Puberty, sex and childbirth: Implications of sexual education and early sexual activity on maternal health outcome

As adolescent girls mature into young adults, they experience puberty, menstruation and sexual activity in an environment saturated with information. They learn about social and cultural norms through their social environment, as well as female reproductive health, biological development and sexual health through sexual education. While it is known that many biological and social factors influence women's health during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period, less is known about the impact of social and cultural factors on reproductive development and health. Moreover, the link between adolescent development and adulthood in this aspect of health is largely unexplored. Adrienne Bonfonti is studying whether girls’ experiences during this early stage of womanhood have lasting implications for their reproductive health. Adrienne is interviewing first-time mothers to learn how their earlier experiences with education, menstruation, physical development and sexual activity affect their experiences and health during pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. Adrienne’s research should identify which factors have a positive or negative effect on reproductive health outcomes, and what women may be at risk for a turbulent transition into motherhood. This information can be used to improve sexual education or intervention programs for maturing youth in order to further promote healthy development during adolescence and into adulthood.