Just the other day, we were having a general conversation when my 10-year-old told me that she knew how babies were made. I went blank for a moment before continuing with what I was saying.
Unlike the West, I want my children to grow up with a certain nature of discipline where they have a goal in life besides just having boyfriends/ girlfriends (the intimate types). To my dismay, basic intimate scenes are now also encouraged and included in 7+ English movies on Netflix. I’m not sure if that’s deliberate or absolutely necessary.
Anyway, after my daughter dropped the bombshell, I began making notes on how to talk to my kids about puberty, intimacy, STDs, STIs like HPV, and other related things before they are introduced to them the wrong way. I have a daughter and a son after all; best of both worlds.
Around their tweens, their bodies may experience external and internal changes. Examples of external changes in boys would be genital (testicles and scrotum) development, hair growth around the penis and underarms, voice change, etc. Girls would begin noticing breast development and could soon expect their periods. Sometimes, the periods may be delayed due to their lifestyles.
Internally, in boys and girls, their organs are getting ready for reproduction. There are different chemicals or hormones moving inside their bodies which help turn them from tweens to adults.
While puberty is a natural process, being intimate physically with another person is a choice you make. Before making these choices, we have to understand the consequences and possibilities of our actions. Intimacy can lead to sexual intercourse which can ultimately lead to unplanned pregnancies, STDs, STIs like HPV which can lead to genital warts, cervical cancer, and other HPV-related cancers and diseases.
Human Papillomavirus or HPV is the most commonly transmitted viral infection of the reproductive tract. 1 Surprisingly, most of the time, HPV shows no symptoms but can still transfer from one infected individual to another during sexual activity. So, it is difficult to know when and how you got infected. Occasionally, symptoms develop years after intercourse with an infected person. 2
HPV can spread through any kind of sexual activity, even deep kissing. 4 There are 100 types of HPV out of which 14 are high-risk or cancer-causing HPV types. Some low-risk types of HPV can also cause genital warts. 6 (Genital warts can be treated surgically or with prescription medication applied to the warts).
Most HPV infections, at times, clear out on their own. But, in women, the Human Papillomavirus doesn’t always go away on its own and can trigger the growth of abnormal cells in the cervix. If left untreated, these cells may develop into cervical cancer 7 and, disturbingly, the early stages of this cancer usually give no signs or symptoms. HPV is the cause of almost all cases of cervical cancer, which is the second most common cancer in Indian women. 5 Apart from cervical cancer, HPV can cause other cancers as well including cancer of the vulva and vagina. 6
It is the presence of an abnormal growth in the lower part of the uterus. The symptoms may include bleeding (either between periods or after sexual intercourse), foul-smelling discharge, lower back and lower abdominal pains or no symptoms at all. It can only be treated effectively with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Women of all ages can be at risk of cervical cancer.
Taking the HPV vaccine is one of the ways to protect yourself from the risk of HPV-related cancers. I highly recommend you consult your gynaecologist for more details on it.
Safe sex practices are most helpful in preventing infections though not 100% effective. Using condoms and dental dams is recommended.
Regular cervical screening and routine Pap smears are also important to catch an infection or abnormality early on.
Though I’m still the old-school type and won’t encourage my children or anyone’s kids to be sexually active before marriage, I hope and pray that our future generation makes the right choices for everyone’s, especially their own, well-being before, as well as after they find their partners.
Were you aware of HPV before reading this article? If you have found this helpful, please forward it to spread awareness about HPV.
To know more about HPV infection visit https://letsfighthpv.com/
Issued in public interest by MSD India.
8. Bruni L, Albero G, Serrano B, Mena M, Collado JJ, Gómez D, Muñoz J, Bosch FX, deSanjosé S. ICO/IARC Information Centre on HPV and Cancer (HPV Information Centre).
Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases in India. Summary, accessed on 11 March 2022.
9. American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/healthy/hpv-vaccine.html accessed in March 2022.