Adolescence is the process of growing up-referred as the “teenage years”. It is a period of life from puberty to adulthood (roughly ages 13-20) characterized by marked physiological changes, development of sexual feelings, efforts toward the construction of identity, and a progression from concrete to abstract thought. Adolescence is sometimes viewed as a transitional state, during which young people begin to separate themselves from their parents but still lack a clearly defined role in society. It is generally regarded as an emotionally intense and often stressful period.
Menstruation is a woman’s monthly bleeding. When you menstruate, your body sheds the lining of the uterus. Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix and passes out of the body through the vagina. Most periods vary; the menstrual flow may be light, moderate or heavy lasting 3 to 5 days. But, anywhere from 2 to 7 days is normal. It is important to track on a calendar when your period starts, ends, flow (light, moderate, or heavy), any cramping or passing clots.
On average, menarche (a young women’s first menstrual period) occurs between the ages of 12 and 14 years old. Menstruation is generally two years after breast budding (average age 10 to 12 years old), and, in most cases, not long after the onset of pubic hair (average age 12 years old) and underarm hair. Stress, various types of strenuous exercise and diet can affect the onset of menstruation and the regularity of the menstrual cycle.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that a young woman consult her health care provider if she has not started to menstruate by the age of 16, and/or if she has not begun to develop breast buds, pubic hair, or underarm hair by the age of 13 or 14.
When periods (menstruations) come regularly, this is called the menstrual cycle. For menstruating women, an average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. A cycle is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. The length of your cycle varies, particularly for the first one to two years after menarche. Cycles can range anywhere from 21 to 45 days in young teens.
A yearly gynecology exam is important for women of all ages. At an annual appointment, a physical exam is performed assessing your heart, lungs, breasts, abdomen and pelvic anatomy. It is also a perfect time to touch base on special individual needs of women in different age groups and/or with a family history of specific illnesses.
During the women's health exam, the physician or advanced practitioner (nurse practitioner, midwife, physicians assistant) will:
IT IS NORMAL TO BE NERVOUS ABOUT YOUR FIRST VISIT! The first visit may be just a talk between you and your doctor. Your doctor may ask a lot of questions about you and your family. Some of them may seem personal, such as questions about your menstrual period or sexual activities. You usually do not need a pelvic exam at the first visit unless you are having problems, such as abnormal bleeding or pain. If you are sexually active, you may have tests for certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Depending on your age & increased risk of certain diseases your doctor will recommend certain vaccinations.
In addition to routine vaccines, special vaccines may be given to teenagers who are at an increased risk for certain diseases. Listed are some of these vaccines:
The only safe sex is no sex. Abstinence may be the only true form of safe sex, as all forms of sexual contact carry some risk. Abstinence is a personal decision to refrain from all sexual intercourse: vaginal, anal, or oral.
It is possible to get a Sexual Transmitted Disease even without having intercourse through skin-to-skin contact. However, certain precautions and safe behaviors can minimize a person’s risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and preventing an unwanted pregnancy.
There are numerous helpful books that offer advice on talking to your kids about sex. Many are available in the public library and even online. We suggest the following titles:
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