So often parents anxiously hyper-focus on just explaining intercourse that they forget that it is only one small part of the bigger picture. Which is why it’s important that parents understand how to explain reproduction — the entire biological process that creates life.
Because the bigger picture is so eye opening! It’s amazing seeing the major role reproduction plays in happy and healthy individuals, families, communities, countries and the world.
It doesn’t matter how big or small a family might be or if it was formed in typical ways. The truth is people need people that love them fiercely, support them whole-heartedly, and help them make sense of the sometimes senseless moments life brings.
Creating life brings with it undeniable responsibility. Our kids need to understand this is about so much more than just themselves.
How to easily explain reproduction
Our reproductive parts are on a mission to create life. They have an intelligence that tells them exactly what they need to do to be successful. And they are persistent. In fact the body prepares time and time again just for the possibility of success.
Who knew we were made from such grit and determination?
Well, we are.
Reproduction can be kept simple by dividing it into 3 parts.
Reproduction requires the reproductive organs from both male and female bodies. Each gender’s body prepares time and again, a marathon in endurance, just for the possibility of success.
The female body prepares for pregnancy through menstruation. About once a month, the ovary releases an egg. This egg has half the genetic information needed to create human life. The egg starts a journey through the fallopian tubes towards the uterus.
The uterus is preparing the perfect environment for successful pregnancy. The endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus, grows thicker and creates blood vessels that will nourish a fertilized ovum.
But even with all this persistent preparation, the female body cannot achieve its goal without the synergistic effort of the sperm.
A male’s sperm contains the other half of the genetic information needed to create human life. The testicles and epididymis prepare continuously for reproduction by producing and storing sperm. This is an exercise in readiness. Sperm know there is never an excuse to sleep on the job. They always remain alert.
2. Mission accomplished: fertilization & pregnancy
A successful mission can only happen when the female’s egg and the male’s sperm meet and become fertilized. This most often occurs during sexual intercourse, although there are other possible ways of meeting.
Sexual intercourse is when an erect penis is placed inside the vagina. When the penis ejaculates it sends a sticky fluid called semen and hundreds of millions of sperm into the vagina. These tiny sperm are focused. They’ve been trained well. They begin the long journey, tirelessly traveling up the vagina, through the uterus, and into the fallopian tube to find the egg.
When a sperm and the egg finally meet, they celebrate with total synergy. That celebration is called fertilization, and it means that the genetic information from both the sperm and the egg combine.
If the newly created zygote finishes its journey by transforming into a blastocyst and implanting in the wall of the uterus, it results in pregnancy. Mission complete for the sperm and the egg. The zygote is now on an amazing journey.
3. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
If the blastocyst doesn’t implant in the uterus or if no sperm are available to fertilize the egg, this results in mission failure — at least from a reproductive point of view.
So what happens next? A female will eventually have her period.
Since there is no pregnancy to nourish, the uterus responds by shedding its endometrial lining. This shed tissue, along with blood and mucus, is released from the uterus and travels through the vagina to the outside of the body.
The uterus then begins preparing again for the possibility of reproduction by creating a new endometrial lining. Eventually another egg will be released. This cycle happens about every 28 days.
Talk about grit and determination.
And it’s not one-sided. The male testicles create sperm every day. It takes about 64 days for the sperm to come to full maturation. Once mature, the sperm are then stored in the epididymis until ejaculation. This constant renewal of sperm ensures that there is a fresh supply which increases the possibility of successful reproduction.
A wet dream is one of the body’s natural responses to moving older sperm out of the body so that healthy, new sperm can take their place.
It’s the power of persistence in action.
When can fertilization happen?
Typically, the menstrual cycle follows a predictable pattern of a 28-day cycle. The first day of a female’s period is day 1 of her cycle. Around day 14-15 the ovary releases an egg, which has a life span of just a few more days if it’s not fertilized.
Fertilization, and therefore pregnancy, can only happen if there are sperm present. Sperm have a lifespan of up to 5 days. So putting two and two together, if sperm are in a female’s body during days 11-16 of her cycle, she has a much higher chance of becoming pregnant. It’s not guaranteed, but there is a stronger probability.
There are ways of stopping fertilization from happening. Not having intercourse is of course a great way to prevent pregnancy. Birth control, also called contraception, is another method that hinders the possibility of pregnancy. It is designed to either prevent sperm from getting to the egg or prevent an egg from being released by the ovaries. Both males and females can also choose sterilization, which permanently prevents reproduction.
There are a lot of reasons a person may choose to use birth control, which makes it a very controversial topic. Some people feel positively about it; some people don’t. Some people believe it’s important information for kids as they are developing sexually, and some people don’t think kids should be engaged in behaviors that require that knowledge.
If we’re honest about it, simply knowing about birth control does NOT mean a person is also sexually active. Some people struggle to make that connection — although it can be a wonderful tool in turning the heat down on the topic.
The great thing about being a parent is that YOU get to share your sexual values with your kids. It’s very likely that your teen will hear about birth control from somewhere. Whether sexually active or not, many kids are curious about it for some reason or another. Be open and share what you think. Perspective really helps your kids’ developing awareness of their own sexual values.
When is the body capable of reproduction?
Puberty is when both boys’ and girls’ bodies reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction. Once a girl starts her period, she is physically able to become pregnant. A boy can father a child once he begins ejaculating, since this indicates the production of sperm.
Kids should be prepared for inevitable changes. Families should be talking about reproduction with their kids in age-appropriate ways over time. These simple conversations do a lot to help kids begin to understand the bigger picture of sexuality and how they fit into it.