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Contains sexual content.

Adult supervision suggested.


Lesson video

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My name is Mrs. O'Neill.

Welcome to lesson five in a unit of six lessons all about the changing adolescent body, building on our previous lessons about puberty and changes to the body and mind, first sexual feelings and hygiene.

We're now going to look at menstrual health.

Menstrual health is essentially to do with periods, and the focus on today's lesson is on expectations and period products.

You may not have periods.

You may not expect to have periods because you were born male and are male now and will be male in the future.

This lesson is still relevant to you.

You will have friends, relations, possibly children one day who do have periods.

And it's really, really important that you understand that aspect of their life.

So this lesson is for everybody, no matter what your sex, or your gender.

It is a sensitive topic to some, some people may feel a little bit of embarrassment or be a little bit unsure about this topic.

And that's absolutely fine, it is still really, really important.

Please do speak to a trusted adult before embarking on the lesson or ensure there is a trusted adult nearby while you're completing it, if you think that that it is useful and appropriate for you.

In this lesson, you're going to need an exercise book or a piece of paper to write on, and you'll need a pen or something to write with.

Let's look at the agenda for today's lesson.

First of all, that's going to be an intro quiz that you need to complete if you haven't already.

We're going to go through the typical cycle of periods We're going to talk about irregular periods and what that means, different types of period products out there.

And then I'll direct you towards the exit quiz.

So let's look at our key words for today's lesson.

First of all, the term uterus also known as a womb.

It's a part of female anatomy, female body, where a foetus would grow into a baby.

It's also a really important part of the female body when we talk about periods.

I want to use the word period or menstruation.

I'm referring to the same thing.

We talked about periods in our first lesson when we discussed puberty.

Periods, being the monthly cycle the bleeding that takes for several days, each month, for females.

Period products are the items that we use or that people who have periods use when they are looking to protect their underwear, to protect their clothing from the blood that their body will lose during a period.

And there's various different types of period products.

We have a sanitary towel that sometimes known as a part, tampons and menstrual cups, which are just some examples of what's available.

And even within those period products there are different kinds.

So there's different kinds of sanitary towels, different kinds of tampons, et cetera.

And we'll talk about some of the various choices that people who have periods do have when they decide how they want to protect themselves from the leakage of the blood that their body is going to lose.

So let's start with a question, something to consider.

Why might it be so confusing when experiencing a first period? Just have a think.

Why might those young people experiencing a first period, why might they find this time really, really confusing? Want to speak your minds out, or just jot a few key words down? Okay.

Here's some of my answers, do they match yours? Fear of the unknown, the period not being what was expected.

There might be more bleeding or less.

It's not knowing what period product to use.

It can be an absolute, it might be old, not knowing how to use it correctly.

And that's fine.

If you've got someone you can trust that you can talk to but if you don't have someone to, talk to it may well be that you're really embarrassed to talk to somebody.

You don't know who to talk to.

You could just add to the confusion.

So for lots of these reasons, first period can be really, really confusing.

So let's talk about how the menstrual cycle works.

This is most likely a refresher for you.

You may have done this work in science.

You may have looked at the menstrual cycle in previous lessons on puberty.

But it is important we understand this before we look at the expectations around periods and understand how period products work and which one we should be using if we have that choice to make.

Well, you can see on the slide now is an image of the female reproductive system.

And this image we're going to show you an animation of how a period happens.

So we start with an egg and the purple dot that represents the egg.

The egg is released during what's known as ovulation from the parts of the female body known as the ovary and the egg travels.

It travels down the fallopian tube, as you can see on the image to the uterus.

Now, if sexual intercourse takes place and the egg is successfully fertilised by a sperm then that will lead to a pregnancy.

In most cases, the egg will not be fertilised and it will dissolve but the lining of the uterus will continue to thicken as if it's expecting a fertilised egg to be implanted.

And that lining of the uterus continues to thicken as you can see on the arrow there in the diagram.

Now, a period is the lining of the uterus that sheds when there is not a fertilised egg about to grow into a foetus.

So it's the lining of the uterus that's not needed because the egg has not been fertilised that month.

That's what a period is.

So this process of menstruation, which is the period which is the end result of the menstrual cycle if an egg is not released, this is what we're talking about.

This is what the whole process is all about.

So a period or menstruation is thickened uterus lining that sheds when it's not needed to host a fertilised egg as it grows into a foetus.

So roughly this process takes place over the course of 28 days.

I save a fleet because for some people the cycle is less for some, it is more, for some it is irregular, but we're roughly thinking along the lines of 28 days on average.

So, we might say at the beginning of their cycle starts when the egg is released, we call that ovulation.

As we've mentioned before, the egg travels to the uterus and if not fertilised, it will dissolve with the lining of the uterus, continuing to thicken.

We then have the period which we've talked about with the lining of the uterus shedding and then a new egg start to mature and the lining of the uterus begins to thicken again.

Essentially, this is something that repeats.

That's why it's known as a cycle.

So time for you to reflect on this learning.

The facts below are all jumbled up.

I would like you to please write down the correct order of these events during the menstrual cycle.

You might choose to just write the letters in the correct order or you might wish to copy out the full phrase.

I'm going to leave that to you in your choice.

When you are ready, I would like you to please pause the video and complete the task.

You may do that now and resume when complete.

Thank you for rejoining me.

So shall we go through the answers? The first step in the cycle, we have a period, the lining of the uterus sheds.

We then have a new egg maturing and the lining of the uterus thickens.

The egg is released upon ovulation and an egg travels to the uterus.

If not fertilised, the egg will dissolve and the lining of the uterus continues to thicken.

Now, one thing that I should say is if you have put these answers starting at a different point but the order is the same then that's also correct, because, as we've said, this is a cycle.

So any point may be considered the start, but it's the order that it happens in from that starting point that's important to understand.

Irregular periods.

So what's meant by this.

So a few months after period start they should start to become regular.

So it's really important to note that in that first few months, or even a couple of years after somebody starts their periods, they might not be the same length of cycle every single month.

For example, one month, it may be 26 days between periods and the next 32, then going back to 27, for example, and for some women, there's actually an element of irregularity throughout their lives.

What's regular for one person might not be the same as for another, what's most important to be aware of.

Particularly once we get into do what three years after periods have been gone.

If the pattern of periods changes, isn't the same.

There's a range of reasons why.

And we need to be aware of which of those reasons maybe something to be concerned about, something to maybe seek a little bit of medical advice over or whether it's something that's normal and to be expected.

The main reasons why somebody's periods may stop or why they may become irregular is because, the cycle is not established yet and it just might take a little bit longer because changes in health or diet, and that might be mental health as well.

Stress can have an impact on the menstrual cycle for example, that can lead to a change in the length of the period itself or the whole cycle or lead you to miss a period, for example.

And then the other key thing that may cause periods to stop or to change is pregnancy.

So these are things to be aware of in terms of reasons why periods may be irregular.

So reflecting on that, we have a multiple choice question.

I'd like you to consider which of these is not a reason why periods might be irregular.

Is it that periods are not yet established? Is it due to pregnancy, too much sleep or health, or diet change, please point to the answer that is not a reason why periods might be irregular and points that uncertain now.

Let's see if you're correct too much sleep.

Did you get it right? So there's no real evidence that too much sleep can lead to periods becoming irregular but periods not being established, pregnancy or health or diet change are all reasons why periods may be irregular.

Let's move on to talk about period products.

So first of all, we're going to talk about sanitary towels.

These are sometimes called sanitary pads or just pads and you can buy them in an absolute huge range of appearances of sizes of different, slightly different functions depending on how heavy the period is.

Some are more absorbent than others.

Some are designed to be invisible.

Some are designed to be worn at night.

You'll see a huge range of them in the shops, in the period product aisle of a chemist or supermarket.

You can now buy reusable sanitary towels that need to be washed in a particular way, following the instructions but they can be reused.

And some people now will buy several different reusable sanitary towels to use over the course of a period and then wash ready for the next period a month later.

Most common are the type that you see on the screen now.

The image of a sanitary towel that you see there where the sort of two flops at the side are called wings and they just slot around the outside of the underwear to keep them in place, but you can buy sanitary towels without wings as well.

And you can see that essentially they are a piece of absorbent material that soaks up the blood loss and they can normally be worn between four and six hours before they need to be changed.

They look like the bottom picture before they are unwrapped.

So as I've said, most sanitary towels are single use.

They simply stick into the underwear and needs to be changed every few hours and they absorb the blood and they need to be disposed off quite carefully.

Some of them come in wrappers that you can wrap them up in but there needs to be disposed off into a bin not flushed down the toilet because that's really not good for the environment and it can cause blockages in the toilet.

In public toilets, there's normally a special bin to put them in.

So a true or false question based on the information on sanitary towels also known as pads, all sanitary pads or towels are reusable, true or false, point to the correct answer, please, It's false.

There are we usable parts or towels available but single use are more commonly used.


Along with sanitary towels or pads, these are the most common type of period products.

Like sanitary towels, you will find them not just in chemists, but in most corner shops in the UK, they are really easily available.

And they are essentially pieces of cotton with a string at end.

And they're inserted internally into the vagina.

That's what's different about them compared to sanitary towels, which are on the outside and put in the underwear.

These are actually tampons are inserted into the vagina to absorb blood.

And after four to six hours, they are pulled out using the string or as needed, people will understand their cycle and their flow at different times within that period, and may need to change more often.

With tampons, it's really important they are changed every six hours as a minimum because it can cause health problems if they are left in any longer and like sanitary towels they come in a huge range of sizes and absorbance that people can choose what suits them and their needs, are the discreet and they're comfortable if they're used correctly, they can also be used during swimming and they shouldn't leak if the correct absorbency is being used.

And if inserted correctly, and you can buy tampons with an applicator, which has cardboard or plastic to help insert into the vagina or bought simply as the image shows there, whether it can be inserted with the finger, obviously in terms of hygiene, we should always be washing our hands before and after using a period product.

You can see from this image here where a tampon should be inserted, you can see it's inserted into the vagina.

So normally someone would have to sort of hold and the lips of the vagina or the vulva area.

So hold it apart ready to insert into the vagina.

It's really, really simple when you've got the hang of it, just might take a little bit of practise at the start.

People shouldn't worry that it can pass through the cervix into the uterus.

It can't, the vagina is a muscular wall.

It will hold it in place.

And there's no way of it passing into the cervix if that's something that you are worried about.

So tampons are worn inside the body, true or false, point to the correct answer, please.

It's true.

Tampons are worn inside the body, inside the vagina.

This leads us onto our next type of period product which is a menstrual cup.

The image there shows you what a menstrual cup looks like.

Again, you can buy them in a range of sizes.

You can buy them in a range of colours, even slightly different shapes.

These are designed to collect the blood.

So they're inserted like a tampon into the vagina.

They catch the blood flow.

These can be left in for longer than a tampon.

They can be left in for up to 12 hours, again depending on blood flow and depending on personal preference, again, they're really discreet and it really convenient.

They're really environmentally friendly because they are reused time and time again and they're suitable for swimming.

They can be a little bit tricky to get used to and it does take a little bit of practise.

The advice that goes with them is to wear perhaps a sanitary towel in the first few times that you're wearing a menstrual cup just until you're sure that you're having it fixed in the right way.

The menstrual cup has to be folded either into a C shape or with one side press down to make the end small enough to insert into the vagina or it'll pop back open and it will be held with this vacuum against the walls of the vagina.

There's lots of advice about inserting menstrual cups, lots of videos out there that you can find if you decide that this is a product that you want to use, it just might take a little bit more research and a little bit more practise than the other period products.

So I'd like to consider the possible advantages of menstrual cups based on what we were just talking about.

I'd like you to consider the advantages compared specifically to sanitary towels.

So I'd like to think of three examples of advantages of menstrual cups compared to sanitary towels.

These advantages might not be advantages for everybody but it's things I want you to consider about why some people may choose menstrual cups over sanitary towels.

What might the reasons be? What advantages do they see in the use of a menstrual cup that might make them want to try using that particular type of period product? So you can see the I've outlined that, how you might set out your answer.

So when you are ready, I would like you to please pause the video so that you can complete the task.

And once you have completed it, play.

Thank you for rejoining me.

Now, let's see what answers you may have come up with.

You may have talked about the fact that a menstrual cup is reusable whereas only some sanitary towels are usable.

If you buy that particular kind, you can change them less often.

Remember we said, uptake 12 hours.

You can wear a menstrual cup for and swimming is fine with a menstrual cup whereas you can't swim with a sanitary towel.

And the final type of period product that we are going to talk about today is period underwear.

These look and feel just like regular underwear but they have got really absorbent fabric in the area where the blood is going be collected, so they can be used instead of pads, towels, tampons, several kinds of period underwear product will need to be purchased.

One pair will not be enough because you only need to take one off and wash it and have one to wear at the time.

Again, most people who use period underwear may choose to buy a set that will last them through an entire period and then complete the washing of those products ready for the next period.

Then not the most suitable product for people that have a really heavy period flow, it's they don't perhaps absorb enough blood.

If you are someone who has a particularly heavy flow but it may be that they're suitable for certain days within the period and not the heaviest days, stands a personal choice.

Many people choose a range of period products and will use different kinds depending on different points in the period or just their own personal preference at the time.

So we're going to complete a much up task now, where you are going to match up the correct period product to the information about it.

So I am going to ask you to please pause the video.

I would then like you to write down the correct information next to the correct product.

When you have done that and you've matched them up in what you believe to be the correct way, I will then ask you to unpause the video so we can go through the answers.

Pause the video.

Thank you for rejoining me.

Let's have a look and see if you have got the correct answers.

So the item that is removed by string is a tampon.

The item that can be worn for up to 12 hours is a menstrual cup.

The item that sticks to underwear is a sanitary towel, also known as a pad.

And the item that looks like underwear is period underwear.

I'm going to end with a final task which is a scenario.

We're going to talk about Chelsea.

Chelsea is 13, and she started her periods a few months ago.

She'd been wearing sanitary towels because they're sold at her local shop, which is handy if a mom forgets to buy them on the supermarket.

And she thinks that sanitary towels are really easy to use as well.

The problem is she enjoys swimming, but is hugely frustrated because she can't swim whilst wearing a sanitary towel.

So your task is this.

You're to imagine you're Chelsea's friend.

And she's asked you for advice about changing from sanitary towels to another period product.

What would you advise? Please write a paragraph, offering your advice.

I've given you a sentence to start you off with a little bit of a follow up to help you with your explanation.

So when you're ready, please pause the video to copy and complete your response to Chelsea with the advice you'd give her as a friend as to what period product she might choose to change to from sanitary towels, because she likes to swim.

Please pause the video now.

Thank you for rejoining me.

Let's have a look and see what sorts of things you may have advised Chelsea today.

The period product I advise Chelsea to use is tampons.

That's the example I'm giving, that's because they're easily available at most local shops like sanitary towels.

However, they can't be worn when swimming.

Chelsea might want to try and menstrual cups.

They're not as easily available but they are usable and can also be used in swimming.

Did you advise Chelsea the same as I did? Thank you so much for joining me today.

I hope this lesson has been really useful.

Period products are really, really confusing.

There's lots of information out there.

Should you wish to find out more, please, don't be afraid to talk to a trusted adult whether that be someone at home or whether that be someone in school or a school nurse or a GP or the nurse at your GP practise because they can offer you lots of advice and help if you are unsure.

Most schools also will have period products available for people if they need them while they're at school.

So please don't be afraid to ask a trusted adult at school where you can access those if you need to.

50% of the world's population have or have had periods, they are nothing to be embarrassed about.

So please don't be worried about seeking further advice or help if you need it.

Please don't forget to complete today's exit quiz.

Thank you so much and hopefully I'll see you again.

Next time, I will be exploring some more issues to do with periods to complete our unit on the changing adolescent body.

Thank you, goodbye.