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Question Authority: Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

by Dr. Barbara Homeier

This issue is all about tough stuff—and asking questions about growing up can be tough! That’s why we collected questions from real girls and sent them to an expert for answers.

Girl resting head on arms

Q: Lately, I’ve been thinking about romance all the time. Why is that?

A: Romance is a pretty big part of our culture—we read about it in books, see it in movies and hear about it in songs. Most people feel a desire for romance their whole lives, but it might seem all-encompassing in your teenage years. That’s because your brain is releasing new hormones into your body. Hormones are chemicals that cause girls to develop breasts and boys to develop chest hair. They also contribute to changes in our thoughts, like the increasing desire to want someone in our lives who is extra special.

Q: What are some signs that I’ll get my period soon?

A: The first sign of puberty is when you start developing breasts. Once that has started, you’ll probably get your period in about two years. A few months before your period starts, you may notice whitish vaginal discharge on your underwear. You may also have some cramping—an ache in your lower abdomen—and you might become moody.

Q: Is it normal to have your period some months, and not others?

A: It’s common for your period to be irregular for the first two or three years after it’s started. You might miss your period for a few months and then get it for a couple weeks in a row. Eventually, your period will become regular and you’ll learn your body’s pattern. Some women start a new period every 21 days, some every 28 days, some every 41 days—and everything in between!

Q: What’s a vaginal infection?

A: The vagina is typically moist and warm—like other parts of our bodies, it has a normal balance of bacteria. If something disrupts the balance, certain bacteria or yeast can overgrow and lead to an infection. This sometimes happens when we take antibiotics. Women also can get vaginal infections from bacteria introduced into the vagina during sex. This kind of infection is called a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Most infections are easily treated, but an untreated infection can affect a woman’s future ability to have children. That’s why it’s important for a girl to see a doctor regularly, especially if she’s having sex.

Q: Why do these things happen to girls and not to boys?

A: Boys experience changing thoughts, feelings, and bodies as they grow, too. A girl might feel nervous or embarrassed about getting her period at school, but a boy could feel nervous that his voice will crack when he speaks up in class. Guys have no control over things like this, just like girls can’t control when they get their periods.

Even though girls and boys have similar thoughts and feelings, they’re physically different and the hormones causing their development are different. Our genes provide the road map to everything that makes us who we are, from the color of our eyes, to the size of our hands and feet, to whether we are female or male.

If you have a question this article didn’t answer, don’t worry! Chances are you know someone who has the answer. Talk to an adult you trust, or show her this article. If she can’t answer your question, she can help you find someone who will. Also, check out www.kidshealth.org for lots of information about your body, mind, and feelings.

 

How to Deal

  1. If you’re nervous about getting your period away from home, carry pads in your backpack or purse.
  2. To learn your body’s menstrual cycle, mark on a calendar when your period starts and how long it lasts. Keep doing this until you notice a pattern. Some women keep track of their periods throughout their whole lives.
  3. Everyone grows at her own pace. You might start noticing changes in your body when you’re 8 or you might not notice them until you’re 14. Either way is perfectly normal. Your body knows what it’s doing!

 

Barbara P. Homeier has been a practicing pediatrician for the past 10 years. She’s currently a medical editor for KidsHealth.org and continues to practice medicine with a focus on teens. She lives with her husband and two children.

 

© 2008 New Moon® Publishing, New Moon®: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, Duluth MN.

 

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This article is from New Moon  , a magazine written for girls by girls. Here is a complete list of the New Moon articles on girlshealth.gov.

Content last reviewed May 15, 2008
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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