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Teen Pregnancy and Reproductive Health

Puberty is a normal part of adolescence! Many teens will begin going through the process of puberty on average between age 9-13, although some people may start earlier or later. Everyone will start puberty at the time that is best for their own body. This section will help you navigate some of the changes to expect during this time. You will also learn more about how pregnancy occurs, the effects of teen pregnancy, and you will be directed to information on how to lower the risks of pregnancy by using contraception.

What should I expect during puberty?
Puberty is the transition from the body of a child to the body of an adult. During this time, a person becomes physically capable of reproducing. During puberty, people experience both physical and emotional changes—all of which are completely normal! Check out the links below to learn more about what to expect while going through puberty.

Puberty for Biological Females (Amaze.org)

Puberty for Biological Males (Amaze.org)

To learn more about how to embrace these physical changes and for information on body image and appearance, check out our section on body image here.

I hear a lot about hormones during puberty. What are they?
Hormones are chemicals in the brain that can play a role in human reproduction and sexual growth. While people have hormones in their body system from the time they are born, sex hormones, which do things like determine biological sex, are released for the first time during puberty. Hormones can cause physical, emotional, and sexual changes to the body. It is normal for people to start feeling sexual feelings for the first time during puberty. Everyone feels, expresses, and responds to sexual feelings differently. Learn more about gender, sexuality and expression.

What is PMS and what does it have to do with the period?
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a condition that a person with a uterus may experience 1-2 weeks before their period. Periods are a normal part of the menstrual cycle, and there are physical and emotional symptoms of both PMS and the period. To learn more about why periods occur, what to expect during PMS, and how to manage symptoms, click here (Amaze.org).

How do I take care of hygiene once I start my period?
Learning how to establish proper hygiene routines is an important part of puberty. People who experience periods will also learn how to practice hygiene during their cycle. There are many options including pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. All options are suitable in managing hygiene, and finding the best option for you depends on your own comfortability with each product. It is important to read the directions for each product to make sure it is being used correctly, safely, and comfortably. Learn more about which period hygiene product may be best for you (Amaze).

Vaginal Hygiene

Aside from periods, vaginal health and hygiene is still import, and surprisingly simpler than some may expect. The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) provides some helpful “do’s” and “don’ts” surrounding vaginal health. ASHA recommends that people with vaginas DO NOT douche; while douche products market cleaner, healthier vaginas, these products are actually more prone to causing vaginal infections (2020). ASHA recommends that people with vaginas DO: wash the vagina and vulva with a plain unscented soap, wipe from the vagina to anus from front to back to help prevent spread of germs, and try to stay as dry as possible (this can be done by wearing looser and more breathable clothing) (ASHA, 2020). For more information on how to maintain vaginal health, please visit ASHA Vaginal Health.

Penile Hygiene

A person with a penis can clean their penis and genitals with a regular soap while bathing. Some people may have a circumcised penis, which means the foreskin of their penis has been surgically removed. Others may have an uncircumcised penis, which means the foreskin of their penis is still intact. Both are normal! A person with an uncircumcised penis should take a few extra steps during their hygiene routine to keep the area clean and healthy. The Nationwide Children’s Organization provides steps to clean this area: very gently pull the foreskin away from the tip of the penis, rinse the tip of the penis as well as the inside of the foreskin with regular soap and water, and gently return the foreskin back over the penis (Nationwide Children’s, 2020). For more information on how to care for an uncircumcised penis, please visit here (Nationwidechildrens.org)

Other than physical changes, is there anything else I should expect during puberty?
While biological males and biological females go through different physical changes during puberty, everyone experiences some of the same emotional changes. Teens may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, confused, and sometimes even depressed. The best thing to do when you experience these feelings is to remind yourself that this is a normal part of puberty caused by an increase of new hormones to our body. It is important to understand, though, that just because it is normal to experience these feelings does not mean that you have to go through this time alone. Never be afraid to reach out to a trusted adult when you are feeling sad, depressed, or lonely.

Feelings and Emotions (Amaze)

How does a pregnancy occur?

In order for a pregnancy to happen, a sperm cell must fertilize an egg – most commonly through vaginal intercourse.

Once the sperm has been released in the vagina, they will travel through the cervix into the uterus and eventually to the fallopian tube, where an individual sperm can fertilize an egg. Following fertilization, the egg will travel into the uterus and embed itself into the uterine lining.
how does pregnancy occur
Later in life, some adult couples may need some assistance from their medical team in order to have children on their own; there are still options for these couples. Doctors can help a pregnancy to occur via artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization.

Effects of teen pregnancy on teen parents:

The effects of raising a child are much more difficult for teens than other age groups.

  • 75% of pregnancies for people 15-19 years old are unplanned (Guttmacher Institute, 2019)
  • In 2017, a total of 194,377 babies were born to women aged 15–19 years (CDC, 2017)
  • Only 50% of teen moms are able to finish high school by age 22, compared to the 90% of young women who are not teen moms (CDC, 2017)

How can someone avoid pregnancy?
There are many different types of contraception that sexually active individuals can use to reduce the risk of pregnancy. These forms of contraception and/or barrier methods should be used each sexual experience to reduce the chance of pregnancy, and are often available for free or reduced cost at local health departments and family planning offices. The only 100% effective way to prevent teen pregnancy (and STI) is to not engage in P&V (penis and vagina) sex.

What should I do if I think I’m pregnant, or if my partner thinks they’re pregnant?
If you or your partner think you may be pregnant, your wellness is of utmost importance. Home pregnancy tests are available for purchase at local convenience stores and drug stores, and may be available for free at your local health department or Planned Parenthood office. In order for a pregnancy test to provide an accurate reading, the person taking the test should carefully follow the instructions on the package. It is also important for the person taking the test to continue to monitor their period after taking the test, and follow up with a doctor if their period does not resume. Check out our Sexual Healthcare section to learn more about how to find a clinic or take a pregnancy test.

If I have sex in a swimming pool, can I still get pregnant?

While there is a common myth that having sex in a swimming pool or body of water will not lead to pregnancy, this is not true. There is no 100% guaranteed safe time, place or situation to have penis and vagina sex and not risk an unplanned pregnancy. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one-third of teen moms report that they had no idea they could get pregnant at the time they had sex (2017).

Although the chance of fertilization depends on the stage of the menstrual cycle, a person with a uterus can get pregnant any day of the month if engaging in sex with a person with a penis. Because ovulation (releasing an egg) happens roughly two weeks before the period begins, even someone who hasn’t started their period can become pregnant.

Contraception can help lower the risk of pregnancy.

Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?

It is possible for a pregnancy to occur during your first time having sex. Remember, a pregnancy can occur around the time of ovulation (when an egg is released from the ovaries). If an egg has been released, and is fertilized by a sperm cell, a pregnancy can occur.

Everyone chooses to have sex for the first time when it is right for them. For some, this may be after someone has ovulated for the first time, while for others it may not. It is important to note that a person with a uterus/ovaries ovulates roughly two weeks before having a period. Therefore, it is possible that a person has already ovulated and released an egg even if they have not had her first period yet. It is always important to use contraception/barrier method to lower the risk of pregnancy and STI.

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