Many people hear myths and misconceptions about how their bodies work, including ways a person can and cannot become pregnant, so it’s important young people have medically accurate information about their bodies and how pregnancy happens. Additionally, knowing the correct anatomical terms for body parts can help young people understand pregnancy and reproduction, set boundaries with other people and effectively communicate with their parents/guardians and health care providers.
Parents can talk with their children about puberty, including how the testicles begin to produce sperm and how the ovaries begin to release an egg about once a month. Young people should understand that going through puberty means that if they were to have unprotected penile-vaginal intercourse, they could now get pregnant or cause a pregnancy.
When young people have an understanding of puberty and basic reproductive anatomy, parents or guardians can explain that penile-vaginal intercourse is when an erect penis is placed in a vagina. If the penis releases semen (a process called ejaculation) in the vagina or on the vaginal opening, and the ovary has released an egg, then a single sperm in the semen could unite with an egg and begin the process of reproduction. The fertilized egg would then implant inside of the uterus to begin a pregnancy. If a pregnancy does not occur, the uterine lining is shed about once a month during a process called menstruation.
Talking to your children about puberty and reproduction is an important part of having them understand their bodies. This lays the foundation for them to know the facts about reproduction and preventing pregnancy before they become sexually active with a partner.
When parents or guardians start talking with young people about how pregnancy does and doesn’t occur and how to prevent it, before their children become sexually active, young people know they can come to their parents if and when they have questions. You may choose to bring up pregnancy when a friend, relative or a character on a TV show becomes pregnant, or while at a drugstore picking up menstrual products. Below are some ways to start these conversations: