WHAT IS PUBERTY?
- Your body begins to release hormones causing hair to grow in places it didn’t before, on legs, genitals, armpits, and for boys the face as well.
- Your body will begin to grow more rounded, you’ll notice a few extra curves appearing as your hips and breasts begin to fill out.
- Periods will start, and in between these times each month, you may notice a milky discharge from the vagina, this just means you’re healthy, nothing to worry about at all.
WHAT’S GOING ON?
What is happening to your body?
The answer is a lot. Your body is maturing, it’s on that awkward bridge between child and adult and it’s pretty busy getting ready for the road ahead, adulthood. It usually starts between the ages of 8 and 13 in girls, and 9 and 15 in boys, so the important thing is not to compare yourself to others, everybody goes through this in their own time.
You are going to change, that is just a scientific fact, so it’s important to remember that this is completely normal and that everyone else is going through the same thing. You will begin your period and start developing curves you didn’t have before that are preparing your body to have children. This is all caused by hormones and hormones can sometimes make you feel confused or cause mood swings, but hang in there, this won’t last forever, it’s all just a part of you and your natural body maturing.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ACNE
- Acne is a skin disease that affects between 50% and 95% of teens
- In most cases it starts during puberty and declines or disappears from the age of 25 and onwards. However, up to 40% of young women are still affected in their mid-twenties
- Treatment depends on whether you have a mild, moderate, or severe type of acne. It could include lotions, gels, or antibiotics.
But also certain birth control pills can cure or improve your acne as well as protect you from unplanned pregnancy.
During puberty, your body changes a lot. Some of these changes are quite nice, others are not so great. Take acne for example: Almost 95% of teenagers are affected by this skin condition1 and suffer from pimples and greasy facial skin, particularly on the upper part of the chest as well as on the back.
In some cases, the symptoms might start disappearing by the age of 25 and onwards2, however, in some instances acne can lead to irreversible scars. Acne is more than a cosmetic problem and young people affected by it often experience low self-esteem, anxiety and in rare cases even depression because of their skin.3 So let’s get this straight: There is absolutely no reason to feel ashamed of yourself if you have acne. It is not a sign of poor hygiene. For most teens these pimples are part of the process of becoming an adult – however annoying they might be.
Don’t be fooled by all those perfect faces in the media. Digital picture editing can do a lot when it comes to hiding spots and improving complexions. There is absolutely no need to let pimples ruin your day or make you hide from the world. Nearly everyone has had acne at some point and knows what you’re going through, so get outside and enjoy life!
Here’s the good news. There are many good treatment options for improving your skin condition. You don’t need to feel insecure or socially isolated because of your skin. Nor do you need to wait any longer to take action. If you want to know more about different acne treatment options, it’s best to make an appointment now and talk to your healthcare provider or gynecologist. What’s most important is that you feel comfortable in your own skin and do what’s good for you.
- Dawson AL & Dellavalle RP. BMJ 2013; 346: f2634. Return to content
- Dréno, B., et al. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol, 2015. 29(6): p. 1096-106 Return to content
- Kellett SC & Gawkrodger DJ. Br J Dermatol 1999; 140(2): 273-82. Return to content
- Hormones are natural chemicals in your body
- Their job is to regulate your body’s functions and emotions
- Hormones are used in some forms of contraception to alter the way your body works and make it act differently
WHAT ARE HORMONES?
What are they and what do they do?
In short, they are just natural chemicals in your body that help to keep things functioning the way that they should. Only sometimes, like during puberty, what it should be doing can be a bit of a shock. Because your body is changing you will start feeling different, but different isn’t always a bad thing, it’s just different.
You’re feeling different because your hormones are regulating your body changing, growing and maturing, your menstrual cycle (periods) and the emotional changes. So if you’re feeling moody, confused or just different, that’s your hormones working, and right now they’re probably working overtime.
How hormones affect the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle lasts an average of 28 days (it can last more or less). To find out the length of your cycle, count from the first day of your period one month to the first day of your period the next.
Day 1: The cycle starts with the first day of menstruation. The lining of the womb begins to break down and bleed away. The bleeding usually lasts for 5-7 days. Some eggs begin to develop in one of the ovaries. Normally only one egg will reach maturity and is released from the ovary around day 14.The egg begins to travel down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. The lining of the womb thickens to prepare for implantation of a fertilized egg. If the egg does not join with a sperm, and become fertilized, the egg dies. Together with the thickened lining of the womb it leaves the body through the vagina. This is menstruation.
How does pregnancy happen?
When a man ejaculates during sex, the semen, filled with sperm, leaves the man's penis and enters the woman's body through the vagina. Some semen may still enter the vagina even if the man ejaculates outside of the vagina.
If an egg has been released by the ovaries, it can join with the man's sperm, this is called fertilization. Pregnancy starts when a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus.
Important: sperm can survive inside a woman`s uterus for up to five days. This means that if a woman has not ovulated when she has sex, she could still become pregnant in the next few days.
How do hormones in contraception work?
Hormonal methods are highly effective in preventing pregnancies, they control the menstrual cycle are used by many women around the world to prevent unplanned pregnancies. They contain either one or two female sex hormones, named progestin and estrogen, that are similar to the hormones that your body produces naturally, it’s just these ones trick your body into acting slightly differently. Some stop the act of releasing eggs completely, some just make it more difficult for sperm to move around freely, others make the lining of the womb thinner and prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, but the end product is always the same, they help to stop you from getting pregnant. Hormonal methods include oral contraceptive pills, the ring, the patch, contraceptive injections, implants and the intrauterine system (IUS) as well as emergency contraceptives. Some hormonal methods are short acting, and some are long-acting, or for emergencies only.
How will contraception affect my period?
FYI, using hormonal contraceptives can affect your periods and may cause a change in bleeding pattern. In fact, hormonal contraceptives can have positive effects on menstruation such as making periods more regular, shorter, lighter or less painful. Some women will eventually not bleed at all and from a medical point of view, this is not a problem.
However mainly during the first few months of use they can cause irregular bleeding or spotting which may take a while to settle down. It’s nothing to worry about and is only temporary. So, if you do find your periods change after starting with a hormonal contraceptive, it may take a while for it to all settle down. Talk to your healthcare provider if anything concerns you, don’t just stop using it because you think something is wrong.
And by the way, no hormonal contraceptives have a noticeable long-term effect on body weight.
Each is used differently, has somewhat different side effects, and has slightly different advantages and limitations. Explore the different specifics of each method and talk to you healthcare provider to make sure you have no health conditions that may make a method unsuitable for you.
- Periods can start between the ages of 8 and 17, everybody is different
- Some people have heavy periods, some have lighter ones
- Don’t panic! Starting your period just means everything is working perfectly
- Having your period doesn’t mean you’re safe from getting pregnant, you can get pregnant before, after and during your period
WHAT IS HAPPENING?
Between the ages of 8 and 17 girls will start menstruating. All this means is that each month an egg is released into your womb, if it is not fertilized, your body simply sheds the lining it has prepared and gets ready to start again next month. Bleeding can last between 2 and 7 days and can be light, heavy, short or long. Again, everybody is different.
How will your period affect you?
Discomfort, mood swings and cramps are quite common when menstruating but don’t worry, this s completely normal. Sanitary towels, tampons and other products are available to absorb the bleeding during this time. If you are concerned, your doctor will always be more than happy to help you to adjust to this process.
Periods and pregnancy
Although your period is your body reacting to not becoming pregnant, don’t be fooled into thinking that you can’t get pregnant during this time. Your body is an amazing thing and sometimes can seem like it has a mind of its own, so always be smart about sex. You can get pregnant just before, during and just after your period so always use contraception to be safe.
DON’T MYTH WITH ME!
Can I use an IUS if I haven’t already had children?
Of course you can. You shouldn’t get an Intrauterine System (IUS) if you’re trying to get pregnant, otherwise it’s a suitable form of contraception for anybody to consider using.
Will taking the pill make me gain weight?
Taking the pill does not have a noticeable long-term effect on body weight. Some women experience small changes in weight after starting the pill, but this is not proven in clinical studies looking at its long-term effect on body weight. If you're concerned talk to your healthcare provider about your options.
Do I need to use contraception if I’m breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding can prevent pregnancy for up to six months if periods have not resumed and the baby is solely breastfed frequently day and night. This doesn’t make pregnancy impossible though and as soon as any one of this criteria is not met, you can become pregnant again.
Will being on the pill for a long time affect my fertility later on in life?
It’s actually possible to get pregnant as soon as you stop taking the pill so no, taking the pill long-term will not affect your fertility.
Can I get pregnant if I’m on my period?
Expert opinion says yes, you can get pregnant while menstruating. The fact that there are a number of stages of a period and that sperm can survive inside a woman`s uterus for up to six days means you should always protect yourself if you don’t want to get pregnant.
Can the IUS move about inside me and cause problems?
The Intrauterine System (IUS) is an effective method that is inserted by a well-trained healthcare provider and it stays in place for up to 3 or 5 years. The risk of uterine perforation is rare (i.e. <1/1000).
Can I get pregnant if I don’t have an orgasm?
The pleasure of sex isn’t connected to the science of sex at all. If you have sex without contraception you can get pregnant, whether you enjoy it or not.
Can taking hormonal contraceptives make me infertile?
Hormonal contraception does not cause infertility. It may take a bit of time for your body to return to a state where you can become pregnant again but this is only temporary. Fertility returns to healthy women to its previous level no matter how long you have taken a hormonal contraceptive method.
Can I reuse a condom?
No, condoms are not coffee cups that you can rinse out and reuse. They might look ok, but they are made of very thin material that deteriorates with use and can split if used more than once. Also the spermicide inside which helps to stop sperm will have gone, so use a new one each time.
Is emergency contraception 100% effective?
No contraceptive is 100% effective. It is most effective when taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, ideally up to 12 hours after, if it’s taken more than 24 hours later, it’s already much less effective. The more prepared you are before sex, the less likely you’ll be to need emergency contraception at all.
Do I need to give my body a break from taking oral contraceptives?
From a medical point of view, there is absolutely no reason to make a pill break if you tolerate it well. The only reason to take a break from taking the pill is that you want to get pregnant. Other than that, you can stay on your chosen method of contraception for as long as you want.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes, PMS is not a myth! Eight out of ten women do experience some discomfort shortly before their monthly period sets in. These symptoms are caused by the hormonal changes of the cycle and for many women they are so severe that they impact on their daily lives – both in personal and working aspects. However, cycle-related symptoms are still subject to skepticism – men in particular take it as a bad excuse for women to be short-tempered and to graze uncontrollably. What you should know:
Most common premenstrual symptoms are divided into two groups:
Affective: depressive mood, angry outbursts, irritability, anxiety, confusion, social withdrawal
Somatic: breast tenderness, abdominal bloating, headache, swelling of extremities
Medical researchers are still working on identifying the exact cause of these symptoms but it is certain that they are linked to the hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. Some combined contraceptive pills are proven to reduce these symptoms. Please talk to your health care provider in case you are heavily suffering from these symptoms.
You are not alone! Cycle-related symptoms are experienced by about eight out of ten women at some stage during their fertile lives. If you complain about disturbances such as excessive cravings, you may experience symptoms that differ from those your sister or your best friend is suffering from. Even if your symptoms are identical to someone else‘s, you may feel them more or less intensely. If you suffer from any of these symptoms on a regular basis, always a few days before your period sets in, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.
Not using contraception during your period is a dangerous game, because it is actually possible for fertilization to occur during this phase of your menstrual cycle! The length of the menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman between 21 and 35 days. Ovulation almost always occurs around two weeks before your period, i.e. between day 7 and 21 of your cycle. Because the life span of sperm is unpredictable, unprotected sex can lead to pregnancy from the first day of your period.
Another thing is some women misinterpret breakthrough bleeding as a period and think they are "safe". So if you don't wish to become pregnant, you should always use contraception without interruptions.
Abdominal cramps, headaches and back pain, breast tenderness, mood swings or nausea, for many women make periods a regular misery. But you should certainly not suffer severe discomfort in silence. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider so they can investigate possible causes and ask about ways you can alleviate pain relating to your menstrual cycle. Some hormonal methods of contraception such as the pill or the hormonal IUS can make periods lighter and therefore more bearable, for example, by slowing down or preventing the growth of the uterine lining. This usually also means: less pain and fewer limitations, e.g. in terms of holidays, exercising and sex.
There are several reasons why your period might be late. First of all: you might be pregnant. If you think this could be the case, you can take a home pregnancy test or see your doctor to check. However, several other factors can cause late or even missed periods, for example medication, stress, diet or exercise.
In particular, young women, whose cycles are not yet so well established, often have hormonal fluctuations that can cause late or even missed periods.