Sexuality Info. for Teachers
| Physical Changes
The Pituitary Gland and Hormones
Ovulation and Menstruation
Dealing with Changes
The following is a review of the physical changes associated with adolescent development.
In both boys and girls, puberty starts with the release of hormones from the pituitary gland – a pea shaped gland located in the brain. Hormones are chemical messengers that allow different parts of the body to communicate with each other. In girls, the pituitary gland sends a message to the ovaries to start producing hormones called estrogens. In boys, the pituitary gland sends a message to the testicles to start producing the hormone called testosterone. These hormones are responsible for many of the changes associated with puberty.
In girls, hormones released from the pituitary gland send a message to the ovaries – two grape-sized organs located in the lower pelvic region. The ovaries then begin to make estrogens and progesterone (ovaries also produce a small amount of testosterone), which in turn leads to the release of ovum or egg – female reproductive cells. This process is called ovulation and it occurs about once every month. Baby girls are born with all the eggs they will need over their lifetime. However, it is not until puberty that these eggs become mature and are released from the ovaries.
Once ovulation occurs, the egg is caught by the fallopian tube that helps to move the egg down to the uterus. The uterus or womb is a pear-shaped muscular organ where a fertilized egg can develop into a fetus. A female's uterus is where a fetus can grow.
During the month, the endometrium lining inside the uterus thickens. If an egg cell is fertilized by a male’s sperm cell, the fertilized egg implants itself in this nourishing lining in the uterus. A fertilized egg takes about 40 weeks to develop into a full term baby. However, most of the time the egg will not be fertilized, the egg lives for only 12 - 24 hours and then disintegrates (there are approximately 9 days where pregnancy is very likely to occur - given that sperm can live inside a female's body for up to 7 days). If implantation does not occur, the thick lining will not be needed, and the lining will slough off the sides of the uterus and out of the body through the cervix – the mouth of the uterus leading to the vagina - and then through the vagina. This process is called menstruation. The average age of menstruation onset, also called menarche, is between ages 10 – 14, although some females may begin menstruation earlier or later than this average.
Menstruation lasts somewhere between three and seven days. The blood that is lost during menstruation is normally caught with a tampon or a sanitary napkin. As the facilitator of the class, you may want to share samples of these items with your students. (For your convenience, samples of tampons and sanitary napkins are included with this kit.) It is also important to explain how these items work.
Some girls and women may experience pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Some of the symptoms of PMS include cramping, backache and bloating. These symptoms can be relieved by limiting salt intake, drinking plenty of water, light exercise (stretching or walking), applying heat through a hot water bottle or heating pad or taking a pain reliever. Remind your students that they should always ask their parents before taking any medication.