The period from infancy to reproductive maturity in humans includes childhood and adolescence.

Adolescence in Human Beings

The body undergoes natural changes as one grows into the reproductive period of life. These changes begin around the age of 10 to 11 and last till 18 to 19 years of age. This stage of life is called adolescence. The time period when changes occur in humans make them capable of reproduction, is called puberty. At puberty, the changes are physical, physiological and psychological.

In both the females and males, sex organs mature during adolescence. Not only humans, but no organism becomes mature and capable of reproduction soon after birth and needs to reach maturity and adulthood in order to do so. The period between birth and maturity is very short in animals. Perhaps it is the longest in humans.

Menstruation

In human females, reproductive phase begins at puberty and lasts till the age of 45 to 50 years. A girl is born with fixed number of ova (eggs). However, these begin to mature only at puberty. One ovum matures at a time and is released from the ovary once in 28 to 30 days. This happens under the influence of a hormone from anterior pituitary FSH or Follicle Stimulus Hormone. One ovum (egg) is shed alternately from each ovary every month.

The egg (ovum) travels down the fallopian tube to reach the uterus. At the same time, the wall of the uterus under the influence of another hormone from anterior pituitary called LH or Lutenising Hormone thickens to receive fertilized egg. If there is no fertilization, the thickened lining of uterus and blood vessels are shed off and cause bleeding. This is called menstruation and is also known as period.

The first menstrual bleeding is called menarche. Stoppage of menstruation at an age usually between 45 years and 55 years is termed menopause.

Many females have a period every 28 days. Some have them every 21 days and in others the cycle could be of 35 days. Periods usually last for 4 days but could be shorter or longer. Many adolescent girls have irregular and painful periods that settle down as girls grow up. If the problem persists, a medical doctor should be consulted.

Menstruation is not an illness. If the girl feels comfortable, she could do anything that she does normally. Some girls may get cramps and pain in the abdomen. Exercise may help to prevent the pain. Paracetamol or other pain killer as suggested by a doctor may help if the pain is difficult to bear.

Girls use sanitary towels, cotton wool, clean cloth or tampons to absorb blood during their periods but it is important to change these frequently (every 6-8 hours) to prevent infection from reaching vagina. If reused, cloth should be washed with a mild detergent and dried in the sun.

Adolescents may be biologically capable of reproduction but they are not ready to shoulder the responsibilities of parenthood. Adolescent girls are not physiologically mature for child bearing and many a time, both the adolescent mother and her baby suffer from complications. Adolescent parents are not likely to have good opportunities of education and livelihood and may not be able to provide for their child.