"A woman asks the doctor if she should have a baby after 40. The doctor answers: “No, 40 children is way too many already.”

Pregnancy is the term used to describe the period in which a woman carries one (or more) foetus inside her womb, for about 40 weeks.

Once boys and girls reach the age of puberty and begin to produce sperm or start menstruation, they are biologically able to bear children. A girl or woman can become pregnant, once she has started ovulating, and when sperm from semen is released in her vagina during unprotected sex. During pregnancy, women don’t menstruate because the lining of the uterus won’t break down.

There are a few signs that can indicate a pregnancy:

  • A missed period can mean a woman is pregnant, but sometimes it means she is late, has irregular menstruations or simply skipped a month

  • Full and tender breasts and/or sensitive nipples

  • Feeling nauseated and/or vomiting

  • Feeling unusually tired

  • Feeling bloated

The only way to be sure whether you’re pregnant is to get a test in a health centre or to use a pregnancy test bought in a pharmacy. When you find out you are pregnant and want to carry the pregnancy to term, it is important to go to the health center for regular checkups and good monitoring. This will benefit the pregnant woman and the baby, and even more so when the pregnant woman is HIV positive. With the right treatment and care, HIV transmission to the baby during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding can be prevented.

Just because young people are biologically able to bear children doesn't mean that they are ready to take on that responsibility. Many young people are not physically, emotionally, or socially prepared to be pregnant or have children.

It is important that people in a relationship talk about having children and know each other’s wishes around children. They need to discuss whether they want children, how many and when. They also need to talk about contraceptives to prevent pregnancy in case they don’t want to have children. Both men and women have the right to decide when and if to have children, though if a woman is pregnant and does not want to carry her pregnancy to term, it is her right to decide what happens to her body! Have a look at our course on Contraceptives and Safe Abortion to learn more.

You practice!

Write down the challenges young people might face when they have an early pregnancy. Think about the physical challenges, emotional challenges and social challenges. Also write down if these challenges are the same for boys or for girls.