Spotlights on Health and Rights

Key topics in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health

Reproductive Health

Sexual Maturity

Sexual and Reproductive Development

Human beings are sexual throughout life. Sexuality encompasses more than sexual behavior - it is not only the physical, but the mental and spiritual as well. Sexuality is a core component of personality and a fundamental part of human life. While the problems usually associated with sexual behavior are real and need to be addressed, human sexuality also has significant meaning and value in each individual's life.

Reproductive Biology

Reproductive physical maturity and the capacity for human reproduction begin during puberty, a period of rapid growth and change experienced by both males and females. Puberty is not an isolated event, but a process which takes place over several years.

Understanding female reproductive anatomy includes the study of the external and internal structures; and the hormonal cycle.

During puberty, the hypothalamus (a gland located at the base of the brain which regulates temperature, sleep, emotions, sexual function and behavior) produces hormones (chemicals that originate in a gland or organ and travel through the blood to another organ, stimulating it by chemical action to increase functional activity and secretions).

These hormones stimulate the gonads, the reproductive glands (the testes in males and the ovaries in females) to produce testosterone (males) and estrogen and progesterone (females).

Male puberty generally occurs between the ages of 13-15 and is characterized by the secretion of the male hormone testosterone, which stimulates spermatogenesis (sperm production), and the development of secondary sexual characteristics (increased height and weight, broadening shoulders, growth of the testes and penis, pubic and facial hair growth, voice deepening, and muscle development).

Female puberty generally occurs between the ages of 9-13, and results in ovulation and menstruation, which involve cyclic hormonal changes in estrogen and progesterone. Secondary sexual characteristics (growth of pubic and underarm hair, breast enlargement, vaginal and uterine growth, widening hips, increased height, weight and fat distribution) also occur as part of the female pubertal process.