Junior 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 First Intercourse

Questions About Pregnancy

Questions About Birth Control

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)

Questions About Sexual Diversity

Questions About Abortion/Adoption

Questions About Puberty

How big can a penis get?

Penises come in all shapes and sizes. The size of an adult penis varies from one person to the next. On average a penis ranges from 7-10cm in length when flaccid (soft), and 13-16cm when erect.

What happens when a boy has big breasts?

Almost half of all boys experience a temporary swelling of the breasts during puberty because of hormones. 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.

What is the importance of pubic hair?

Hair, no matter where it is on the body, helps to protect our bodies and regulate our body temperature.

Why is semen sticky?

Semen is sticky because one of its ingredients is fructose (sugar). Sugar is one of the ingredients in semen that provides energy for sperm.

When do girls breasts start to develop?

Breast development is a common concern for girls who are going through puberty. There is no set time for when a girl’s breasts will start to grow and develop. Breasts start to increase in size somewhere between the ages of 9 and 15. Some girls will develop quickly while others develop more slowly-both of these are normal. Try not to worry, every girl is different. Your body will develop when it is ready.

Is it okay to have one breast larger than the other?

Some girls have one breast that is a bit larger than the other because it is growing a little bit quicker. It usually isn’t very noticeable. Often a girl’s breasts will even out by the time puberty is over. Sometimes they don’t. Either way is normal.

My periods are blue, is this normal?

A period, or menstruation, is the shedding of the inner lining of the uterus. This lining is made up of blood, soft tissues and other fluids. The colour of the flow may vary from being bright red or pink, to a darker blackish-red colour. There are advertisements on TV that use a blue fluid to depict menstrual flow on a pad and this may be where this question stems from.  If she is genuinely having blue periods though, it is recommended that she see her doctor.

Is it odd to go through puberty changes and still not get a period, even if it has been a year?

No, this is perfectly normal. Puberty takes place over the course of several years, and it happens in stages. Girls often gain height and weight, develop breasts and pubic hair, get pimples etc., before they start having periods. On average, periods do not start until 1 1/2 to 2 years after these other changes occur.

Why do your breasts hurt if they get pushed?

Like most parts of the body, breasts can be sore from time to time. Not only for girls, but for guys too! One of the most common times that breasts might feel sore is when they are beginning to develop. First you might notice a small button-like lump beneath the nipple area. The medical name for this is the breast bud, and it is often present in boys and girls. The breast bud may be a little tender and may cause you to worry but it’s a normal part of puberty. It is also common for girls and women to have sore breasts around the beginning of their period, or menstruation.

Questions About Menstruation

What can't you do when you have your period?

When you are menstruating, you can do anything you want to do. You can play sports, dance, exercise and bathe like usual. If tampons are used, you can even swim. Menstruation is a normal and healthy part of life. You can and should carry on with your normal activities. Some girls and women may experience cramping and heavy bleeding that can make them feel uncomfortable. If the symptoms prevent you from doing exercise and joining in with your friends you may want to discuss this with a parent or trusted adult. Visiting your family doctor may put your mind at rest.

What is PMS?

PMS is short for premenstrual syndrome. A week or so before her period starts, the body begins producing lots of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones can cause feelings and symptoms that together are called PMS. Some girls have painful cramps in their pelvic area, headaches, mood swings, or cravings for certain foods right before their periods begin. During this time the body may retain water, which can make a girl feel puffy and bloated. Rings and shoes may feel tight at this time. Just as fingers and feet swell, so can breasts. This swelling causes the breast tissues to expand, which stretches the nerves and may cause breasts to feel achy or tender.

Are tampons safe?

Tampons are safe if used correctly. Using tampons the right way can prevent a rare but serious infection called Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Some symptoms of TSS are: headache; sore throat; sudden fever; vomiting; diarrhea; achy muscles; and a sunburn-looking red rash.To prevent TSS, tampons should be changed every 3 to 4 hours, no matter how light the bleeding is. Because tampons should never be left in for longer than 8 hours, some women choose to wear a pad at night. Finally, avoid using super absorbent tampons.

Can tampons get stuck?

It is extremely unlikely for a tampon to get stuck in the vagina. Tampons are attached to a string a few inches in length that hangs through the vaginal opening. The tampon is removed by pulling gently on the string. If a tampon did get stuck, it is important to see a doctor immediately, as you would be at risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare but serious infection.

Can you lose your virginity by using a tampon?

Virginity means different things to different people and different cultures. Keep in mind that virginity relates to personal values and opinions and may vary from individual to individual; so I cannot give you a definite answer. It’s best for you to get all the information and discuss this with a supportive adult or parent.

What is yeast or a yeast infection?

Yeast is a fungus that is normally found in the vagina. Yeast can overgrow and cause a yeast infection. This can happen when a person uses antibiotics, birth control pills, perfumed products (e.g. bubble baths, soaps, douches and powders), or vaginal contraceptives, foams, jellies, or creams. When a woman has a yeast infection, she can pass it on to her partner. For women, symptoms include a clumpy white discharge from the vagina, and itching and redness around the vagina. For men, symptoms include genital itching, and a mild rash on the penis. It is important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis. Yeast infections are easily treated with medication.

Is something wrong if it’s been 4 months since my last period?

Although the average menstrual cycle is 28 days long, it is not uncommon for teenage girls to have irregular periods. Some teenage girls have periods spaced several months apart whereas others have periods spaced 2 or 3 weeks apart. If there is a chance you could be pregnant, you should see your doctor. Or if pregnancy is not a possibility, but it has been a while since your last period you should consult a doctor or nurse to rule out any health concerns.

Questions About Human Sexual Response

What is a hymen?

The hymen is a fold of tissue that covers the opening of the vagina that is usually present at birth. Hymens can be different shapes and sizes and some girls are born without a hymen and this is perfectly normal. Often the hymen is associated with losing one’s virginity but this is a myth as hymens can break from using tampons or from physical activity long before becoming sexually active.

What does impotent mean?

Impotence is when a man is unable to get an erection, or maintain an erection, preventing the continuation of sexual intercourse.

Guys and girls get “horny” or sexually aroused when there is some form of sexual stimulation. Guys and girls can get sexually stimulated by sight, touch, smell, thoughts or fantasy.

What happens when a girl has an orgasm?

When a woman has an orgasm, her breathing becomes fast and heavy, her pulse races, and the muscles deep in the genital area contract.

Is masturbation normal? If I masturbate too much, can it hurt me?

Masturbation is when you touch or rub your genitals to make them feel good. Masturbation is normal. Whether someone chooses to masturbate or not is a personal choice. Masturbation is not harmful. It can be part of a person’s healthy sexual expression. The only time it might be considered a problem is when a person is masturbating so much, that it interferes with the development of healthy relationships or the involvement of other activities.

How does looking at porn pictures make men happy?

Some adults may use pornography to fantasize and think about sexy thoughts; others may just be curious or use it as a way to explore their own sexuality. It is important to know that much of pornography does not portray realistic body images and is not a fair depiction of relationships, sex or sexuality.  It is normal to have curiosity but there are other books and videos that can satisfy this curiosity in a more health positive way In real life, we have the joy and pleasure of having emotional and intellectual connections with a person that we love and respect. It is normal to have curiosity but there are other books and videos that can satisfy this curiosity in a more healthy and positive way.

Questions About First Intercourse

Is it bad to have sex when you're 13?

Only you can decide when you are ready to have sex. There is no magical age when it is suddenly “okay”. When considering having sex at any age, it is important to think about the potential consequences. Ask yourself:

  • What are my reasons for wanting to have sex? Do I feel lonely? Am I being pressured? Do I love my partner?
  • Will my moral, religious and family values be affected by my decision? Will I feel guilty or bad afterwards if I have sex?
  • How will I protect myself from an unintended pregnancy and STI?
  • Do I trust my partner? Is he or she pressuring me? Are we close? Can we talk about safer sex and birth control? If birth control fails, are we ready to deal with an unintended pregnancy?

Sometimes talking to a parent or a supportive adult can be helpful in determining if you are ready to become sexually active or not.

If a guy rapes a girl, is she still a virgin?

Rape, or a more appropriate term, sexual assault, is a crime of violence, not an intimate, consensual activity. Depending on the person, virginity can be defined in different ways. One common definition of a virgin is a person who has never had sexual intercourse. This question relates to personal values and may vary from individual to individual; so I cannot give you a definite answer. It’s best for you to get all the information and discuss this with a trusted adult or parent. *Note to teachers: please be aware of possible disclosure of sexual abuse or assault; please proceed as directed by your administrative regulations.

Why does it hurt the first time you have sex? Does it hurt the guy too?

Some girls do not have any pain the first time they have vaginal sex, whereas others do. Everybody is different. A reason why it might be painful for a girl is if her hymen (the fold of tissue across the opening of the vagina) was not yet broken. Or it can be painful for both partners if there is not enough lubricant.

I was wondering about the hymen, can it be damaged using a tampon? How does the menstrual flow get past it? Are there 'flaps' that allow for flow to go past?

The hymen is a slightly thickened layer of tissue stretching across the opening of the vagina that is usually present at birth. The function of the hymen is unknown.

The hymen can be broken when a female has her first sexual intercourse. “Breaking your cherry” refers to a girl or woman losing her virginity, or having vaginal intercourse for the first time. However, because of tampon use or physical activity, many women have their hymen torn or stretched before this. In addition, some women are born with incomplete or flexible hymens which would not tear during sexual intercourse. The vaginal opening is not usually completely covered by the hymen so menstrual flow can leave the body.

Where do the words 'penis' and 'vagina' come from?

Most anatomical and medical words are derived from Latin and this is true for both ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’.

Does semen have a taste?

Semen is partially made up of a fructose-rich fluid produced by the seminal vesicles which provides nourishment for the sperm cells. The taste may vary from salty to sweet depending on that fluid.

Questions About Pregnancy

Is it possible to have a period while pregnant?

No, it is not possible for a woman to have a period while she is pregnant. A woman may have some bleeding called “breakthrough bleeding” or “spotting” at the time her period would have been due. Breakthrough bleeding is when blood comes from the uterus any time other than during your period.

How young can a girl get pregnant?

A girl can get pregnant once she has started to ovulate. A sign that a girl has started to ovulate is that she has started to have menstrual periods. On average, girls begin to menstruate between the ages of 8 and 16.

After the baby, is the woman all loose?

If the baby is delivered vaginally (through the vagina), the vagina will be significantly stretched after the birth of the baby. The vagina slowly returns to its pre-pregnancy size by 6 to 8 weeks after delivery.

What can alcohol and drugs do to a baby?

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can put the health of the baby at risk. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the part of the baby that is developing at the time can be damaged (e.g. brain, eyes, ears, liver, kidneys, etc.). Drinking alcohol during pregnancy puts a baby at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) which is when the baby is born with birth defects and brain damage effecting behaviour and cognition (the mental process by which knowledge is gained). If the baby does not have FASD, he or she will be at risk for fetal alcohol effect (FAE) which is a form of FASD with fewer problems. There are no safe limits when it comes to drinking alcohol, so no alcohol should be consumed during pregnancy.

Using illegal drugs (e.g. cocaine, heroin, marijuana etc.) and misuse of prescription drugs (e.g. Ritalin, OxyContin etc.) during pregnancy can also put the baby’s health at risk. The effects depend upon the type of drug the fetus has been exposed to. Drugs during pregnancy puts the baby at risk for low birth weight, poor weight gain, developmental delays, withdrawal symptoms at birth (e.g. jittery, hyperactive, irritable), and possibly death. No drugs should be taken during pregnancy unless recommended by your doctor.

Questions About Birth Control

Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?

Yes, you can get pregnant the first time you have sexual intercourse. It is important to protect yourself from an unintended pregnancy and STI by using a condom every time you have intercourse combined with a hormonal method of contraception such as the pill, patch, ring or Depo Provera or combined with spermicide.

Is it okay to use more than one or two methods of birth control?

Yes, it is okay to use more than one or two methods of birth control depending on what the methods are. For example, it is recommended that a man wear a condom while his female partner is on the birth control pill. Doubling up in this manner not only provides extra protection against pregnancy, but it also provides good protection from STI as well. On the other hand, male and female condoms should not be used together as they can stick to each other causing one or both devices to move or break.

Will it hurt you take the Pill for a long period of time?

Like any medication, there are possible health risks from taking the Pill (oral contraceptives). These health risks, however, are very rare. Most women can be on the Pill for years without any problems. Going to a doctor for regular check-ups are recommended after you become sexually active to track any health changes.

How do you ask your family doctor for the Pill?

Talking to your doctor about any health concern can be stressful. Clear and effective communication is important. If you are nervous about your visit to the doctor, tell him or her. Before you visit the doctor, prepare yourself by writing down your questions and concerns. Asking a parent or a friend to go with you might also be helpful and decrease your stress. If you are nervous about going to your family doctor, you can go to a sexual and reproductive health clinic instead for confidential counselling and low cost birth control. Click here for a list of agencies in your area.

If a woman has her tubes tied, can she still have a period?

When a woman has a tubal ligation also known as having her “tubes tied”, she will continue to have regular periods. The unfertilized egg simply gets reabsorbed into the body instead of being sloughed off in the menstrual flow.

Questions About Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)

Can you tell if you have an STI or if you need a check-up?

Sometimes you can tell if you have an STI, many times you cannot. Many times a person can have a STI and not know it because they have few or no symptoms. Other times people have symptoms such as: discharge from the penis; different or heavier discharge from the vagina; burning or pain when peeing; itchiness or sores on or around the genitals or anus; or swollen glands in the groin. If you have any of these symptoms, you should be seen by a doctor for a physical exam and STI testing as soon as possible. If you have had unprotected sex, or think you may have been infected with an STI even though you do not have any symptoms; it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor or visit an STI clinic. If you are sexually active, it is important to be seen by a doctor for a complete physical examination.

Remember, a person can spread an STI without knowing it. The only way to protect yourself from catching an STI is by not engaging in any sexual activity. If you are engaging in any sexual activity (vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex),  use a condom or latex barrier every time as it will provide some protection.

Are there different STI for guys and girls?

Girls and guys do not have different STI; however, the symptoms of the STI may be different. For example, both girls and boys can get an STI called Chlamydia. Symptoms in females include: burning when peeing; pain in the lower abdomen; pain or bleeding during or after sex; spotting or bleeding in between periods; and unusual vaginal discharge. Symptoms in males include: milky or watery discharge from the penis; pain or swelling of the testicles; and burning when peeing.

Can you get an STI if you've never had sex?

Most STI are transmitted by having vaginal, oral or anal sex. However, some STI are spread through genital contact (e.g. genital herpes or genital warts), or infected blood on needles and syringes, pregnancy and childbirth (e.g. Hepatitis B or HIV).

What is the difference between Hep A, B, and C. Is the difference primarily in the strain of the virus? Does one not experience the same symptoms with both viruses?

The viruses (A, B and C) that cause hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, are all different. They all have very specific ways of spreading from person to person, and although they cause the same type of symptoms, what does vary is the severity and length of the disease. Hepatitis A is spread through contaminated food and water. There is a vaccine for this disease. Hepatitis B is spread through both blood and bodily fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluids. There is a vaccine for Hep B, and it is offered in Grade 5 to students in Alberta. Hepatitis C is spread only through direct blood to blood contact, or through bodily fluids that contain blood. There is no vaccine for this disease. Most people who become infected with the Hep B or C virus have no symptoms and are unaware of the infection. However, they are contagious while the virus is still in their body. If they do get sick initially, they experience flu-like symptoms, and often develop yellow skin and eyes for a few weeks. 90 percent of adults who get Hep B recover completely. However, 75 – 85% of people infected with Hep C go on to develop a chronic, or lifetime, infection. In both Hep B and C, chronic infection can lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver later in life.

What is a virus?

A virus is a kind of germ that is so small it can’t even be seen with a regular microscope. Some viruses can be prevented by vaccines. Viruses are the smallest and simplest of all germs, but they are also some of the deadliest. A sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a virus cannot be cured, but it can be treated to help make the symptoms disappear. Herpes and HIV are two STI that are caused by viruses. Viruses also cause the flu, chicken pox, and malaria.

What is HPV?

HPV or human papillomavirus is a group of common viruses that can cause skin warts, genital warts and certain kinds of cancer in both men and women. Usually HPV does not cause any symptoms and it goes away on its own. However, there are some types of HPV that spread easily by skin-to-skin contact in the genital area and are considered high-risk and can lead to certain kinds of cancer.

Can HPV be prevented?

Yes, HPV can be prevented through a vaccine. The vaccine works best when it is given before you are sexually active. As part of a school-based program all grade 5 girls in Alberta can receive a free HPV vaccine. Currently, boys are not part of the program; however, they can be protected through the HPV vaccination as well. If you are thinking about getting the vaccine or have any questions you can talk to your health care provider or visit  http://www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/imm-HPV.html.

 

The HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that cause cancer. If you are engaging in sexual activity (vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex) use a condom or latex barrier every time as it will provide some protection. Most often people don’t know they have HPV, or that they could be passing it onto their partner.

What is the HPV vaccine?

The vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix have been approved by Health Canada for the prevention of cancers related to HPV. These vaccines work best when they are given before you are sexually active. Even if you have been sexually active already the vaccines may protect you from types of HPV you haven’t been exposed to yet.

Questions About Sexual Diversity

I think I might be gay. What should I do?

It is normal for people to question their sexuality. If you think you might be gay but are unsure, you might find it helpful to talk to someone about your feelings. Consider talking to your parents, a counsellor at school, a clergy person, a teacher or someone at a gay or youth community centre. It might also be helpful to read books or magazines that deal with gay issues. Doing these things may help you feel supported, less alone, and sure about your feelings.

How can a person be bisexual?

People may experience feelings of love and attraction for the other sex, the same sex or both. When a person is bisexual, it means they can have feelings of affection and attraction, both physically and emotionally, to both women and men.

How do gay men have sex?

Gay men, express themselves sexually and express their love and affection in many different ways.

Questions About Abortion & Adoption

If you are faced with an unintended pregnancy and you don't want a baby, what could you do?

If pregnancy is confirmed a woman has 3 choices:

  • continuing with the pregnancy and choosing to parent;
  • continuing with the pregnancy and choosing adoption;
  • ending the pregnancy and choosing abortion;
  • giving someone else the legal right and responsibility to raise your child.

If you are faced with making this difficult decision, talking to your parents, a supportive adult, or going to a sexual and reproductive health clinic for support and unbiased information would be helpful. It is important that you fully understand all of your options when making this decision.

Can you still have a baby after having an abortion?

If an abortion is done safely and legally, and there are no complications, it should not affect your ability to have children in the future.

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