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  -  FAQ's on Sexual and Reproductive Health  -  Puberty
Puberty Changes

1.      What is puberty?

Puberty is the time in which sexual and physical characteristics mature. It occurs due to hormone changes. The changes allow one to become capable of reproduction.


2.      What is the timing of Puberty?

Puberty starts at different times and lasts for different periods of time for everyone. It can start as early as 9 years of age to as late as 13 –14 years of age. The sequence of pubertal development usually ranges from 2 to 5 years.


3.      What are the signs of puberty in boys?

At puberty, boys will normally experience a faster growth, especially in height. The shoulder width also increases. The body takes on a new, more muscular and angular shape in boys under the influence of testosterone. There is growth of the penis and the skin of the scrotum becomes reddened and folded. The voice deepens, and while the process is gradual, one might experience voice breaking at times. This is normal and natural and does not call for worry. There is appearance and growth of pubic, armpit and facial (beard) hair. Nightime ejaculations (nocturnal emissions or "wet dreams") are common. The skin becomes oily resulting in acne.


4.      What are the signs of puberty in girls?

In a girl, female hormones are released that bring about changes in body. There is an increase in height, weight and widening of hips. Hair growth appears in the genital area, armpits and few around the breast. Breasts start developing and increase in size due to accumulation of fat and enlargement of glands. The changes in breast precede menstruation. The menstrual periods, the monthly bleeding from vagina, commences after 1-2 years after breast development starts.


5.      What breast changes occur during puberty? When does breast start growing?

The breasts develop and enlarge due to the accumulation of fat which occurs under the influence of the female hormone estrogen. There is a lot of variation in the normal timing of breast growth. For example, it is normal for breasts to start growing as early as nine years of age and it is also normal if they do not begin growing until 14 years of age.


6.      What changes occur in the female reproductive organs as a result of puberty?

As female‘s body begins the process of puberty, special hormones are released that create changes to the internal reproductive organs inside of a girl's body. The vagina becomes deeper, and girls may notice some wetness, called vaginal discharge, on their panties. The color of the discharge is usually clear to whitish and, it's normal in small amounts, so it's nothing to worry about. The uterus becomes longer and the lining of the uterus becomes thicker. The ovaries enlarge and the egg cells inside the ovaries begin to grow and develop getting ready for a special monthly event called ovulation.


7.      When should parents consult a doctor for puberty related concerns?

If puberty changes start before the age of 8 years in girls and 9 years in boys, doctor should be consulted. Parents should also consult a doctor, if a girl starts having her periods before she is 9 years. If no puberty changes start by the age of 13 years in a girl and 14 years in a boy, a doctor should be consulted. Parents should also consult a doctor if a girl does not start menstruating by the age of 16 years.



8.      What is menstruation?

The ovaries of a girl between the ages 10-15 years start producing a mature egg or ovum each month. The egg travels down a tube (Fallopian tube), which connects the ovary to the womb. When the egg reaches the womb, the lining becomes thick with blood and fluid. This happens so that if the egg is fertilized, it can grow and develop in the lining to produce a baby. If the egg does not meet with sperm from a male and is not fertilized, it dissolves. The thickened lining sloughs off and forms menstrual blood flow, which passes out of the body through the vagina.


9.      What is the normal frequency of menstrual cycles

Menstrual cycle occurs once every month, at a frequency of every 28 to 32 days. They can be slightly more or less in duration or frequency. This is considered normal if it is happening on regular basis.


10.   What is the normal duration of a menstrual period?

While most menstrual periods last from three to five days, anywhere from two to seven days is considered normal..


11.   What are the features of menstruation at puberty?

When your first period finally arrives, don't be too worried if it doesn't last long. It can sometimes take your body a few months or even a few years to get into a regular pattern. Periods usually come every 28 to 30 days and last for three to seven days. But, if it doesn't follow that schedule right away, it's perfectly normal. Initial periods vary in frequency and duration of the bleeding


12.    How can hygiene be maintained during periods?

Once a girl begins menstruating, she'll need to use clean washed clothes, sanitary napkin or pad something to soak up the menstrual blood. Pads are made of layers of cotton or clothes. Some pads have extra material on the sides (called "wings") that fold over the edges of underwear to better hold the pad in place and prevent leakage. Women should take daily bath, and keep hygiene of private parts.


13.   What are the types of sanitary pads?

Pads come in several different thicknesses for heavier or lighter menstrual periods or for day or nighttime use. Some pads come with a deodorant or deodorizing substance in them. All pads have a sticky strip on the bottom that helps them to adhere to your underwear. Pads can be made at home if the person cannot afford commercial pads. They can be made using cotton cloth/gauze and cotton.


14.   How should a pad be used?

Pads are easy to use: You peel off the strip that covers the adhesive, press the pad into the crotch of your underwear (wrapping the wings around and sticking them under the crotch if the pad you're using has wings).Most packages have pictures on them describing the method to use them.


        How frequently should a pad be changed?

It is best to change a pad every 3 to 4 hours, even when you're not menstruating very much. Regular changing prevents buildup of bacteria and eliminates odour. Naturally, if your period is heavy, you should change pads more often because they may get saturated more quickly.


16.   How should a pad be disposed?

Once you've removed your pad, wrap it tightly in polythene and put it in the garbage box. Don't try to flush a pad down the toilet - they're too big and may block the sewer drain


17.   Is passage of thick blood during menstruation normal?

Initial discharge during menstruation is thick dark blood. It is followed by fresh blood flow for a period of 3-4 days to a maximum of 7 days. This is normal. Only if there is a history of passage of clots than one should be concerned.


18.   Are there any medicines to prepone or postpone the menstruation?

You can prepone or postpone the menstruation. But weigh the pros and cons before interfering with the normal menstruation, because once preponed or postponed, your cycle will be irregular for next two to three cycles. Remember that postponement of menstruation can only be tried at least 7 days before expected date of menstruation. Preponement can only be attempted at least 15 days before the due date.If you have irregular cycles, avoid taking these pills for preponing/ postponing cycles. If you must, seek advice from a doctor.


19.      What is ovulation?

Ovulation is the release of an egg cell from one of the ovaries. This event occurs approximately once a month near the midpoint of a women's menstrual cycle. Upon release, the egg travels into the fallopian tube and then begins a four to five day journey to the uterus. The fallopian tube is only about five inches long and very narrow, so this is a slow journey.



20.      What is acne (Pimples)? Why does it occur?

Acne is a skin condition characterized by whiteheads, blackheads, and inflamed red pimples. Acne occurs when tiny holes on the surface of the skin called pores become clogged. Normally, the oil glands help keep the skin lubricated and help remove old skin cells. During adolescence the glands produce too much oil; the pores become blocked, accumulating dirt, debris, and bacteria resulting in production of blackheads and pimples.


21.      How can the effects of acne be lessened?

Acne is a normal physiological process. Almost every adolescent boy or girl develop it. You can take the following self-care steps to lessen the effects of acne: (i)Clean your skin gently with a mild, non-drying soap.
(ii)Remove all dirt or make-up. Wash once or twice a day with fresh water, including after exercising. However, avoid excessive or repeated skin washing.
(iii) Shampoo your hair daily, especially if it's oily. Comb or pull your hair back to keep the hair out of your face. Avoid tight headbands.
(iv) Try not to squeeze, scratch, pick, or rub the pimples. Although it might be tempting to do this, it can lead to scarring and skin infections.
(v) Avoid touching your face with your hands or fingers.
(vi) Avoid greasy cosmetics or creams.
(vii) If the pimples are still a problem, a doctor can prescribe medications and discuss other options with you.

Copyright © 2007 - Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh       
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