Elementary Sexual Health Questions

Please click on any of the following question topics to see related questions:

Questions About Puberty

Questions About Menstruation

Questions About Human Sexual Response

Questions About Intercourse

Questions About Pregnancy

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)

Questions About Sexual Diversity

Questions about Puberty

What is puberty?

Puberty is the period during which sexual organs mature and reproduction becomes possible. Boys usually begin to show signs of puberty at about 11 or 12 years of age, although puberty can start as early as age 8 or as late as age 16.

 

Girls show physical signs of development on average two years earlier than boys, but differences within the sexes also vary greatly. One teenager may complete puberty before another of the same age begins. Some boys go through puberty in a year, while others take five or six years to mature. Puberty usually lasts three or four years.

When will I go through puberty?

Puberty, and the changes involved, happens at different times for different people.

Generally speaking, girls tend to go through puberty earlier than boys. Girls may experience puberty changes as early as 8 through to the age of 16 or later, while boys will go through it sometime between the ages of 12 and 18. Every person is different, and puberty can happen earlier or later. It may be a fast process for some people, and a very gradual one for others.

When will I get pubic hair?

Growing pubic hair is one of the many physical changes that happen to both boys and girls during puberty. The growth of pubic hair may be one of the earliest visible signs of puberty. Every person is different and pubic hair will appear at different times and grow at different rates. Pubic hair will change in both quantity and texture as puberty progresses.

Why is the hair on a person's head one colour, while the hair on the rest of the body may be another color?

A person’s hair colour is not necessarily different than his or her body hair (chest, back, arms & legs) or pubic hair colour. Every person is different. Some people have the same coloured hair, body hair and pubic hair, whereas other people have different hair, body hair, and pubic hair colors. All of these are normal.

Why is my voice changing?

During puberty, boys and girls voices change. The hormones that are released during puberty cause your voice box (larynx) to grow larger and your vocal cords to get thicker. For boys, while this is happening, their voice may sound like it is cracking; it will fluctuate between high and low without warning. Some boys may find this embarrassing, but don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal. This process can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year. It does happen to girls as well but the fluctuations are not as noticeable.

Why are all the girls taller than me?

Girls tend to go through puberty earlier than boys. As a result, girls often have a growth spurt before their male peers do. By the end of high school, boys have usually caught up and may be taller than some of the girls. However, everyone is different and there are many tall grown women as well as shorter adult men.

Why do I sweat more?

During puberty sweat glands start to produce sweat more than before. Girls and boys will begin to sweat under their arms and develop a new body odour. Sometimes this odour comes from under the arms, or from your feet, or all over.  Some kids going through puberty will take lots of showers or baths-washing with soap and using a deodorant can help to get rid of strong body odours. Some people sweat a lot, some people sweat very little-both are normal. Consider asking your  parents how much they sweat when they were going through puberty as you may have a similar experience as they did.

Will I get acne?

Most boys and girls will get acne (zits or pimples) on their face or sometimes on their back or chest.During puberty your skin produces more oil and acne occurs when the pores in the skin become blocked with oil and dirt. You may or may not experience acne. Washing carefully with mild soap and water is a good way to take care of the skin but for some people this is not enough. Some people may need to use special creams or medicine to treat their acne. Although no one likes having pimples, it is perfectly normal to get them. It is important to talk to your parents or a trusted adult if you are ever concerned about your acne.

Is it safe to use deodorant?

Having a daily shower or bath will help you to keep your body clean and healthy. Some people choose to use deodorant which can help to cover strong odors produced by sweating. Others use an antiperspirant which is designed to stop the sweat glands producing sweat. It is safe to use deodorant but this is something you may want to talk to your parents or a trusted adult about before you start using anything.

What does circumcised mean?

All boys are born with loose skin covering the end of the penis, this is called the foreskin. A circumcised penis is a penis that has had the foreskin removed. This is usually done soon after birth by a doctor or trained religious person. Some boys are circumcised and others are not. Either way is normal. A circumcised penis looks different from an uncircumcised penis, both work the same way and equally well.

When do breasts start growing?

Girls start developing at different ages, and continue developing at different rates. Breasts may start growing anytime between age 8 and 16. For some girls it could happen even earlier or later than this. Some girls’ breasts grow slowly and others grow quickly. Starting earlier or later does not have anything to do with how quickly breasts will develop, or what size they will eventually become.

Why are my breasts smaller than everyone else’s?

At some point during puberty your breasts will begin developing. Some girls develop quickly, while others develop more slowly. Breasts come in different shapes and sizes. Every girl is different and size doesn’t matter.

Is it normal for breasts to itch or hurt?

It is common for breasts to be sore and itchy as they grow. One of the first signs of breast development is the appearance of a small, tender bump behind each nipple. These are called breast buds. Nipples can also feel sore as a result of growth during puberty. As your breasts grow, and your skin stretches to accommodate them, it is not uncommon for them to feel itchy.

What if one of my breasts is bigger than the other?

It is normal for one breast to grow faster than the other. They will usually even out in size by the time puberty is over. Sometimes they stay slightly different sizes and this is normal too.

What are breasts made of? Do they always have milk inside?

Breasts are made of nerves, arteries, blood vessels, milk ducts, fat tissue, connective fibers, and lymph channels. Breasts do not always have milk in them. When a woman is pregnant, there are hormones that get the breasts ready to feed the baby after it is born. Once the baby is born, the hormones signal the breasts to start making milk. When the baby breastfeeds, milk leaves the breast and the hormones continue to signal the breasts to make more milk.

Are there any exercises that I can do to make my breasts larger?

Female breasts are not made of muscle, so you cannot increase your breast size with exercise. However, there is a layer of muscle (pectoral muscle) on the chest wall just behind the breast tissue. These pectoral muscles can be developed through exercise and may lead to an increase in bust measurement (distance around your entire torso). Developing these muscles will not increase your actual breast size.

I’m getting breasts and I’m a boy. There is swelling under my nipples and they are sore to the touch. What is the matter with me?

Almost half of all boys experience a temporary swelling of the breasts during puberty because of hormones. This can cause the breasts to be sore and tender. This swelling goes away over time. If a boy is concerned about this, it is a good idea for him to talk to his doctor.

Questions About Menstruation

What is a period?

Sometime during puberty, girls’ bodies begin releasing one egg from their ovaries each month. If this egg were fertilized by male sperm, it could grow into a baby. In preparation for the fertilized egg, the uterus builds up a thick lining of blood and tissue. This lining is where the fertilized egg would grow into a baby. If the egg is not fertilized by sperm, the egg and the lining of the uterus leaves the girl’s body through her vagina and the process starts all over again. This is called menstruation and the time between the beginning of one menstruation to the next is called the menstrual cycle. A menstrual cycle lasts approximately 23-28 days but this can vary. Period is the word that is commonly used to describe menstruation. The blood exits slowly and usually only a few tablespoons come out.  Every girl is different but periods usually last between 3-8 days.

When do girls start their periods?

Every girl is different. Girls usually get their periods around age 11-12 but some can start as early as 8 and others can start as late as 15, and that’s completely normal.

Do boys menstruate?

No, boys do not menstruate because they don’t have ovaries and don’t release eggs like girls.

Why do girls have to wear pads?

Girls can choose from a few items to use when they menstruate. A pad is one of these choices. A girl uses a pad (also called a sanitary napkin) to absorb menstrual blood, so that her clothing does not get stained. A pad sticks onto the inside of girls underpants so it doesn’t move around.

Does it hurt when you have your period?

Some girls feel uncomfortable before and during their periods. They may feel bloated, puffy, tired, moody, hungry, and their breast may be tender before or during her period and may experience menstrual cramps. Menstrual cramps are  caused by the uterus contracting. Some things a girl can do to make her cramps less uncomfortable are: take a warm bath, do exercises, use a heating pad, or take pain medication to help the pain go away. Be sure to check with your parents and your doctor before taking any medication. If you ever find the pain of menstrual cramps unmanageable talk to your parents, a trusted adult, school nurse or your doctor.

Once you start menstruating, do you continue doing it for the rest of your life?

No, once women start they do not menstruate for the rest of their lives. Women stop getting their periods while they are pregnant and when they reach menopause. Menopause means that a woman is no longer producing eggs (ovulating) and therefore can no longer become pregnant.  Menopause is a time when women permanently stop menstruating.  This is a gradual process that happens anytime between the ages of 42-56. The average age of menopause is 52.

How should you act when you have your period?

When you are menstruating, you do not have to act any different than usual. You can play sports, dance, exercise and bathe like usual. If tampons are used, you can even swim. You should feel free to do whatever you want to do. Menstruation is a normal part of every woman’s life.

What if you get your period unexpectedly?

It is a good idea to always have a supply of pads on hand. If you are at school you can keep them in your locker, backpack, or purse. You can also ask a teacher or friend for a pad. If you can’t find a pad, you can make one out of toilet paper or paper towel to use until you get home.

How often should I change my pads?

Every girl has a different amount of menstrual flow (bleeding). Pads should be changed as often as necessary, before they become soaked with blood. There are many different thicknesses and absorbencies, as well as styles of pads. You may have to experiment a little to find the type that works best for you. Many girls find that they need thinner/lighter pads at the beginning and end of their periods, and thicker/more absorbent pads at night. It is important to follow the directions that come with the pads.

Can anyone tell when a girl is having her period?

No, they cannot. When you first start wearing pads or using tampons it will be a new feeling for you. While you may be very aware of your period, other people won’t be. If you are concerned about your pads showing, you may want to choose looser fitting and darker coloured pants during your period.

How long does a period last?

Every girl’s body is different. Periods generally last from 3 to 8 days.

How much blood is there in a period?

The menstrual flow (meaning the amount of blood that comes out of the vagina) is different for everyone. Although it can look like a lot more, for most girls an entire period produces about 4 to 6 tablespoons of blood.

How often will I have my period?

An average menstrual cycle is 28 days (about once a month). Everyone’s cycle is different. You may menstruate every 22 days or every 43 days. It may be irregular for the first couple of years after you begin your period. You may find it is helpful to keep track of your personal menstrual cycle by circling the days on the calendar that your period starts and ends. After a few months you should see a pattern and it will be easier to predict when your period is due.

What will it feel like when I get my period?

When you first begin your period, you may feel moisture in your underwear. It may not feel much different than the discharge you’ve had before. Sometimes you can feel the menstrual flow, especially if you stand up after you’ve been sitting or lying down for a while.

What if blood leaks through my underwear and pants?

This is a concern for many young girls. If you are away from home, and can’t change right away, try tying a sweater or jacket around your waist. Then get a fresh pad. Change your clothes as soon as you can and rinse the stained items with cool soapy water. To prevent leaks from happening, you may want to keep track of your periods so that you can predict when they are coming, change your pad often, and wear dark coloured pants during your period.

What if I get my first period, and then don’t get one for a while? Am I normal?

Yes, this is normal. It can take a few years for your body to settle into a regular cycle of periods. Some girls never develop regular periods. However, if you were having regular periods that suddenly stopped, you should see your health care provider.

What are menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps are caused by the uterus contracting to push out the menstrual fluid.The hormonal changes that naturally occur throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle can also contribute to cramping. Menstrual cramps or period cramps can vary from girl to girl. Some girls hardly ever get them, while others feel cramps every time they get their period. Cramps usually occur just before or during the beginning of a period (the bleeding part of the menstrual cycle). They can feel like a dull ache or a sharp squeeze in the lower belly (the area between the bellybutton and groin). They can also come as pain in the lower back, hips and thighs. Every girl is different, and will experience different amounts of cramping. The type and severity of cramps can also change throughout a girl’s life.

What can you do to reduce menstrual cramps?

Menstrual cramps can be reduced with gentle exercise, heating pads or warm baths. Girls can also try using over-the-counter Ibuprofen pain medication. Be sure to check with your parents and your doctor before taking any medication. If you ever find the pain of menstrual cramps unmanageable talk to your parents, a trusted adult, school nurse or your doctor.

Why do my breasts get sore before my period?

It is normal for breasts to feel sore, from time to time, as they are growing during puberty. They can also feel sore near the beginning of a girl’s menstrual period because of rising hormone levels at this time.  These hormones can cause water retention, making hands, ankles and breasts feel puffy. As the fluid causes your breasts to swell, it stretches the skin and nerves causing some discomfort. Wearing a properly fitted, comfortable, supportive bra may help ease the discomfort.

How will I know when I am about to start my period?

Most girls begin to have menstrual periods between the ages of 8 and 16. A small amount of bloody discharge from the vagina is usually the first sign that a girl has started her period, although many girls notice a feeling of wetness on the underpants.

Questions About Human Sexual Response

What is an erection?

An erection is when the tissues of the penis fill with blood making it larger and harder.

What is masturbation?

Masturbation is when you touch your own genitals to make them feel good. Some people choose to masturbate while others choose not to. Either choice is normal.

What are wet dreams?

The scientific term for a wet dream is nocturnal emissions. A wet dream is when a boy’s penis gets erect (hard), and ejaculates (releases semen) while he is asleep. Nocturnal emissions can happen to both boys and grown men. A sign that a boy has had a nocturnal emission is waking up in damp pajamas and bed sheets. This may be embarrassing, but nocturnal emissions are completely normal.  Nocturnal emissions are a sign that you are growing up-many boys feel that starting to ejaculate is one of the biggest changes of puberty.

Can urine come out the same time as sperm?

If a man has a healthy reproductive health system, urine and sperm will not come out of the penis at the same time.

Is it normal to have sexual feelings?

It is normal for both boys and girls to have sexual feelings towards others. These feelings can make you want to be really close to someone and you may find yourself thinking about them a lot. This is a normal and healthy part of growing up.

Questions About Intercourse

What is a penis used for?

The penis has two different jobs. One is urinating (peeing) and the other is sexual intercourse.

What does sexual intercourse mean? Does it hurt?

Sexual intercourse is something two consenting adults can do together to be intimate and physically express their closeness. Sexual intercourse might hurt the first few times for some people, but normally it should not hurt.

Questions About Pregnancy

Where does a baby come from?

A baby is made when a man’s reproductive cell, the sperm, joins with or fertilizes a female’s reproductive cell, the ova or egg and implants into the wall of the uterus where it will grow and develop into a baby.

Does the egg have a shell?

No, the egg or ova does not have a shell, but it does have 2 layers that the sperm must pass through in order to fertilize it.

How long does it take for a baby to get ready to be born?

It usually takes about 9 months, or 40 weeks for a baby to fully develop and be ready to be born.

How can you tell if the baby will be a boy or a girl?

The only way to know if the baby will be a boy or a girl before the baby is born is if the mother has a test called an ultrasound. An ultrasound takes a picture of the fetus in the mother’s uterus. By looking at the picture, the doctor usually can tell if the baby has a penis or not. Many people choose not to know the sex of the baby until the baby is born.

What decides if the baby will be a boy or a girl?

Both men and women have a reproductive cell. The male reproductive cell is the sperm, and the female reproductive cell is the ova or egg. Within each reproductive cell, there are sex chromosomes either an X or a Y. All eggs carry an X chromosome and all sperm carry either an X or a Y chromosome. If an egg is fertilized by a sperm with a Y chromosome the cell will develop into a baby boy X+Y. If an egg is fertilized by a sperm with an X chromosome the cell will develop into a baby girl X+X.

How does a baby come out? Does it hurt?

During birth the baby travels out of the uterus through the cervix, and into the vagina. The vagina stretches as the baby travels out of the mother’s body. If the baby is having problems coming out of the vagina, sometimes the doctor will do a surgery called a caesarean section and take the baby out of the mother’s abdomen. Most women consider the birth of the baby painful, but there are usually doctors, nurses, or midwives around to help ease pain and make the woman feel more comfortable. Sometimes women choose to have medication to help manage the pain.

Can you have a baby when you are 13 years old?

If a 13 year-old girl has started to ovulate she can become pregnant and have a baby. A sign that a girl has started to ovulate is that she has started to have menstrual periods.

Why are some babies born dead?

There are things that can harm a baby and cause death before they are born. The death of a baby could be because it was not developing normally or there may have been complications during the birth. Sometimes there is no explanation and even doctors don’t always understand why this could happen. If a baby dies inside its mother’s uterus before 20 weeks of pregnancy it is called a miscarriage.  If a baby dies in its mother’s uterus after 20 weeks of pregnancy it is called a stillbirth.   Both miscarriages and stillbirths are sometimes referred to as “losing a baby”. The loss of a baby can be a very sad time for a woman and her family.

How does milk get into a woman’s breasts?

When a woman is pregnant, there are hormones that get the breasts ready to feed the baby after it is born. Once the baby is born, the hormones signal the breasts to start making milk. When the baby breastfeeds, milk leaves the breast and the hormones continue to signal the breasts to make more milk.

Do sperm have eyes? How do they find the egg?

Sperm look kind of like tadpoles when they are seen under a microscope. Sperm have a head, a cone-shaped mid-piece, and a talk, but they do not have eyes. A sperm cell travels to the egg by moving its tail back and forth in a swimming motion. Scientists have discovered that there is a chemical surrounding the egg that attracts certain sperm and lets the sperm know the egg is ready.

Questions About Sexually Transmitted Infections

What is AIDS?

AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is a very serious disease caused by a virus called HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. People infected with HIV may develop AIDS when the HIV has damaged their body’s defenses or immune system and their bodies aren’t able to protect against or fight infections or illnesses.

How do people get AIDS?

People can get HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus that causes AIDS, if they are in contact with certain body fluids from a person who has the virus. Body fluids that spread the virus are: blood; semen (the whitish liquid that comes from a man’s penis and carries sperm); vaginal secretions (in a woman’s vagina); and breast milk. These infected fluids get into another person when a person: has sexual intercourse with someone who is infected with HIV; uses needles and syringes that have been used by a person infected with the virus (for tattooing, body piercing or intravenous drug use); or is accidentally in contact with someone’s blood who has the virus. Finally, a mother who has HIV can give the virus to her unborn child or to her baby when breastfeeding.

Is it safe to play with someone who has HIV?

Yes. HIV is only spread by coming in contact with certain body fluids from a person who has the virus. The body fluids that can carry HIV are: semen, vaginal secretions, blood, and breast milk. You cannot catch HIV from hugging, holding hands or being near someone with HIV and AIDS. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food or pets.

No, you cannot get HIV from a mosquito bite. HIV does not survive in insects.

Can my pet get HIV?

No, only human beings can get HIV. HIV can not be spread to, from, or by cats, dogs, birds, or other pets.

Is there a cure for AIDS?

No, there is not a cure for AIDS yet. Scientists are working very hard in this area and there may be a vaccine someday. There are medicines that can slow down the virus and keep it from spreading in the body.

How do you know if someone has HIV?

You can’t tell if someone is infected with HIV. It may take several years before someone infected with HIV develops any visible symptoms and becomes sick with AIDS.

Does everyone with AIDS die?

People who have AIDS may die because their body’s defenses or immune system is damaged and their bodies aren’t able to protect against or fight infections or illnesses. There is no cure for AIDS yet. Scientists are working hard to find a vaccine to protect people from the HIV virus.

What is HPV?

HPV or Human Papillomavirus is a virus that can lead to certain types of cancer. People can get HPV by skin-to-skin contact in the genital area of an infected person. HPV infection can be prevented through a vaccine. Grade 5 girls in Alberta can receive a free HPV vaccine.

Questions About Sexual Diversity

What are homosexuals?

A homosexual is a person who has feelings of affection and attraction, both emotionally and physically to a person of the same sex. Female homosexuals are often referred to as lesbians and male homosexuals are often referred to as gay.

What are heterosexuals?

A heterosexual is a person who has feelings of affection and attraction, both emotionally and physically to someone of the opposite sex.

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