Elementary School Family Life and Sexual Health. Frequently Asked Questions

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1 Elementary School Family Life and Sexual Health Questions about Puberty What is puberty? Frequently Asked Questions 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 10 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 16 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 for different people. 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 their 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 get thicker. For boys, while this is happening, their voice may sound like it is cracking and it will fluctuate between high and low without warning. This may be embarrassing for some boys but don t worry it perfectly normal. This process can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year. The same thing happens to gilrs but the fluctuations aren t as. 1

2 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, the boys have usually caught up and past the girls in height. 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 (perspiration) 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, feet or all over. Some times this perspiration can be quite strong smelling so many people take more baths or showers than usual. Washing with soap, using deoderant and wearing clean clothes can help minimize strong odors. Some people sweat a lot, some people sweat very little, both are normal. Consider asking your mom or dad how much they sweat when they were going through puberty as you may have a similar experience. 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 covers the odour produced by sweating. Others use an antiperspirant which is designed to stop the sweat glands from producing sweat. You may want to talk to your parents or a trusted adult about what they use. 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. 2

3 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 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. 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 parents or health care provider. 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 would 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 days, but this can vary from girl to girl. Period is the word 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. 3

4 When do girls start their periods? Every girl is different. Girls usually get their periods around age but some can start as early as 9 and others can start as late as 15, and that s completely normal. Do boys menstruate? Boys do not menstruate. Menstruate is another term for getting a period. Only girls menstruate. Why do girls have to wear pads? A girl uses a pad (also called a sanitary napkin) to absorb menstrual blood, so that her clothing does not get stained. A pad sits on the inside of girls underpants. 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 which is how the lining is shed. Some things a girl can do to manage her cramps 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 health care provider before taking any medication. It is important to speak with a parent or trusted adult if cramps are unmanageable as you may need to see a healthcare provider. Once you start menstruating, do you continue doing it for the rest of your life? No, women 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 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. 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 and in the middle of their period. You can always refer to the instructions that come with the pads. it is important to refer to the instructions that come with pads. 4

5 Can anyone tell when a girl is having her period? No, they cannot. When you first start wearing pads 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 2 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 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 and adult women. If you are away from home, and can t change right away, try tying a sweater or jacket around your waist. When you have a chance 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. 5

6 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 menstrual cramps are unmanageable or keep you from doing normal activities it is important you talk to you parents or trusted adult as you may need to see a healthcare provider. How will I know when I am about to start my period? Most girls begin to have menstrual periods between the ages of 9 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. Question About Male Reproductive System: What is an erection? An erection is when the tissues of the penis fill with blood making it larger and harder. 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. 6

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