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.
It is good to see that you have have touched all the taboo topics in this post. HPV is something people don’t have much idea. And it can lead to serious illness. So it is important to take vaccine to fit this virus.
Can’t agree more. So well described. We all need to be aware and take necessary steps towards keeping HPV at bay.
Open communication with kids is important as information is so readily available to them. It is necessary that as parents we communicate relevant information on puberty, sexual hygiene, sexual partners etc in the right manner.
Being a mom of 2 daughters, I feel extremely grateful right now to you for sharing such important information.
This is so informative. Thanks for sharing 👍🏻
Extremely important topic you spoke about. Now as we have a kid in our house, I understand how important these lessons are to protect them from unwanted causes. I guess, it is important for us too to understant their sentiments and educate them accordingly.
Being a mom of 2 girls, this post was a great eye opener for me! Really very helpful. I need to start soon .
Kids learn everything in school too early now, hence as parent keeping up with them is important. HPV infection is something not all women know about until someone has it near them. This is a great article and very knowledgeable.
Such an important topic! I personally didn’t have this kind of talk with my parents so it’s important that you’ve highlighted here its importance. As our girls fastly grew, this kinds of talks makes me nervous as it still isn’t that talked and surely not part of our culture talking about this. Adding awareness and more information about it is very helpful.
HPV is important topic that everyone should know. You covered every point in your post. We can talk with our children on these topics now days.
Some parents do feel uncomfortable talking about the birds and bees with their kids. HPV is rarely discussed. But parents are the best ones to talk about it. This a very important post, Cindy.
A very important topic. It is necessary to talk to your children about puberty and sex. It is better they get the right information from you than confusing information from somewhere else.
Great topic and post. It is very important to talk to children about puberty and safety, might I add that one start by gently bringing awareness to pre-teens and ramp up as years progress. It is better for the kids to get a gradual dose of information from parents rather than overwhelming them and at the same time ensuring they aren’t getting misinformation from others.
Well-researched post, Cindy. Very insightful indeed. This is a topic that needs to be surfaced with our kids. You’ve covered every one of the most important aspects of the topic! This is something I will discuss with my kids for sure.
Thanks, Anjali! Let me know how it goes!
I’m glad that we can have open conversations with our children about such harmful diseases now and make them responsible for their actions. HPV is serious and prevention is better than cure.
This is the case with most of the moms how to explain about puberty, what can happen and what is right and wrong, Im glad u posted this I know exactly how to go about when its my time to talk it out.
I had recently read about HPV too and I was myself unaware about most of the things. It’s a very important things that needs to be discussed with our children.
You have all the points got in there that are really helpful. In adolescents and young adults, HPV is associated most commonly with genital warts and changes in epithelial cells that lead to genitourinary cancers in both men and women, and is associated with oral cancers.
It’s one of your wonderful post.its one of the must read topic.
Cindy this is absolutely an eye opener post and having a daughter and son of the same age I’m glad I now know how to handle these sensitive talks with them
The way you communicate with your daughters on such sensitive topics clearly states that they are blessed with a talented mom who is empowered to ensure her kids take the right way in life to prosper. God bless you
Thank you, Samata!
This is very informative and we should create awareness around the same. I am definitely going to talk about this to my gals. I think it’s our responsibility as a parent to make them aware and protect them from unnecessary complications in life.
Well-researched post, Cindy. very insightful indeed. I didn’t know anything about HPV. Thank you for sharing this in detail. It will help many women to be aware of their bodies.
I am a doctor and a mother but it was not easy talking to my children about sexual health. So good work there! Many still question whether we really should talk about it, Yes absolutely. With the internet, our children will be exposed anyways so it is better to introduce them to these matters in a healthy way and calm their curiosity.
That’s a blog full of content. Highly recommend for the parents of teens . Thanks a lot for coming up with such topics… being a mother of 4 years daughter, I also wonder how tough is it to with our kids about such topics. Looking forward for more blogs like this
While puberty is a natural process, being intimate physically with another person is a choice you make. I like the way you have explained this whole thing about educating the kids about HPV infection.
Thank you Neha. Do forward it to moms of tweens and teens!
It is a very important topic which should be known with growing kids. I hope parents & schools take the first step & educate themselves & their kids with HPV. You have shared all the important points.