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.
- Hormones are chemical substances that act like messenger molecules in the body.1
- They help control how cells and organs do their work.1
- Hormones are chemical substances that control the functioning of the body's organs. In this case, the hormones in the Pill control the ovaries and the uterus.2
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.2
Just as those hormones create changes in the way your body looks on the outside, they also create changes on the inside. While your body is adjusting to all the new hormones, so is your mind. During puberty, you might feel confused or have strong emotions that you've never experienced before. You may feel anxious about how your changing body looks.3
You might feel overly sensitive or become easily upset. Some teens lose their tempers more than usual and get angry at their friends or families.3
How hormones affect the menstrual cycle?
The average cycle is 28 days but, for some women, it is as short as 21 days, for others it is as long as 35 days. Every month there is a complex interaction between the pituitary gland in the brain, the ovaries and the uterus (or womb). When you first start having periods, it can also take a while before your periods develop a regular pattern.4
Day one of your cycle is the first day of your period. This is when your uterus starts shedding the lining it has built up over the last 28 days. After your period is over, the lining of your uterus starts to build up again to become a thick and spongy ‘nest’ in preparation for a possible pregnancy. On day 14 (for most women), one of your ovaries will release an egg, which will make its way through a fallopian tube and will eventually make its way to your uterus (called ovulation). On day 28 (for most women), if you have not become pregnant, the lining of your uterus starts to shed. This is your period. The blood you lose during your period is the lining of your uterus.4
How does pregnancy happen?
Pregnancy happens when a man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg, which can happen even if you’ve not had sexual intercourse (penetration).5
During sex, semen is ejaculated from the man’s penis into the woman’s vagina. A man's semen (the liquid produced when he ejaculates or "comes") contains millions of sperm. One ejaculation can contain more than 300 million sperm.5
A woman's ovaries release one or more eggs (ovulation) 12-16 days before her next period. The man’s sperm enters the woman's body through her vagina, then travels through her cervix and womb to the fallopian tubes, where an egg is fertilized (conception). The egg can be fertilized by sperm contained in semen or pre-ejaculate.5
How do hormones in contraception work?
The hormones in contraceptives don’t only prevent ovulation. Some also prevent fertilized eggs from implanting into the womb. Others cause the mucus in the cervix (the opening of the womb) to become thick and sticky, making it harder for the sperm to move and reach the egg cell.6
Hormonal contraceptives are only reliable if they are used properly. If, for instance, a woman forgets to take her pill one day, her ovaries may release an egg (ovulation) and she could become pregnant.6
The effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives may be reduced by medication such as antibiotics, blood-pressure-lowering or cholesterol-lowering drugs, antifungal drugs or herbal products like St. John’s wort. Also, if women who take the pill vomit or have diarrhea, the pill may no longer provide enough protection. So, they have to use another form of contraception too – for instance, a condom.6
How will contraception affect my period?
Birth control pills were once only packaged as 21 days of active hormone pills and seven days of placebo pills. While taking placebo pills, menstrual period-like bleeding occurs. Today women have many more options — from regimens with 24 days of active pills and four days of placebo pills to regimens that are all active pills.7
studies have shown that the effect of the birth control pill on weight is small — if it exists at all.7
- 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
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has a wide variety of signs and symptoms, including mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression. It's estimated that as many as 3 of every 4 menstruating women have experienced some form of premenstrual syndrome.8
Symptoms tend to recur in a predictable pattern. But the physical and emotional changes you experience with premenstrual syndrome may vary from just slightly noticeable all the way to intense. Still, you don't have to let these problems control your life. Treatments and lifestyle adjustments can help you reduce or manage the signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.8
Menstrual cycle irregularities can have many different causes, including:9
Pregnancy or breast-feeding. A missed period can be an early sign of pregnancy. Breastfeeding typically delays the return of menstruation after pregnancy.9
Eating disorders, extreme weight loss or excessive exercising. Eating disorders - such as anorexia nervosa - extreme weight loss and increased physical activity can disrupt menstruation.9
For some, the physical pain and emotional stress are severe enough to affect their daily lives. Regardless of symptom severity, the signs and symptoms generally disappear within four days after the start of the menstrual period for most women.8
But a small number of women with premenstrual syndrome have disabling symptoms every month. This form of PMS is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD signs and symptoms include depression, mood swings, anger, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty concentrating, irritability and tension.8
If you haven't been able to manage your premenstrual syndrome with lifestyle changes and the symptoms of PMS are affecting your health and daily activities, see your doctor.8
The list of potential signs and symptoms for premenstrual syndrome is long, but most women only experience a few of these problems.8
Emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms include: Tension or anxiety, Depressed mood, crying spells, Mood swings and irritability or anger, Appetite changes and food cravings, Trouble falling asleep (insomnia), Social withdrawal, Poor concentration, Change in libido.8
Physical signs and symptoms include: Joint or muscle pain, Headache, Fatigue, Weight gain related to fluid retention, Abdominal bloating, Breast tenderness, Acne flare-ups, Constipation or diarrhea.8
Hormonal contraceptives can also relieve period pain, and often lead to lighter periods. If a teenage girl or woman has acne, the hormones may improve her skin too.6
Menstrual suppression has been recommended for medical conditions such as endometriosis, but it is also being proposed as a lifestyle choice for women who dislike menstruation or find it inconvenient. Articles in the professional and popular press have asserted that menstrual suppression is a reasonable lifestyle choice. Birth control options that reduce or eliminate periods are being developed.10
In industrial societies the average woman has few children and therefore may have 450 menstrual cycles during a lifetime. Women in hunter-gatherer cultures and other societies without birth control average a total of 160 periods because they are either pregnant or breastfeeding much of the time.10
Your body will need about one to three months to adjust to the pill. Use another form of birth control, such as latex condoms, during the first week. After the first week of taking pills regularly, you can only use the pill for birth control.11
1- Nemours Kids Health. Definition: Hormones. Available at: Reference Last Accessed 18 Jun 2020.
2- Nemours Kids Health. Birth Control Pill. Available at: Reference Last accessed 18 Jun 2020.
3- Nemours Kids Health. Everything You Wanted to Know About Puberty. Available at: Reference Last accessed 18 Jun 2020.
4- The Royal Women's Hospital. About periods. Available at: Reference Last accessed 18 Jun 2020.
5- The National Health Service (NHS). Can I get pregnant if I have sex without penetration? Available at: Reference Last accessed 18 Jun 2020.
6- Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Contraception: Hormonal contraceptives. Available at: Reference Last accessed 18 Jun 2020.
7- Mayo Clinic. Birth control pill FAQ: Benefits, risks and choices. Available at: Reference Last accessed 18 Jun 2020.
8- Mayo Clinic. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - Symptoms and causes. Available at: Reference Last accessed 18 Jun 2020.
9- Mayo Clinic. Menstrual cycle: What's normal, what's no? Available at: Reference Last accessed 18 Jun 2020.
10- Derry PS. Is menstruation obsolete? Bmj. 2007;334(7600):955-.
11- Cleveland clinic. Birth Control: The Pill. Available at: Reference Last accessed 18 Jun 2020.