Your baby was born with her reproductive systems intact but dormant. This system awakens when her pituitary gland sends a signal to her gonads (ovaries in girls and testes in boys) to release hormones. This typically happens between 9 and 15 years of age, when puberty and reproduction begin.
In girls, the reproductive system consists of the vulva, vagina, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Inside her ovaries
are gametes—cells capable of joining other cells to reproduce. In women, gametes are called eggs. In men, they are called sperm. After puberty, a woman’s eggs can join with a man’s sperm to create a fetus.
At birth, hundreds of thousands of eggs are stored in a girl’s ovaries. After she enters puberty, her ovaries release an egg. The egg travels into one of her fallopian tubes, where it is either fertilized by sperm or discharged through menses.
In addition to producing eggs and allowing sexual intercourse for fertilization, female
reproductive organs harbor and nourish a fetus as it develops about every 28 days.
The male reproductive system consists of his scrotum, testes, spermatic ducts, sex glands, and penis. The system’s job is to produce sperm that can fertilize an egg. When a boy is born, the tip of his penis (the glans) is covered with foreskin. People of many religions and cultures perform circumcision by removing this skin. There is no proven medical reason for circumcision.
All babies, male and female, play with their genitalia, which is normal. When your child is old enough to understand, you can let her know that this is normal behavior, but it is best done in private.
Since the reproductive system is not necessary to sustain your child’s life and is relatively dormant for her first few years, few common childhood illnesses are associated with it. However, be careful not to expose your baby to materials that might affect her hormones. These can be found in products, foods, or the environment.