ovaries start releasing eggs. This happens around once a month.

The fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the uterus. The egg travels down the fallopian tubes to the uterus.

The uterus grows a thick lining each month to prepare for a possible pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy then the uterus sheds its lining. This is called a menstrual period.

The cervix connects the vagina to the uterus. It has a tiny gap that lets some things (like sperm) up to the uterus and some things (like period blood) down to the vagina.

The vagina is a strong, stretchy passage that connects the vulva to the cervix. Period blood and discharge come out of the vagina.

The vulva is the name for the outer area of the genitals. For more information on the different parts that make up the vulva see here

What is a period?

A period is a bleed that comes out of the vagina about once a month. The bleed usually lasts between 3-7 days. It is caused by the shedding of the lining of the uterus. The blood may change colour (bright red to brown) and texture (blobby to liquid) over of the course of the period.

Why do periods happen?

A period is part of the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle begins during puberty. It is how a female body prepares for a possible pregnancy. A full menstrual cycle usually lasts about a month, but this is different for everyone.

During the menstrual cycle:

  • each month an egg matures in a woman’s ovary. The lining of the uterus (also called the endometrium) will also thicken
  • the egg is released from the ovary. This is called ovulation. The egg travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus.
  • if a man and woman have sex a man’s sperm can go into the woman’s vagina. It then travels up into the woman’s uterus and fallopian tubes
  • if there are no sperm in a woman’s uterus or fallopian tubes the egg will not be fertilised. If the egg is not fertilised, the egg and the lining from the uterus break down
  • blood and the lining from the uterus flow out through the vagina as a period
  • the whole cycle then starts again

For more information on how to talk to your child about periods go to Talking about periods.

Conversation Starters

Do you see those brightly coloured packets on the shelf over there? They are called pads. Some people use them when they have their period. You will get a period when you grow up. Do you know why periods happen?
You are getting really good at naming your private body parts. Would you like to know what the inside of your private body parts look like?
Do you know where a baby grows before it is born?

Strategies for you to try

Create labelling and sorting games

Ask your child to point to the different parts of their reproductive system on the pictures or put labels on the different parts. Ask your child to sort the images of the different stages of the menstrual cycles in order.

Calendar

Stick images of the different stages of the menstrual cycle onto your child’s calendar. This way they can see how their body is changing as time passes each month.

Teachable moments

Use teachable moments to start a conversation with your child. Examples of teachable moments could include:

  • walking down the aisle at the supermarket and pointing out the sanitary products
  • seeing a pregnant woman on the bus
  • a couple on TV are talking about having a baby
  • your child opening the drawer where the tampons and pads are kept

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Introduction to puberty for girls
The female reproductive system

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The female reproductive system

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