Just for Teens

This page is designed specifically for teens. There are often things that you may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed talking to your parents or friends about. Many of these topics are covered below; however, this content is intended to be used for educational purposes only. If you have questions or concerns about anything listed below, we encourage you to talk to your parents or call or visit your doctor.

What is a menstrual period?

Vaginal bleeding that occurs in girls/women due to hormonal changes over the course of a monthly cycle. Periods are triggered by a process called ovulation. Ovulation occurs once a month when an egg is released from your ovary.

What is a normal period?

  • Most people get there first menstrual period around age 11-12. Some people may start their period as early as 8 or as late as 15.
  • Periods usually occur once a month. On average, a period occurs every 28 days, but a normal period can occur anywhere from 21-35 days.
  • Most periods last from 4-7 days.
  • Most young women have irregular periods when they first begin. It can take up to two years for your periods to be normal. It is common for teens to skip a period or to start their period at varying times during the month.
  • Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions of your uterus during your period
  • Cramping is normal and is often worse during the first one to two days of your period
  • Cramping that prevent you from doing your normal daily activities (i.e school, sports) is not normal.
  • Using Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Motrin, Aleve, etc. often helps to reduce the pain from cramps. Ibuprofen is probably the most effective at reducing the pain and it works.

What is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is made up of a variety of foods from the different food groups (dairy, meat, vegetable, fruit and grain). The amount of food needed depends on your age and activity level. A recommended diet for healthy teens is a follows:

  • 6 ounces of grains (cereal, oatmeal) with half the servings being from whole grains
  • 5 cups of vegetables
  • 5 cups of fruit
  • 3 cups of dairy
  • 5 ounces of meat

The amount of calories you need to keep your weight steady depends on your age, weight, height, and activity level. The following table gives a general idea on how many calories you should get in a day.

Activity level Calories needed per day to maintain weight
Not active (no exercise) 1,800
Somewhat active (exercise some days of week) 2,000
Active (exercise most days of week) 2,300

What is a normal amount of exercise?

It is recommended that you should get 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. This can include scheduled aerobic activity (running, biking, swimming) or it can include fun physical activities (playing a sport, hiking, working in the yard, etc.).

Changing your daily routines can also help you get some exercise throughout the day. Small changes like taking the stairs, walking can add up and make a difference.

What is your normal weight?

One in three high school girls think they are overweight. This is not true. In reality, only a small portion of teens are overweight.

To determine if you are at healthy weight, a formula is used to calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index). Click here and plug in your height, weight, and age and your BMI will be calculated.

The following table gives definitions of weight based on BMI.

Weight Definition BMI
Underweight <18.5
Normal weight 18.5 – 24.9
Overweight 25-29.9
Obese 30 or greater

What do you do if you are overweight and want to lose weight?

It is recommended that you should get 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. This can include scheduled aerobic activity (running, biking, swimming) or it can include fun physical activities (playing a sport, hiking, working in the yard, etc.).

  • Being overweight can put you at risk for several health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, irregular menstrual periods, arthritis, and some cancers.
  • The best way to lose weight is through regular exercise and a healthy diet.
  • Your first step should be to get in a regular exercise routine with some type of physical activity for 60 minutes most days of the week.
  • You then need to concentrate on a healthy, balanced diet. You should never eat less than 1,200 calories a day because your body needs at least this many calories to get enough nutrients.

For some very overweight teens who have failed diet and exercise, additional programs through your doctor’s office might be needed. Please visit the sites below to learn more information.

Nutrition Solutions

Obesity Support Group

Obesity Action Coalition
Changing your daily routines can also help you get some exercise throughout the day. Small changes like taking the stairs, walking can add up and make a difference.

What is an eating disorder?

  • Some teens struggle with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
  • Bulimia is defined as normal weight or underweight people who binge eat (overeating followed by vomiting, taking laxatives, or over exercising). Some people also take over the counter medications to induce weight loss. This can be very serious and can lead to long term health problems, including heart conditions.
  • Anorexia is defined as extreme dieting or exercise in an underweight person. Often these underweight teens think that they are “fat”. People that struggle with anorexia do not eat enough calories to sustain normal bodily functions. This can lead to serious health problems such as weak bones, abnormal heart function, and even death.
  • To determine if you or a loved one struggles with an eating disorder visit anred.com/slf_tst.html

Helpful links

Some links to healthy diets and nutrition are listed below.

ChooseMyPlate.gov: choosemyplate.gov

BAM! Body and Mind Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: cdc.gov/bam/nutrition/index.html

National Agricultural Library: nutrition.gov

American Dietetic Association: eatright.org

National Association for Health and Fitness: physicalfitness.org

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion – Healthy Schools Healthy Youth! verbnow.com

What is birth control?

Birth control (contraception) are medications or devices that are used to prevent pregnancy. Some types of birth control also help to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Not all types of birth control work to reduce the risk of STIs.

Who should use birth control?

  • If you are having sex or thinking about having sex and do not want to be pregnant, you should be using birth control.
  • If you are having sex, you should use condoms every time you have sex to help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

What are some types of birth control?

What are some types of birth control?

  • Abstinence: Not participating in sexually activities is the best way to prevent pregnancy and STIs. This is the only way your can prevent infection or pregnancy 100% of the time.
  • Birth control pills: One of the most popular types of birth control. Pills use hormones (estrogen and progesterone) to help reduce the risk of pregnancy. They must be taken every day and are best if taken at the same time of day. They also help to regulate problems with periods (i.e. heavy periods, bad cramps, irregular periods). They DO NOT protect against sexually transmitted infections. Side effects can include breast tenderness, nausea, spotting between periods, or rarely blood clots.
  • The patch (Ortho Evra): Uses hormones like birth control pills but does not need to be taken every day. One patch is worn for one week at a time. At the end of the week, the patch is changed to a new one. You wear a patch for three weeks out of the month. After three weeks, the patch is left off for one week; this is the week you will have your period.
  • The ring (NuvaRing): Uses hormones like birth control pills. The ring is placed in the vagina and is worn for three weeks at a time. At the end of three weeks, the ring is removed for one week; this is the week you will have your period. The ring cannot get lost in the vagina. It cannot be felt when it is in place. It can be left in during sex.
  • The shot (DepoProvera): Depo is a shot that is given every three months. It uses a hormone called progesterone. Side effects include irregular, light vaginal bleeding in the beginning. Over time the amount of bleeding you experience will decrease and most people end up having no periods once they have used Depo for 12 months. Other side effects include bone loss (weakening of bone) and on average a 10 pound weight gain over the first year of use. It does not increase your risk for blood clots. This does not protect against STIs.
  • Implanon: This also uses progesterone like the Depo shot but has fewer side effects. It is a small rod that is placed under the skin of your upper arm. It is placed in your arm during an office visit after your arm is numbed with some local anesthesia (i.e. Inject numbing medication). It is good for three years and requires no follow up for maintenance for three years after it is placed. Side effects include irregular, light vaginal bleeding at first which improves over time. It can also include some short term tenderness, redness in your arm immediately after placement. It does not cause weight gain or blood clots. This does not protect against STIs.
  • IUD (intrauterine device): This is a T-shaped device that is put into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two types – one with hormones (Mirena) and one without hormones (Paraguard). These are very reliable forms of birth control (as effective as a tying your tubes but it is reversible). This does not protect against STIs.
  • Condoms: Both male and female condoms are available. These are very important to help decrease the risk of sexually transmitted infections, but some types of infections (Herpes or HPV) can still be transmitted even with condom use.
  • Diaphragm: A rubber circle that covers the cervix. This has to be used with a spermicide (gel to kill sperm). It also needs to be fitted by your doctor. It will need to be left in place for six hours after sex to be effective. This does not protect against STIs.
  • Spermicide: Gels, foams that kill sperm. This should not be used alone to prevent pregnancy. These work best if used with condoms or diaphragms. This does not protect against STIs.

What is emergency contraception?

  • Emergency contraception is a way to help prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex (i.e. no birth control used or condom breaks).
  • Plan B is a type of emergency contraception. It is a pack of four pills. You take two pills at one time and repeat the two pills in 12 hours. It is normal to have some vaginal bleeding after taking the pills. Nausea is another common side effect. Plan B is available from the pharmacy without a prescription if you are age 18 or older. If you are under 18 you can get Plan B from the pharmacy with a prescription from your doctor. Plan B is also available at your local health department.

How do I get birth control?

  • If you are having sex or thinking about having sex and do not want to be pregnant, you should be using birth control.
  • If you are having sex, you should use condoms every time you have sex to help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

Helpful links

Helpful websites

What are sexually transmitted diseases?

Sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STIs) are infections that are transmitted by sexual contact (oral, vaginal, penile, or anal). They are passed through skin to skin contact or passage of bodily fluids.

The facts about STIs

  • 1 in 4 teens and young adults get an STI each year
  • 48% of new cases of sexually transmitted infections occur in teens and young adults
  • Anyone who is having sex or sexually contact is at risk for a sexually transmitted infection. The more partners a person has (or if your partner has had multiple partners), the greater the risk of getting a STI.
  • Untreated infections can lead to severe illness, infertility, or even certain types of cancers
  • Often STIs have no symptoms

Types of sexually transmitted infections

  1. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia– bacterial infections. South Carolina is #3 in the nation for gonorrhea infections and #4 in the nation of chlamydial infection. These infections often have no symptoms. If left untreated, these infections can lead to infertility. These can be treated and cured with an antibiotic. Both you and your partner need to be treated.
  2. Genital Herpes– this is caused by a virus. Herpes virus can cause painful genital lesions, sores and can reoccur during times of stress or illness. Once a person has genital herpes, there is no cure. Your body can suppress the virus and keep it in check, but repeat outbreaks are always possible. It is also possible to give genital herpes to a partner even if you have no active lesions. If recurrent outbreaks are a problem for you, medication can be taken to reduce these events. Condoms help to reduce your risk of getting genital herpes, but this infection can still be transmitted despite using condoms. This can also be transmitted through oral sex.
  3. HPV (Human Papillomavirus)– this is caused by a virus. This is the most common of all sexually transmitted diseases. There are many strains of this virus and they can cause genital warts and abnormal cells of cervix that can develop into cervical cancer if left untreated for long periods of time. There is no cure for this infection but many people’s immune systems will fight off and suppress the virus. There is a vaccine available to prevent infection with this virus.
  4. Hepatitis– this is caused by a virus. There are several strains of hepatitis. The strains that are transmitted through sexually activity and sharing of body fluids are hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis is often cleared by the body but it some cases your body can not completely get rid of the infection. Long standing infections with hepatitis can lead to liver disease, liver failure, and even liver cancer. There is a vaccine to prevent infection with hepatitis B. There is no vaccine against hepatitis C.
  5. Syphilis– this is caused by a type of bacteria. This is initially seen has a sore on the genitals. This sore heals and then a rash will develop. The rash will then clear and the infection lies dormant (no symptoms) until it can return many years later with signs of severe disease. This can be treated with antibiotics.
  6. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)– this is the virus that causes AIDS. This virus kills off white blood cells (the type of cells that help your body to fight off infection). This is transmitted through blood and body fluids. Often there are no symptoms until advanced stages of the disease. There is no cure for this disease but there are medications to help keep the disease under control.
  7. Trichomonas– this is an infection caused by a bacteria. It causes unpleasant vaginal discharge. It can be treated by an antibiotic.

How do I avoid getting an STI?

  • The best way to prevent infection is by not having any type of sexual contact
  • If you are sexually active, you must use condoms with every sexual act
  • Limit your number of sexual partners
  • Talk to your partner about possible past infections
  • Get vaccinated against Hepatitis B and HPV

Websites for more information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sexually Transmitted Infections www.cdc.gov/std andwww.cdc.gov/women

All information by ACOG Committee on Adolescent Health Care. 2009. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 409 12th ST., SW, PO Box 96920, Washington DC 20090.

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Greenville, SC

Call us: 864-455-1270

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Greenville, SC

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