Puberty refers to the period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction.
This stage is experienced between the ages 8 -13 for girls, and 10 - 15 for boys. Some individuals may go through puberty earlier or later. During this time, the body undergoes various changes.
Boys and girls experiencing adolescence will notice that they will grow bigger and taller, their genitals will mature, and hair will start growing in different parts of their body.
Puberty is experienced between the ages of 8 - 13 in girls. During this time girls bodies become rounder (hips, thighs, and buttocks) and their breasts grow. Around this time, girls will also begin menstruating. Once a girl is going through puberty, she can get pregnant.
Menstruation or periods happens monthly (menstrual cycle), and can last between 3 -7 days. When a girl/woman menstruates, the body sheds the lining of the uterus. The blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix and passes out of the body through the vagina. Periods may come irregularly at first and may cause cramps (abdominal pains).
Puberty in boys differs from that of girls. Boys experience puberty between the ages of 10 - 15.
In boys, the changes are the following:
1. Boys will notice that their bodies become more muscular.
2. Their penis will grow longer and wider and the testicles will grow larger.
3. Boys will start to have erections (hardening of the penis) and wet dreams. From puberty onwards, boys can get a girl pregnant during unprotected sexual intercourse.
During puberty, young people might feel sensitive, become easily upset, or have questions about changes in their bodies.
Relationships with parents, adults, and peers may change. Young people may spend more time with friends. All of this is normal.
You should talk to adults you trust about these feelings.
During puberty young people may develop sexual feelings towards others. Sexual feelings may cause boys to have an erection of the penis, and for girls, wetness of the vagina.
One must think wisely before acting on these feelings, as it carries a big responsibility.
Sexual intercourse refers to physical penetration; when a penis enters a vagina, this can cause an ejaculation of semen.
When ejaculation occurs, the sperm in the semen can travel to the ovum. If this happens, the ovum may be fertilised, and the girl/woman can become pregnant.
The best way to prevent pregnancy is to practice abstinence. If you have sex, use contraception or birth control methods to prevent pregnancy.
Always use a condom, to not only prevent pregnancies, but to also protect yourself from diseases.
Abstinence means not having sexual intercourse. Abstaining from sex is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Early pregnancies are difficult for young people. They can have the following repercussions:
1. Dropping out of school.
2. Negative reactions from parents and peers.
3. Negative impact on mother and child health.
4. Financial difficulties.
One should think about the implications of having sex before becoming sexually active and getting married.
In a healthy relationship, sex should never be pressured, forced, or traded.
Young people who decide to have sex, should use condoms to avoid unwanted pregnancies and most importantly, to protect themselves from HIV and STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
Having forced sex is called rape and it is illegal.
If you are raped, or know someone who has been raped, report it to a community health worker or to the closest health centre.
Early signs of pregnancy can include a missed period, tender breasts, nausea, and changes in appetite and emotions.
If you are HIV positive, make sure to take your HIV medication during pregnancy.
If you are worried you might be pregnant, go to a health centre to be tested and to also receive advice.
Avoid using tobacco, drugs or alcohol when pregnant.
Abortion is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy. Post abortion care, is an approach for reducing deaths and injuries from incomplete and unsafe abortions and their related complications.
Unsafe abortion is a dangerous act and can lead to the death of both the mother and the foetus.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
HIV weakens the body’s immune system and this causes the development of infections.
If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome), characterised by the inability of the body to fight off infections.
Without treatment, people who are diagnosed with AIDS typically survive about 3 years. Once an individual has a dangerous opportunistic illness, life expectancy without treatment falls to about 1 year. People with AIDS need medical treatment to prevent death.
HIV can be found in blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk.
HIV can be spread through:
1. Sex without a condom.
2. Sharing needles used for drugs.
3. Contact with an infected person’s blood.
4. A baby born to an HIV positive mother.
Hugging, kissing, eating or drinking with someone who has HIV will not spread HIV.
The best way to prevent HIV/STIs is to avoid vaginal, oral, and anal sex.
If you have sex, use condoms each time.
Avoid multiple sexual partners. Do not share used needles or syringes.
When used properly, condoms (male or female) are proven to be the most effective methods that protect against pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.
Male circumcision offers some protection against HIV. Having a foreskin on the penis makes it easier for men to become infected with viruses including HIV.
Circumcised men can still become infected with HIV and infect their partners. Circumcision only provides partial protection against HIV, so condoms must still be used.
If you have had unprotected sex or share needles you should get an HIV test.
It can take up to three months, after exposure to HIV, for a person to get a positive result.
Regular testing is advised.
People living with HIV must discuss their status with their partners and doctor before agreeing on starting a family.
There is no cure for HIV infection.
People with HIV often lead normal lives by taking medications called antiretrovirals (ARVs). People on ARVs can still transmit HIV, so condoms are needed.
Some people with HIV do not get better with ARVs if it is not properly administered.
Traditional medicine does not cure HIV.
The best way to prevent HIV is to avoid unsafe sex. The only way to treat HIV is to take medicines (ARVs) and you can get them from a health facility.
Stigma means not valuing a person and viewing them negatively because of something that is different about them.
Stigmatising HIV positive people or treating them unfairly is a violation of human rights. All people deserve respect and compassion.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are spread through sexual activity.
STIs can affect the genitals, anus, mouth and throat. Having an STI may increase your risk of getting HIV.
The best way to prevent STIs is to avoid vaginal, oral, and anal sex. If you have sex, use condoms correctly every time. Avoid multiple sexual partners. Do not share used needles or syringes.
HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus; it’s a very common STI that can infect the genitals as well as the mouth and throat.
Some types of HPV cause cancers or warts. There are vaccines for some types of HPV; girls may receive the vaccine at school.
HPV requires treatment and is not curable.
Some STIs have symptoms of discomfort, and others may not. Even without symptoms, STIs can cause serious health problems like infertility or cancer. If you have sores (whether or not they are painful), bumps, discharge, or irritations on or coming from your genitals go to the health center right away.
Some (but not all) STIs are curable.
Completing proper treatment will cure some STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Proper treatment can reduce symptoms of STIs that cannot be cured like herpes or HPV.
Use one new condom each time you have sex.
Such issues are best discussed with a partner, both for married and single people.
Female condoms have to be inserted before sex. The condoms can be purchased from pharmacies, clinics, youth centres, shops, or from community health workers.
Track menstrual cycle to recognize body’s fertile signs. Know days to avoid sex or use condoms. First day of bleeding is cycle day 1. The menstrual cycle has two main phases separated by ovulation; the first phase changes while the second one lasts for 14 fixed days.
Taking emergency contraceptive pills up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, can help prevent pregnancy. Take it as soon as possible.
The contraceptives are safe for all women to use, but it’s not recommended as regular form of contraception. Contraceptives can be purchased in pharmacies, clinics and public health facilities.
Taking these pills will not affect any existing pregnancy.
Take one pill every day. It makes monthly bleeding lighter and regular. The use of contraceptive pills can reduce menstrual pains.
When first taking them, you may experience headaches and nausea. Taking contraceptive pills does not lead to infertility or birth defects. If the use of the pills is stopped, one may become pregnant with no delay.
If two or more consecutive days are missed, you should immediately take a pill and contact a health worker.
Contraceptive pills are available in pharmacies, clinics, youth centres or through community health workers.
Contraceptive injections are normally injected in the arm or hip. These injections are effective for 1-3 months.
The injections may cause irregular or no monthly bleeding, but it is not harmful to your body. Some individuals may also experience weight gain. Individuals hoping to get pregnant, can expect it to take some months after the use of the contraceptive injections is stopped.
The contraceptive injection does not cause infertility or pregnancy loss.
Contraceptive implants are small rods placed under the skin of a woman’s arm. The implant is highly effective for 3-5 years.
The implant may cause light irregular bleeding. When it is removed, a woman can become pregnant with no delay. The implant does not cause infertility or birth defects.
IUD (intrauterine device) is a small device placed inside the womb.
Highly effective for 10 to 12 years, it can be used by married and single people. It may increase monthly bleeding and cramps at first and once removed, the woman can become pregnant with no delay.
It does not cause infertility or birth defects, and does not move around inside the body.
Permanent contraception for men (vasectomy) or for women (tubal ligation or tubectomy) is an invasive surgery. This means it is a form of surgery that involves making an incision in the patient’s body and inserting instruments or other medical devices into it. It is not harmful.
Permanent contraception should be discussed among partners before any decisions are made. This surgery should only be performed by doctors or qualified medical staff at a hospital or clinic.
This surgery does not affect sexual performance, or physical appearance.