Menstrual Cycle Facts for Your Daughter

The length of the menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman, but the average is to have periods every 28 days. Regular cycles that are longer or shorter than this, from 24 to 35 days, are normal.

menstrual-cycle-facts“The menstrual cycle is the time from the first day of a woman’s period to the day before her next period,” says Toni Belfield, a specialist in sexual health information and a trained fertility awareness teacher.

“Girls can start their periods anywhere from age 10 upwards, but the average is around 12 years,” says Belfield. “The average age for the menopause (when periods stop) in this country is 50-55.”

Between the ages of 12 and 52, a woman will have around 480 periods, or fewer if she has any pregnancies.

What Happens During the Menstrual Cycle?

To understand the menstrual cycle, it helps to know about the reproductive organs inside a woman’s body. These are:

  • Two ovaries (where eggs are stored, develop and are released)
  • The womb (uterus), where a fertilised egg implants, and a pregnancy grows
  • The fallopian tubes, two thin tubes which connect the ovaries to the womb
  • The cervix, the lower part of the womb that connects to the vagina
  • The vagina, a tube of muscle connecting the cervix to the outside of the body

The menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones. In each cycle, rising levels of oestrogen cause the ovary to develop an egg and release it (ovulation). The womb lining also starts to thicken.

After ovulation, the hormone progesterone helps the womb lining grow thicker, ready for pregnancy.

The egg travels down the fallopian tubes. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, the egg is absorbed into the body. Levels of oestrogen and progesterone fall, and the womb lining comes away and leaves the body as a period (the menstrual flow).

The time from the release of the egg to the start of a period is around 10-16 days. Watch an animation about how the menstrual cycle works.


A period is made up of blood and the womb lining. The first day of a woman’s period is day one of the menstrual cycle.

“Periods last around three to seven days, and women lose about three to five tablespoons of blood in a period,” says Belfield. Some women bleed more heavily than this, but help is available if heavy periods are a problem. Find out about treatments for heavy periods.


Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovaries. A woman is born with all her eggs. Once she starts her periods, one egg (occasionally two) develops and is released during each menstrual cycle.

After ovulation, the egg lives for 24 hours. “If you release more than one egg in a month, you will produce that second egg within 24 hours of the first,” says Belfield.

Pregnancy happens if a man’s sperm meet and fertilise the egg. Sperm can survive in the fallopian tubes for up to seven days after sex.

A woman can’t get pregnant if ovulation doesn’t occur. Some hormonal methods of contraception, such as the combined pill, the contraceptive patch and the contraceptive injection work by stopping ovulation.

When is the Fertile Time?

“Theoretically, there’s only a short time when women can get pregnant, and that is the time around ovulation,” says Belfield.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when ovulation happens unless you’re practising fertility awareness (FPA guide to natural family planning). In most women, ovulation happens around 10-16 days before the next period.

Fertility awareness can be used to plan or avoid pregnancy, but has to be taught by a trained fertility awareness instructor. It involves monitoring vaginal secretions, taking your temperature every day, and keeping a calendar of your cycle to help pinpoint when ovulation is likely to be happening.

“It’s not accurate to say that women are fertile on day 14 of the menstrual cycle,” says Belfield. This might be true for women who have a regular, 28-day cycle, but it won’t apply to women whose cycles are shorter or longer.

Vaginal Secretions

Vaginal secretions (sometimes called vaginal discharge) change during the menstrual cycle. Around the time of ovulation they become thinner and stretchy, a bit like raw egg white.

Find out more about getting pregnant, fertility and period problems.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 07-11-2016 to 07-17-2016

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Safety News: A 12-year-old wrote an incredible note to her little sister’s bullies

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
How the education system is making kids stressed and sick
…based in Australia…but the story is the same worldwide

Can Breastfeeding Your Child Affect His or Her Dental Health?

mother breast feeding and hugging babyThe answer is yes! Not only does breastfeeding help your baby’s fragile body fight disease and lower health risks, but it also has a significant impact on his or her oral health and development.

According to a June 2015 study conducted by Pediatrics, babies who exclusively breastfed for at least six months were actually 72% less likely to suffer from crooked teeth, including open bites, crossbites and overbites, in comparison with babies who breastfed for less than six months or not at all.

Breastfeeding is beneficial in shaping the hard palate, a bony plate on the roof of our mouths that separates the oral and nasal cavities. The tongue motions involved in breastfeeding set a pattern for correct, normal swallowing habits, as well as mandibular development and a strengthening of jaw muscles. In a study conducted by Brian Palmer, DDS, children who were breastfed experienced proper development of a well-rounded “dental arch.” This U-shaped alignment of the teeth usually helps prevent snoring, sleep apnea and a need for speech therapy or braces later in life.

In addition to the reduced chances of malocclusion, breastfeeding can save your child’s smile from Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. As you may have seen from one of our previous articles, Baby Bottle Tooth Decay stems from repeated, everyday exposure of your baby’s teeth to liquids containing sugar. For example, if a baby is put to bed with a bottle of formula, milk or fruit juice, his or her teeth come in contact with these sugary liquids until morning. However, breastfeeding eliminates the possibility of a bottle lingering in the baby’s mouth once he or she has fallen asleep, therefore avoiding prolonged exposure to these sugary liquids (please note breast milk contains sugar, as well).

Be sure to wipe your baby’s gums and teeth with a clean piece of gauze or a damp cloth after feedings, especially before bed time. If you are concerned about breastfeeding once your baby has developed his or her first tooth, don’t be alarmed – an actively nursing baby will not bite, because his or her tongue covers the lower teeth while feeding.

The Facts About Cannabis for Your Teen

Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK, although its use in recent years has fallen.

The proportion of 11-15 year olds in England who had used cannabis in the last year fell from 13.3% in 2003 to 7% in 2013. The proportion of 16-59 year olds using cannabis in the last year has fallen from 10.6% in 2003-4 to 6.6% in 2013-14.

How Cannabis Makes You Feel

The effects of cannabis vary from person to person:

  • cannabis-facts-for-teensSome people may feel chilled out, relaxed and happy
  • Others get the giggles or become more talkative
  • Hunger pangs are common – this is sometimes known as ‘getting the munchies’
  • You may become more aware of your senses – colours may look more intense and music may sound better
  • It’s common to feel as though time is slowing down

Cannabis can have other effects too:

  • It makes some people feel faint and/or sick – this is sometimes known as a ‘whitey’
  • It can make you feel sleepy and lethargic
  • Some people find it affects their memory, making it harder to remember things
  • It makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations. These effects are particularly common with stronger forms of cannabis, such as skunk and sinsemilla

If you use cannabis regularly it can make you demotivated and disinterested in other things going on in your life, such as education or work. Long-term use can affect your ability to learn and to concentrate.

Can You Get Addicted to Cannabis?

In the past cannabis wasn’t thought to be addictive. However, research has shown that it can be addictive, particularly if you have been using it regularly for quite a while. About 10% of regular cannabis users are thought to become dependent.

As with other addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin, you can develop a tolerance to it. This means you have to have more and more to get the same effects. If you stop taking it, you can experience withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability and restlessness.

If you regularly smoke cannabis with tobacco, you’re likely to get addicted to nicotine and may develop tobacco-related illnesses. If you cut down or give up, you will experience withdrawal from nicotine as well as cannabis.

Risks Associated with Cannabis

Recent research has helped us better understand the health risks from using cannabis. We know that:

  • Cannabis affects your ability to drive. This is one of the reasons why drug driving, like drink driving, is illegal. One French study found that drivers who had been using cannabis were more than twice as likely to cause a fatal car crash.
  • If you smoke it, cannabis can be harmful to your lungs. Like tobacco, it contains cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens) that increase your risk of lung cancer. It can also make asthma worse, and cause wheezing in people without asthma. If you mix cannabis with tobacco and smoke it, the risks to your lungs are higher.
  • Cannabis can harm your mental health. Regular use is associated with an increased risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. A psychotic illness is one where you experience hallucinations (when you see things that aren’t really there) and delusions (when you believe things that aren’t really true). Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if you start using cannabis in your teens and if you have a family history of mental illness. Cannabis use has also been shown to increase the risk of a relapse in people who have schizophrenia, and could make existing symptoms worse.
  • Cannabis may affect your fertility. Research done in animals suggests that cannabis can disrupt sperm production in males and ovulation in females.
  • If you are pregnant, cannabis may harm your unborn baby. Research suggests that using cannabis during pregnancy could affect your baby’s brain development. Regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco is associated with an increased risk of your baby being born small or premature.

Does My Age Affect My Risks?

The risks linked to using cannabis do seem to be higher for people who use it regularly from an early age, including the risk of developing a mental illness.

It’s not clear why the risks are higher for people who start using cannabis when young. It may be linked to the fact that, during the teenage years, the brain is still forming its connections and cannabis interferes with this process.

Does Cannabis have Medicinal Benefits?

Herbal cannabis contains many different compounds, called cannabinoids, which have different effects. One of these cannabinoids – tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short – is the active ingredient of a prescribed drug called Sativex. Currently this is only licensed in the UK as a treatment to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.

Further research is underway to test the effectiveness of cannabis-based drugs for a range of other conditions including the eye disease glaucoma, appetite loss in people with HIV or Aids, epilepsy in children and pain associated with cancer. We won’t know whether or not these treatments are effective until trials have concluded.

See more on clinical trials involving cannabis.

Does Cannabis Lead to Other Drugs?

While most people who use harder drugs like heroin have used cannabis, only a small proportion of people who use cannabis go on to use hard drugs. However, buying cannabis brings you into contact with the illegal drugs trade, making it more likely that you will be exposed to other drugs.

Where Can I Get More Information About Cannabis?

You’ll find more information about cannabis in the Frank website’s A-Z of drugs.

If you need support with giving up cannabis, you’ll find sources of help in Drugs: where to get help.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 07-04-2016 to 07-10-2016

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Health News: Kids Are Watching Porn Way Younger Than You Think

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Bullying Lawsuits Across the US Spotlight Litigation Challenges

Tomorrow, The BFG is Sensory Friendly at AMC

New sensory friendly logoAMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. The BFGMany parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

This month, AMC and the Autism Society’s “Sensory Friendly Film” are offering the chance to see The BFG on Tuesday, July 12th at 7pm local tune. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming Soon in July: Ice Age: The Collision (Sat, 7/23); Ghostbusters (Tues, 7/26)


Editor’s note: Although The BFG has been chosen by the AMC and the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly Film, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.