Female FAQs (Frequently asked questions)
What’s Puberty ?
What’s the Difference Between Puberty & Adolescence ?
What Happens When You Have Unprotected Sex ?
How Much Blood is Lost During a Period ?
How Long Do Periods Last & How Often Do They Come ?
Need More Information ?
What’s Puberty ?
Puberty is the time when your body starts to change from that of a child into a young woman. It happens between the age of about 9 and 16 and lasts for about 3-6 years.
•You’ll start to release your eggs (ovulate) and have periods right through until you’re about 50.
•Your breasts will start to develop.
•You may get spots appearing on your face due to hormonal (chemical) changes.
•Both your pubic and underarm hair will start to grow.
•When you start your periods you’ll become a young woman, capable of reproduction. Generally, because of this, your parents or other adults will worry about you and become protective.
What’s the Difference Between Puberty & Adolescence?
•Puberty is the time when you mature physically.
•Adolescence is the time when you start to mature emotionally.
From the start of your periods, you will usually release one or two eggs ova) every month.
You were born with your lifetime’s supply of eggs in your ovaries. For this to happen, your brain sends a chemical message in the form of a hormone, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), to your ovaries.
Your ovaries then start to develop an egg for that month and produce oestrogen.
After the egg is released from your ovary, it is wafted along your fallopian tube towards the lining of your womb (the endometrium) and your ovary then makes another hormone called progesterone.
The neck of your womb (cervix) makes a fertile type of mucus while your egg develops.
•You can not get pregnant without fertile mucus present.
•Some women make fertile mucus for only a day, while others make it for several days.
•It’s clear and stretchy, rather like egg white and it’s essential for sperm to make their way to your egg.
•Sperm can live in it and feed off it for the length of time you make fertile mucus.
After egg release, it changes to infertile or thick mucus which sperm can’t get through.
This lasts until you have your next period.
What Happens When You Have Unprotected Sex?
At the fertile time of the month, sperm can travel through the fertile mucus produced in the neck of your womb (cervix), up through your uterus (womb) and into your fallopian tubes where they may meet an egg. They may then join together (fertilise), start to divide and multiply into an embryo.
•The embryo spends several days travelling back towards the lining of your womb (endometrium) before it finds somewhere suitable to implant (settle) and starts growing into a foetus.
•When it implants, a signal is sent from your ovary, telling the lining of your womb to stay in place so you don’t have your next period.
•It then takes 9 months for the foetus to develop fully into a baby.
You may also be at risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection when you have unprotected sex.
An ectopic pregnancy is where a fertilised egg (ovum) and a pregnancy develops outside the uterus eg. in the fallopian tube, ovary or abdomen.
•The most common area for ectopic pregnancies is in the fallopian tube, when the fertilised egg (ovum) gets stuck and settles there, instead of travelling to the lining of your womb to settle.
•Ectopic pregnancy could be life-threatening and you would need emergency treatment or surgery to prevent serious illness or even death.
•You may have pelvic pain and abnormal vaginal bleeding with ectopic pregnancy.
If worried, you should be checked by a qualified medical practitioner or, where available, visit your local Family Planning Clinic immediately.
How Periods Happen
Periods happen because of a series of events throughout your menstrual cycle. While the egg is being produced in your ovary, the lining of your womb builds a ripe cushion for an ovum (fertilized egg) to implant.
If one doesn’t implant, it gets a signal from your ovary and the cushion or lining sheds away.
This shedding is what happens when you have your menstrual (ie. monthly) period.
How Much Blood is Lost During a Period?
On average 1-2 tablespoons of blood are lost each month.
Many people think pints of blood are lost – but this is not true. A little bit of blood can go a long way!
Some women have heavier periods and may benefit from using hormonal contraception to reduce their blood loss.
If you are worried about your periods, seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner or, where available, visit your local Family Planning Clinic.
How Long Do Periods Last & How Often Do They Come?
Each period will usually last between 3 and 10 days. Periods may be irregular for many months while your body adjusts but they usually settle into a pattern of coming between every 21 and 35 days.
•You’ll develop your own menstrual pattern and release your egg somewhere between 10 and 16 days before the first day of your next period – not always as is often stated, on the 14th day of your cycle.
•Life would be simple if this were the case – there would be fewer unplanned pregnancies. Unfortunately, life isn’t quite that easy!
Some people call periods menses, monthlies or the curse.
Vaginal discharge occurs – and changes – throughout your menstrual cycle.
•Each menstrual cycle starts with a period, which lasts for about 5 days. You will need to use external sanitary pads or internal tampons to protect your clothing.
•After that, your vagina will probably appear to be quite dry for a few days, before fertile mucus is produced at the neck of your womb (cervix).
•Mucus is cloudy at first then goes clear and stretchy, appearing just like egg white.
•After egg release, the mucus gets thicker and your vagina becomes drier, though you’ll still have a general moistness to keep you comfortable.
•It’s perfectly normal to have a clear or slightly white and occasionally watery vaginal discharge, which stains your knickers and doesn’t really smell.
But, if the discharge seems unusual, heavier or smells, it’s wise to get tested at a Sexual Health (GUM/STI) clinic in case you’ve caught a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Keeping a diary can be useful.
•It can help you to predict accurately when your next period will arrive.
•Many times throughout your life you’ll be asked for the date of the first day of your most recent period. So it’s wise to keep a note in your diary each month to check the length of your menstrual cycle (cycle). This helps to assess your fertile times and whether your body is working as it should.
•To measure your cycle length in days, you count the number of days from the first day of your period, until the day before the first day of your next period.
•Sometimes your period might be longer or shorter than other times, as might the length of your menstrual cycle.
The number of days in a calendar month can vary, so that’s why it’s a good idea to count the days by looking at calendar dates rather than guess when you think your next period should come.
Other Changes During Puberty
You’ll continue to grow in height and weight.
Your figure will start to change with your breasts growing, your hips getting wider, your waist becoming more defined; and you might develop a wiggle as you walk!
•Your general body odour may change slightly and you’ll gradually become more inquisitive about sex and its mysteries.
•You’ll probably start to explore your body and start to masturbate.
•Masturbation won’t make you blind, deaf or drive you mad as people used to say in olden days!
•You may become interested in make-up, fashion, music, members of the opposite sex and the appearance of your body.
You may wonder, at some stage, about your sexuality and the people you find attractive.
You might not be attracted to members of the opposite sex but to members of your own or even, to both sexes.
Menstrual Cycle & Weight
If you’re under or overweight for your age and height your menstrual cycle could be affected.
Your periods may become irregular or perhaps stop until you return to your correct weight.
Even if you appear physically mature by your mid-teens your reproductive organs, in particular, the neck of your womb (cervix), takes until you’re about 23 years of age to mature.
Therefore, if you have sex – particularly under this age – you’d be wise to use condoms to protect it from infection.
You may think that all adults are stupid and don’t have a clue how you feel. This is just part of your development.
You might think you can’t talk to any of them … but don’t forget they’ve all gone through similar confusing years, too. They really aren’t stupid aliens from outer space!
•They know more about the ways of the adult world.
•They’d like to help you avoid many of the mistakes they made when they were your age.
•You never know, you might even grow to like them if you give them a chance!
•They’ll be happy to help if they know the answers to your questions.
If you’re too shy to talk to your parents or another adult you know well, try asking other people; for example, your teacher, School Nurse, youth worker, qualified medical practitioner, Practice Nurse, trusted aunt, uncle, older brother, sister, cousin or family friend.
You may prefer to find information by talking to friends, reading books, watching films, or drop into your local Family Planning Clinic where the staff are clued up about sex.
You’ll find that there’s a lot more to having sex than just the physical act of intercourse and that there’s another side to it.
You’ll learn about the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and of unplanned pregnancy in addition to the fun, joy and pleasure of sex.
By looking after yourself and asking the right questions, sex will also be enjoyable and give you pleasure.
Remember, though, that with sex you have responsibilities: to your partner as well as yourself.
It is wrong for an adult to interfere with you sexually. If this has happened or is happening to you, you must tell someone – whatever they say, even if you’re scared – so you get help for it to stop.
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