FAQ

Puberty

Puberty is the time when your body changes and becomes more like an adult.

What changes occur during puberty?

During puberty, hormones cause the following changes:

  • You grow taller and gain weight.
  • Your hips may get wider.
  • Your breasts grow.
  • You grow hair under your arms and around the vulva.
  • Your body odor may change.
  • You may get acne or pimples.
  • You get your first menstrual period (also called menstruation).

When does menstruation begin?

Most girls in the United States start between the ages of 12 years and 14 years, but some start earlier or later.

How do pads and tampons work?

Pads attach to the inside of your underwear. They absorb the blood as it leaves the vagina. Tampons are inserted into the vagina. They catch the blood before it leaves the body.

How often should I change my pad or tampon?

You should change your pad or tampon at least every 4–8 hours. On the first days of your period, you may need to change it more often because your flow may be heavier.

Do menstrual periods cause discomfort?

Some girls have cramps (tightness and pain) in the lower abdomen and back at the start of their periods. Some girls get headaches or feel dizzy. Some get diarrhea.

How can I ease cramps?

To help ease cramps, you can try the following:

  • Take ibuprofen or naproxen sodium (if you do not have an allergy to aspirin or severe asthma).
  • Exercise.
  • Place a heating pad on your abdomen or lower back.

What problems with my menstrual period should I see my doctor about?

Talk to your doctor or your parents about your period for any of these reasons:

  • You are 15 years old and have not had a period.
  • Your periods were regular each month and then they stopped being regular.
  • Your period comes more often than every 21 days or less often than every 45 days.
  • Your periods come 90 days apart (even if that happens only once).
  • Your periods last more than 7 days.
  • Your periods are so heavy that you have to change pads or tampons often (more than once every 1–2 hours).
  • You have bad cramps that keep you from doing your regular activities and they are not helped by pain relievers.

What is acne?

Acne is caused by overactive glands in the skin. They make a natural oil called sebum. During puberty, these glands make extra sebum that can clog the pores in your skin.

What can I do if I get acne?

Wash your face often with water and mild cleanser to help get rid of the extra sebum. This will help reduce pimples and acne. Avoid products that dry or irritate your skin. Do not scrub or pick at your skin. If you have concerns about acne or pimples, some medications can help. Talk to your doctor about your concerns.

Glossary

Egg: The female reproductive cell produced in and released from the ovaries; also called the ovum.

Fallopian Tubes: Tubes through which an egg travels from the ovary to the uterus.

Hormones: Substances produced by the body to control the functions of various organs.

Menstruation: The blood and tissue that comes from the uterus each month when an egg is not fertilized (also called your menstrual period).

Obstetrician–Gynecologist: A physician with special skills, training, and education in women’s health.

Ovaries: Two glands, located on either side of the uterus, that contain the eggs released at ovulation and that produce hormones.

Puberty: The stage of life when the reproductive organs start to function and other sex features develop.

Sexual Intercourse: The act of the penis of the male entering the vagina of the female (also called “having sex” or “making love”).

Sperm: The male sex cell produced in the testes that can fertilize the egg from the female.

Uterus: A muscular organ located in the female pelvis that contains and nourishes the developing fetus during pregnancy.

Vagina: A tube-like structure surrounded by muscles leading from the uterus to the outside of the body.

Vulva: The external female genital area.

If you have further questions about puberty or your changing body,  contact your obstetrician–gynecologist.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of threatening or controlling behavior imposed on a woman by an intimate partner without regard for her rights, feelings, body, or health. A woman is abused if she has had intentional, often repeated, physical, sexual, or emotional harm done to her by a person with whom she is or has been in an intimate relationship.

What are the types of abuse?

Abuse can take many forms. Some common types of abuse include the following:

  • Battering and physical assault—Throwing objects at the victim, pushing, hitting, slapping, kicking, choking, beating, or attacking with a weapon
  • Sexual assault—Forced sexual activity, including vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse
  • Psychologic abuse — Forcing the victim to perform degrading acts, threatening to harm a partner or her children, attacking or smashing valued objects and pets, or trying to dominate or control a woman’s life

There are many ways an abuser may try to control a woman’s life. Some may take away her money, food, sleep, clothing, or transportation. Some may keep a woman from being in touch with her family and friends. Others may control her reproductive choices by trying to prevent the use of birth control.

How can I tell if my partner is abusive?

  • frighten you with threats of violence or by throwing things when he is angry?
  • say it is your fault if he hits you?
  • promise it will not happen again, but it does?
  • put you down in public or keep you from contacting family or friends?
  • force you to have sex when you do not want to?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be involved in an abusive relationship. If so, you are not alone and you have choices. Remember, no one deserves to be abused.

Here are some sites to get help if you are being abused in any way:

Domestic Abuse Hotline

If you need immediate assistance, call 911 or your local emergency service.

For domestic violence helplines and shelters, click here.

If you’re a man in an abusive relationship, read Help for Abused Men.

Depression

Depression is a common but serious illness. It is more than just feeling sad or upset for a short time or feeling grief after a loss. Depression changes your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and physical health. It can affect how you relate to your family, friends, and coworkers. It can occur at different times of life or in different situations. It also can occur as part of other disorders.

What are the symptoms of depression?

  • Sad or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Weight loss when not dieting or weight gain; decrease or increase in appetite
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Moving more slowly or moving more quickly than usual
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Having trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Are there different levels of depression?

Depression can be mild, moderate, or severe. If you have mild depression, it may take extra effort to do what you have to do, but often you can still do those things. With moderate depression, you may not be able to do some of the things you need to do. If you have severe depression, you may not be able to do any of the daily tasks you need to do.

What causes depression?

Researchers do not know for certain what causes depression. They do know that depression is a brain disorder in which the parts of the brain that control mood, sleep, and thinking are not functioning properly. Depression may be caused by an imbalance in certain chemicals in the brain.

What factors increase the risk of depression?

  • Genetics—A family history (someone in your immediate family has depression) can put you at high risk.
  • Hormonal changes—Depression in women may be related to hormonal changes that happen during the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, after childbirth, and at menopause. When depression occurs after childbirth, it is called postpartum depression 
  • Stress—Stressful circumstances such as trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, unemployment, or abuse may trigger the onset of depression.
  • Other illnesses—Some disorders can lead to or occur with depression. Anxiety disorders often occur with depression. Alcohol and drug problems and chronic (long-lasting) pelvic pain also can occur with depression.

How is depression diagnosed?

To diagnose your depression, your health care provider will discuss your symptoms, how often they occur, and how severe they are. You also will be asked about your medical history, any medications you are taking, and whether you use drugs or drink alcohol. Certain medications and health conditions, such as an infection or a thyroid disorder, can cause symptoms similar to depression.

How is depression treated?

Depression is treated with psychotherapy, medications called antidepressants, or both.

What is psychotherapy?

In psychotherapy or “talk therapy,” a therapist will work with you to identify problems and suggest ways you might change your behavior to help relieve your symptoms.

You may have one-on-one therapy (with just you and the therapist) or group therapy where you meet with a therapist and other people with problems similar to yours. Another option is family or couples therapy, in which you and family members or your partner may work with a therapist.

What are antidepressants?

Antidepressants are medications that work to balance the chemicals in the brain that control your moods. There are many types of antidepressants. If one type does not work for you, your health care provider can prescribe another. Drugs often can be combined. It may take some time to find the drug or combination of drugs that works best for you. It often takes at least 3–4 weeks of taking the medication before you start to feel better.

Can antidepressants cause side effects?

Antidepressants can cause side effects; however, most are temporary and go away after a short time. Listed are some of the most common side effects:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Trouble falling asleep or waking often during the night
  • Feeling jittery
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Difficulty having an orgasm

In teenagers and young adults taking certain kinds of antidepressants, the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions is increased. Close monitoring by a health care provider is necessary while taking these medications.

Glossary

Antidepressants: Medications that are used to treat depression.

Depression: Feelings of sadness for periods of at least 2 weeks.

Fetus: The developing offspring in the uterus from the ninth week of pregnancy until the end of pregnancy.

Menopause: The time in a woman’s life when the ovaries have stopped functioning; defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 1 year.

Postpartum Depression: Intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, or despair after childbirth that interfere with a new mother’s ability to function and that do not go away after 2 weeks.

Psychotherapy: Working with a therapist to identify problems and find ways to change behavior to help relieve symptoms.

If you know someone who is depressed, check out these websites before it may be too late:

Depression Hotline

Help Guide

 

 

 

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