Columnist

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 6–8 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

My days are full of connection. Young people are inspiring and fun; they give me hope. My last columns dealt with serious matters. It’s time for a little levity. Here are some of the thousands of questions I’ve received from little ones over the last 40 years. I never “create” a question, and I take pictures of all written questions. These are real.

Q.Is it true that I have a Virginia?

– 8-year-old

A.You have a body part called a vagina. Virginia is a state in America. A vagina is part of the vulva. Great question.

Note to caring adults: Less is more. Be calm if you receive a question like this one. This young person even capitalized Virginia.

Q.My dog is having puppies. How did they get in there? How will they get out?

– 8-year-old

A.Puppies are made just like people babies are made. They grow in the mother dog’s uterus. Puppies, like babies, start with two tiny cells called a sperm and an egg. The sperm comes from the male dog and the egg comes from the female dog. The sperm is placed inside the female dog when the dogs have sex. The puppies grow in the uterus until they’re ready to live on their own. Then, the mother dog goes into labor and the babies are born through the dog’s vagina.

Note to caring adults: Studies show children are interested in babies and how they are made and born earlier than most people think. Typically, a young child will be curious between 6 and 8. If a family is expecting another baby, the curiosity may happen earlier. Let your child lead you. Avoid saying, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.” The message a child hears with that response is “Don’t ask me.”

Q.My grandma just told me when I was born my mom had a section to have me. What’s a section? Did they section her into pieces? I heard it was a cut on her belly. Is this my fault?

– 8-year-old

A.Nothing that happens when a baby is born is the baby’s fault. Most babies grow until about 40 weeks and then are born. Most babies come through a special place in the mother’s body called a vagina to be born. The vagina is part of the vulva. Sometimes a baby cannot be born through the vagina. There are many reasons for this type of birth, but the important thing to remember is it isn’t the baby’s fault. The baby is lifted out of the uterus in a special operation. The operation is called a Caesarean section or a C-section. No, the mother is not sectioned into parts, but she does have a cut (called an incision) on her belly (called an abdomen). The cut will heal, and the baby is born!

Note to adults: Children listen. I’ve encountered hundreds of little ones who thought they did something wrong to be born by C-section. They also may be told their birth story by a relative and parents may not know. Sharing a birth story with your little one can be a special interaction.

Q.

What happens if a dog has sex with a cat? Do they make puppies or kittens?

– 8-year-old

A.Dogs and cats are different species. A species is a group of living organisms who can exchange genes and reproduce. There are no puppies or kittens because dogs and cats are different species.

Note to adults: This question astounds me every time, but I’ve seen it or a variation of it a lot!

Q.Why does my penis get hard? It’s weird.

– 8-year-old

A.Your body is working! A penis gets harder when an erection happens. Sometimes erections happen when a person is excited, but they can also happen for no reason at all. It’s good to know your body is doing exactly what it should. If you distract yourself by taking a walk or reading a book or playing a game, the penis should soften. You’re OK. If you’re worried, please talk to a trusted adult.

Note to adults: We often neglect talking with little boys about their bodies. Watch the music beyond your words (your tone of voice) and answer questions matter-of-factly and with respect.

Q.When I get my period will my uterus fall out?

– 8-year-old

A.No. A uterus is a very strong muscle. The inside of the uterus fills with blood to create a cushion for a baby if the person is pregnant. If there’s no pregnancy, that cushion drips as liquid out of the vagina. It looks like blood, but it contains other body fluids as well. This is called a period because it happens over a period of days. The uterus stays inside the body.

Note to adults: We often wait until children are older to discuss puberty. I’ve discovered children are curious about their changing bodies when they are young. Menstruation is also happening earlier. It’s a good idea to start conversations early.

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email atpodmj@healthyteens.com.

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