- Puberty lasts for several years. It is the stage of your life when your body is changing from the body of a child to the body of an adult. Hormones, which are natural chemicals in your body, orchestrate these alterations in your body.
- During puberty, one breast might grow larger than the other. Once your breasts start growing, the differences will most likely be slight. And your breasts will even out before they are finished developing. Even if they don’t, no need to worry—many women’s breasts don’t match each other exactly.
- It might take a while, perhaps even a year, for your periods to become regular. During the first year, your cycle (from the start of one period to the start of the next) may be as short as three weeks or as long as six weeks. Even after your period becomes regular, exercise, stress or a change in diet could throw it off track. If you are sexually active and skip a period, talk to your health care professional immediately—you could be pregnant.
- An estimated 3.2 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur among teenage girls every year; this translates to one in four teenage girls.
- Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for persons between 10 and 14 years of age and the third leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24 years. Actions or talk of suicide are cries for help.
- Today, an increasing number of teenagers express dissatisfaction with their bodies Media portrayals of idealized body images that are unrealistic for most people are partially to blame for the increase in teenagers’ dissatisfaction with their bodies. And this idealized body image among young women—and increasingly for young men, as well—is leading to an increase in the number of teenagers with eating disorders. Eating disorders are not just a preoccupation with food, dieting and weight, however; they are serious mental disorders that can have serious consequences. Two common eating disorders are bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
- About 53 percent of all teenage school girls are not having sex, according to a 2002 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- You are most likely to get an STD during your teen and young adult years—more than two-thirds of all STDs occur in people younger than 25.
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2007, 39 percent of eighth-graders, 62 percent of 10th-graders, and 72 percent of 12th-graders reported having tried alcohol. It is the drug most often used by 12- to 17-year-olds.
- The Harvard College Alcohol Study found a sharp rise (from 5.3 percent in 1993 to 11.9 percent in 2001) in frequent binge drinking was noted among women attending all-women’s colleges, and a lesser, but still significant, increase of the same behavior for women in coeducational schools.
Questions to Ask
Review the following Questions to Ask about teen health so you’re prepared to discuss this important health issue with your health care professional.
- What is going to happen during puberty?
- I get horrible cramps with my period. Is there anything I can do?
- One of my breasts is larger than the other. What is going on? Will they stay this way?
- What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and how do I know if I have one?
- I am thinking of becoming sexually active, and I want to know the safest form of birth control.
- Will you tell my parents what we talk about?
- How can I tell if I am pregnant?
- What is the best way for me to get rid of my acne?
- My friend tells me she sometimes thinks about killing herself. Is there anything I can do to help her?
- My boyfriend is pressuring me to have sex with him. What should I do?
1. How long will my period last?
Young women usually start menstruating between the ages of nine and 16. A period lasts from three to seven days each month. Don’t count on your period being regular during the first year or so. Dieting can alter regularity, as can stress and the amount of exercise you get.
2. When is a menstrual cycle considered abnormal?
You should call your health care professional immediately if
- you are sexually active and skip a period
- you experience severe pain or excessive bleeding
- your bleeding lasts more than ten days
- you have bleeding or spotting between periods
- you have not had a period for the last six months
3. What is an STD?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections most commonly spread through sexual intercourse or genital contact. According to the CDC, 3.2 million cases of STDs occur among teenage girls every year; this means one in four teenage girls has an STD. Unprotected sex and multiple sex partners place young people at risk for HIV infection, other STDs and pregnancy. If you are sexually active, a latex condom is your best protection against getting an STD. It is important to know how to use a condom properly.
4. Do I have to have a Pap test?
You should have a Pap test about three years after you become sexually active; if you’re not having sex, you should have a Pap test by age 21. A Pap test will be done in the health care professional’s exam room and only takes a minute or two. The health care professional will insert a speculum into your vagina and lightly swab your cervix. A lab technician will analyze the results, looking for anything abnormal. Abnormalities could be signs of cervical cancer or viral infections such as human papillomavirus (HPV).
5. I have been dating the same boy for more than two months and he is asking me when we are going to have sex. When do I have to have sex with him?
You never have to have sex with someone. There are no rules regarding when to have sex and when not to. This decision is a personal one and should not be forced by anyone.
6. My boyfriend broke up with me three weeks ago and I just can’t get over it. What should I do?
Ending relationships can be painful at any age. Learning how to work through your feelings during and after a break-up is important now and for relationships you will have in the future. If you can’t shake your blues by spending time with friends or concentrating on activities you enjoy, talk to your parents, a counselor or mental health professional. You may be having trouble adjusting. You may also be experiencing depression, especially if you answer yes to several of the following questions:
- Do you cry more now than you used to?
- Do you think your life is hopeless or meaningless?
- Do you have a hard time sleeping, either sleeping too much or falling asleep at night?
- Do you spend more time alone than you used to?
- Do you ever think of hurting yourself?
- Do you often feel worn out?
- Have you gained or lost weight in the last month or two?
- Have you noticed significant changes in your appetite?
- Are you more irritable than usual?
7. What do I do when I get my period?
You’ll need to wear some form of protection to prevent staining your clothes. You can choose from an assortment of sanitary pads, panty liners and tampons. You can continue activities and sports that you enjoy. However, for activities involving water, you will have to wear a tampon instead of a pad.