Constantly Evolving: External Physical Changes During Puberty

Constantly evolving is a new series documenting the ways in which women’s bodies change. Based on the time of the month or period of life, the series hopes to highlight the magnificence of the woman’s body.  

During puberty, the body changes in incredible ways as it prepares itself to enter biological adulthood. Starting as early as 8 years old and as late as 13, the brain begins to release estrogen, the female growth hormone, which induces growth and change in the body.

Puberty is often a difficult time for young women. The body changes in very drastic ways which can be debilitating, uncomfortable, and confusing. Many young women also experience increased levels of self-consciousness during this period of their lives. These feelings are normal, as the amount of change can often make a young girl feel like an alien in their own skin. During this time of life the body changes in a variety of ways:

Weight Gain and Growth Spurts

Two of the first signs of puberty are growth spurts and weight gain. Many young girls will be taller than their male peers at this age since males experience growth spurts later in puberty. Body fat during this period can increase from 8% to 21% as the body prepares itself for menstruation and reproduction.

Body Hair Appears

Hair on the body will begin to grow on areas that have previously been smooth and hair-free, and may become darker and thicker on the arms and legs. Girls will start to develop a few hairs in the pubic area. As puberty progresses, more hair follicles will produce strands and they will start to get thicker and curlier as they grow.

Development of Acne

As hormones begin to surge through the body, girls will often start to experience breakouts of whitehead, blackheads, and pimples. The hormones that are likely to blame for this change are known as androgens, which enlarge the size of pores and create more sebum. Acne during puberty can also be caused by hereditary factors.

Developing Breasts and Hips

Puberty will cause areas of the body to widen. Hips, thighs, and butts will grow during this period since the body is preparing for eventual reproduction and childbirth.

During puberty, girls will also begin to develop breasts. Many girls will feel self-conscious when they start to develop if they feel like they are growing too big too quickly, not fast enough, or unevenly. Breasts continue to grow until women are well into their teens, and if they are growing at uneven speeds will usually even out eventually.

The nipples also begin to change at this time. Some girls nipples will become pink or dark brown, inverted or turned out, and hair may begin to grow in the region. These changes are normal and are mostly based on hereditary factors, as final breast size. Looking to maternal female relatives will often give a clue as to what breasts will look like when they finish maturing.

The ways in which hormones change the physical shape and appearance of women’s bodies is nothing short of incredible, but it can often disrupt a young girl’s sense of self. Suddenly, puberty can make who they see virtually unrecognizable to who they were a year ago. Other evolutions in the body can exacerbate these feelings, such as internal and cognitive changes, which will be discussed in the next few blogs. Check back soon to learn more!

The 101 on Feminine Hygiene Products

Have you ever asked yourself: “Is my discharge normal?” or “Am I supposed to smell this way?” You wouldn’t be the first. In fact, you’re only one of many. To accommodate these fears, the market in the last few years has been flooded by feminine hygiene products aimed at making women more confident surrounding their vaginal cleanliness.

Many doctors are wary of these products, suggesting that they may do more harm than good. After all, the vagina is a balanced ecosystem that produces healthy bacteria and fluids aimed at warding off infections. These normal processes are often mistaken for uncleanliness, so women turn to products aimed at hindering natural smells. Doing so, however, can lead to a variety of issues concerning vaginal health.

Problematic Science Involved

Since vaginal washes and wipes aren’t used internally, any claim that the soap is pH-balanced is unlikely. Even if it is, since it is used externally, doctors are skeptical that they have any effect at all on pH. Dr. Ugwumadu, a consultant gynecologist at St. George’s Hospital in London, writes, “There will be no difference in the pH of a woman using such products and a woman who washes with a normal shower gel – except that one will be lighter of pocket.”

More Prone to Infections

The natural processes your vagina goes through helps to keep you safe from infection. The efficacy of these processes depends on your vagina’s pH. A healthy pH ranges from 3.5-4.5. The bacteria produced helps to keep that pH balanced. Washing with soap, using douches, deodorants and wipes can eat away at that healthy bacteria, essentially making you susceptible to infections.

Not Regulated

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor the production of or the ingredients in feminine hygiene products. Since they are classified as cosmetics, the FDA considers them low-risk products. Because of this, it is important that women have an understanding of the ingredients these products may contain. While some are safer than others, steer free of products containing fragrances, alcohols, and glycerin, all of which can put you at risk for irritation or infection.
Doctors do not generally recommend these products, since they are rather unnecessary. However, it is acknowledged that feminine hygiene products may have a placebo effect that leads women to feel more confident about their smell and health. For that reason, as long as the ingredients are safe, women should feel free to use such products at their discretion.

Talking About Men’s Health

When discussing family health, the mother and children most often come to mind, but a huge determining factor in the health of a family unit is often ignored. Men’s health is seldom discussed, perhaps due to the stigma many men have about receiving regular care. Such avoidance of healthcare could be part of the reason why, on average, men have lower life expectancies than women, but biology and ethnicity may also be a factor.

Doctors and scientists have not yet figured out the cause of lifespan differences between men and women, but they do have a few suggestions on how men can improve their health and increase their chance at a long and fulfilling life.

Research Family Medical History

Many health concerns and conditions affect both genders, yet men should know of a few that are more predominant in their gender, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, colon cancer, and skin cancer. By discussing health history with family members, men can figure out certain health conditions or diseases they predisposed to. This information can then serves as a guideline to certain lifestyle changes, treatments, or tests and screenings men may need to take and receive.

Make Healthy Choices

Men are more likely participate in unhealthy and risky behaviors than women, such as smoking drinking, and avoiding medical care. If a man already knows what conditions he may be likely to inherit, changing their lifestyle can often impact their likelihood of being affected by it. However, all men should avoid smoking, limit their alcohol, eat a balanced diet of nutrient-rich foods, and exercise regularly to achieve optimal health.

Prioritize Mental Health

Men are more likely to face stigmas surrounding mental health than women are due to societal expectations and stereotypes. Since emotional vulnerability has often been seen as “unmanly,” too many men avoid treatment for mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. According to a 2017 report by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men commit suicide 3.54 times more often than women.

Due to the opposing nature of mental health disorder symptoms and masculinity, men are more reluctant to seek help. Men are also less likely to be diagnosed with depression since the way they describe how they feel (i.e. fatigue, irritability, and a lack of interest in once favorite or enjoyed activities) are different than the usual symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. The only way to improve men’s likelihood to receive proper mental health treatment is to de-stigmatize the topic and make it a national conversation.

Men’s health is often overlooked and under-discussed. The conversation surrounding men and their health is vital to increasing life expectancies, treating mental health disorders, and ensuring a happy and healthy family unit. Many communities offer Men’s Health fairs, info sessions, and literature that seeks to educate men on why taking control of their health is important. Urge a man in your life to make more regular trips to a doctor or become more familiar with the conditions and symptoms to look out for.

The RESPECT Model

Visiting a new doctor for the first time can be an anxiety-ridden experience for anyone. Not only are you likely meeting a new person, but you’re also confiding in that person with a very personal matter: your health.

 

A recent survey from this summer found that nearly 40% of women indicated they felt at least “somewhat concerned” prior to their first OB-GYN visit. Because of this number, physicians are working harder than ever to establish an open and trusting relationship with their patients. The RESPECT model is helping to do just that, in OB/GYN offices and beyond:

 

R—Rapport. Building rapport with the patient allows her to connect with you on a social level, not just as another appointment to check off. It strengthens your relationship as a rapport helps you see from her perspective and refrain from making assumptions.

 

E—Empathy. This may be harder said than done at times, but remembering that the patient needs help, and is here to be helped by you will keep you in a compassionate state of mind.

 

S—Support. As a physician, it’s your job to help patients and any obstacles they bring with them. You’re part of their team, and team members support one another.

 

P—Partnership. You’re working as a team to fix any given issue, and for that to work, the patient must have an equal say and solid understanding. This also means negotiating roles on occasion, and being flexible when it comes to a matter of control.

 

E—Explanations. Of course, as a physician, you must explain new concepts to patients in ways that make sense to them. What might make sense to the doctor after years of medical school, residency, and a long career likely will need to be broken down for someone not as knowledgeable in the field.

 

C—Cultural Competence. These days, many patients and physicians come from different backgrounds. They have different life experiences. To work well together, they must be able to respect their differences, and adjusting a style of care to allow for them.


T—Trust. This also happens when the physician and patient come from different backgrounds. There needs to be a trust in place for the doctor to effectively treat the patient, but that trust is not always just given. Often, it must be earned, and taking the time to actively work to establish that trust is the only way to achieve it.

5 Other Reasons to Visit Your OB-GYN

A trusted OB-GYN is a critical part of any woman’s professional health team, whether or not you intend to have children. An OB-GYN makes sure your vagina is healthy and your reproductive system is in good working order. But, did you know that you can go to your OB-GYN for more than just those two things?

 

Screening for Breast Cancer

Think of your OB-GYN as the first line of defense in detecting breast and colon cancers. If your annual appointment includes a breast exam, your obstetrician should be the first to notice any strange growths or changes in your breasts. OB-GYNs can also do rectal exams.

 

Treating Depression

Though OB-GYNs are not psychiatrists, they’re still trained to screen for and evaluate mood disorders. Depending on the case, your doctor could start you on medication or refer you to psychiatrist. Because of your emotional connection with your OB-GYN, especially if they treated you through a pregnancy, they are a safe person to confide in and share your concerns with. If you’re pregnant, your doctor will also be knowledgeable on how the medication will impact both you and the baby, as well.

 

Skin Checks

Of course, while a dermatologist is trained to look for signs of skin cancer, your OB-GYN can still perform skin checks. And given how most people have between ten to forty moles, it’s not a bad idea to get a skin check during your annual visit. In the event they notice any suspicious growths, they can alert you early on and get you into the office of a dermatologist to take a closer look.

 

Family Planning

Unsurprisingly, as they have many pregnant patients, OB-GYNs are great resources in terms of family planning. Whether that means you discuss certain genetic conditions you could pass on or figuring out how to have “the talk” with your daughters, your OB-GYN can help address your fears and provide you with the most current information.

 

Bone and Joint Issues

Millions of women across the country develop osteoarthritis, which can be a devastating joint problem, and it can happen a good way away from the beginning of menopause. By measuring and recording your height yearly, your OB-GYN can catch signs like losing height. They can also perform bone scans to keep an eye on your mineral levels. If they can catch the development early on, you’ll be much better off.

Top 4 Pregnancy Podcasts

Being pregnant is an exciting time for expectant parents, but it can also be a lot of new information and uncertainty, especially when it’s the first child. Parents often turn to books for what to expect, but if you’ve tried all of them and still want to know more, try a podcast! There are entire series dedicated to the topic of pregnancy, parenthood, and everything in between, and you can even listen to them while you’re work or in the car.

 

If you’re new to podcasts but looking to try one out, consider one of these:

 

Birthful

Although the host Adriana Lozada isn’t a doctor, her guests come from various medical backgrounds, and they cover a wide range of subjects, drawing on their professional knowledge as well as their own personal experiences. The topics include not just pregnancy, but also the birthing process, breastfeeding, postpartum, and parenting, and each episode is meant to provide tips and tools that new parents can utilize and fit to their own lifestyles. As a birth doula and mother, Adriana’s tone is conversational and knowledgeable, and offers many different perspectives that anyone can enjoy.

 

Pregnancy Confidential

At only thirty-two podcasts, each one between ten and twenty minutes, Pregnancy Confidential is an easy way to learn about the physical, emotional, and lifestyle markers of that week of pregnancy. From the editors of Parents, Fit Pregnancy, and Baby magazines, this podcast feels more like a conversation among friends that slip right into your day.

 

Not By Accident

Not By Accident is hosted by Sophie Harper, and in each episode, she talks about what it’s like to be a single mother by choice. This may ring true for parents in similar situations, but it’s also a great podcast for anyone who loves storytelling in general to take a listen to. There are only thirty-four episodes so far, and each one is honest and poignant.

 

Rockstar Birth Radio

Shalome Stone is seeking to reframe the narrative of being pregnant, and take it from something scary to enriching and inspiring, and she uses her podcast Rockstar Birth Radio to do it. Instead of pain and fear, Shalome Stone wants each mother to embrace the experience and find joy in the process of growing a baby. It’s empowering and uplifting, with wisdom from experienced mothers, as well as the stories of the births of their children. There is information about almost any kind of birth experience you can imagine, and provides a community that expectant mothers can truly find a place with.

Top 5 Fertility Tips

Lots of women become pregnant without needing to do much more than have sex that one time. For others, it can be a more difficult and even emotional process, especially if the woman has been trying for some time without success.

 

Although each woman’s life and situation is different, and each pregnancy, in turn, is different, here are a few tips that doctors recommend for women looking to become pregnant. Please consult your primary care physician before trying anything different your routine, however, to remain safe.

 

Consider counseling.

If you’re picturing a couch and a psychologist asking “And how does that make you feel?” you’re thinking of the wrong kind. Instead, women looking to become pregnant should receive pre-conception counseling about two to three months before trying, and this can be done with your OB-GYN. Pre-conception counseling is a conversation where your doctor will ask about your goals in getting pregnant, as well as take that time to screen you for potentially harmful conditions. By receiving counseling early, you’re able to find warning signs before they develop further.

 

Get checked out.

Both you and your partner should see a doctor, to make sure your vaccinations are all up to date, in particular. Getting sick while pregnant could lead to a higher risk of complications. By making sure both you and your partner are in the best possible health, you are creating the optimal condition to make a baby.

 

Quit the caffeine.

You could also stand to benefit from abstaining from alcohol and any kind of drugs. In general, though, if you shouldn’t have something while you’re pregnant, it might be a good idea to kick the habit beforehand. And, remember—energy drinks have caffeine, too! Not just coffee!

 

It’s also advisable to not be in the same vicinity as anyone who partakes in smoking. No matter how you ingest the smoke, second-hand or not, it could hurt your chances of becoming pregnant without complications.

 

Stay active.

This is just good life advice in general, but it’s especially true when gearing up to grow another human. The goal is to have thirty minutes of cardio five or six days each week. This is to keep your heart healthy and your weight at a manageable level. If you’re worried about the intensity affecting your fertility, talk with your doctor about the best exercises to do instead of your usual routine. Overall, though, if your period cycle is regular, you won’t need to change too much.

 

It’s okay to feel stressed.

The idea that you need to be completely serene and at peace to conceive a child has no basis in science. So if you’re feeling guilty because you’re always busy, but you still want to have a baby, don’t feel like you’re cheating yourself out of your chance. Anxiety is normal, and it won’t ruin your chances of having a healthy child.

 

3 Up-And-Coming Superfood Trends

Food trends change just as quickly as fashion trends these days, and today’s superfoods are no exception. Although they might sound unusual at first, to be fair, so did kale, quinoa, and coconut water at one point. These 3 foods can help anyone, health nut or not, achieve a better diet and overall healthier lifestyle:

 

Sumac

Superfoodly lists sumac as the top “most under-the-radar superfood you will find,” and considering its antioxidant measurement, it’s not that surprising! At 312,400 per 100 grams, sumac’s antioxidant content outranks kale by almost 200 percent.

 

What does all of that mean, exactly? It means that sumac has been lab-tested in attempts to quantify its “total antioxidant capacity,” measured against how well the sample of sumac protected vulnerable molecules from oxidation by free radicals. In other words, how well the sample will protect your cells from free radicals, which are molecules produced when our bodies break down food or are exposed to harmful substances.

 

Although eating 100 grams of sumac would be a challenge, because its Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) is so high, that means that eating even a little bit will go a long way. You could use it as a natural salt substitute, or sprinkle it on salads, pasta, or rice. Anything that would taste good with a little lemon could potentially complement this spice.

 

Baobab Fruit

You’ve heard of acai, but now, get ready for the baobab fruit. It’s extremely versatile given its mild taste. Although, on its own, baobab has a slightly sweet and sour taste, when mixed with other foods, it often goes unnoticed, meaning that you get all of the benefits at no additional sacrifice to your taste buds.

 

Not only does its ORAC rank at 40% higher than acai, but it also has 6x as much vitamin C as oranges, twice the calcium of milk, and high counts of potassium, phosphorous, and fiber. Be careful with that last one, though, unless you’re in need of a natural laxative.

 

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds have become pretty popular in recent years, and for good reason! Health food enthusiasts are extremely enthusiastic about this seed, given that they possess more omega-3s than salmon. They’re great for athletes, too, because of their ability to help hydrate your body. And, because the chia seeds take time for your body to break down, they create a lasting effect.

 

Raw vegans like chia seeds for their high protein content and the fact that they contain all nine amino acids. Whether you pick black or white chia, you can’t lose: their ORAC values are 9,800 and 7,000, respectively.

Current Health Trends For Women

The year 2018 is filled with fresh new ideas and hot health trends that will make your life better in different and exciting ways. Here are just a few that should appeal to you:

Wearable Tech Gadgets

Devices frequently used today can be added to clothing! Google has been collaborating with Levi Strauss & Co, the jeans manufacturer, to develop clothing that interacts with tracking devices. The sensitive surfaces will show how many calories you burn while running, give weight and other readings, check sleep patterns, and even make a phone call!

The Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP) of Levi’s, a company of firsts for more than 150 years, has been working on a conductive yarn and woven multi-touch fabric that senses touch gestures able to swipe a hand over jeans or the sleeve of a jacket to silence a phone, play a song, and more.

Now they have created the “smart clothing” Commuter Trucker Jacket, known as Project Jacquard, with Jacquard technology woven right into the sleeve. Officially announced at Google’s annual developer conference, but not announced was a timeline for when any smart clothes, using a special yarn that has to work on existing industrial looms, would be available commercially on a global scale.

Worn on stage was a normal-looking jacket custom made by London tailors with 85 percent cotton and 15 percent Project Jacquard. Waving a hand over the arm, a display showed information such as a phone call picked up by tiny electronics in the flexible snap tag connecting the Jacquard Threads in the cuff, looking like part of the jacket, to the mobile device. The tag also houses a battery which lasts up to two weeks between USB charges.

Nut-Milk Yogurts

Kite Hill has blended its almond milk with live active cultures and 10 grams of almond protein to create new plant-based yogurts. Enjoy creamy yogurt made with Madagascar vanilla beans by itself or with added mouth-watering peaches, strawberries or blueberries.

Healthier Noodles

More alternative pasta options will appear in 2018. Ancient Harvest’s Supergrain Pasta, Green Lentil, and Quinoa Penne will taste like and have the texture of regular noodles but have fewer simple carbs, have 14 grams of plant-based protein and seven grams of fiber per serving, be gluten-free and non-GMO, and offer more nutritious nutrients.

Caution

It is always wise to check with your doctor before trying any unusual foods or other products to make sure that they fit in healthily with the medications you are taking and the particular physical ailments that you have.

 

Do You Fear Period Sex?

Do You Fear Period Sex | Dr. Lori Gore-GreenFor some people, the beginning of a menstrual cycle means the end of sexual intercourse until the cycle has passed. This mindset should be reconsidered, however, when all the benefits of sex during your period are taken into consideration.

1. Reduced Risk Of Pregnancy

When you strip away the passion, pleasure, and excitement, sex is ultimately designed for procreation. Any form of vaginal penetration by a penis that results in ejaculation has the chance to cause pregnancy. Due to the nature of a woman’s menstrual cycle, there is a reduced risk of pregnancy from sex, although not an entirely eliminated risk. Sperm can live inside of a woman’s body for up to five days, so if you have sex near the end of your cycle, you can still conceive a child once your menstrual cycle ends. The safest time to enjoy a reduced risk of pregnancy is to have sex near the beginning of your period.

2. Natural Pain Relief

Sex brings an incredible amount of pleasure that, when done properly, results in an orgasm. Orgasms are fun and enjoyable, but they also play a pivotal biological function with regards to the brain. This is especially true in women. The female orgasm causes the brain to release a healthy dose of endorphins which are chemicals that spread through the body to promote a boost in overall mood and help to relieve pain. A 1985 study shows that a woman’s pain tolerance increases drastically after an orgasm. So, having sex can help relieve the pain of menstrual cramps and other pains commonly associated with that time of the month.

3. Sleep Aid

Endorphins aren’t the only biological substances released by the female brain during an orgasm. The hormone known as prolactin is also released during an orgasm. Prolactin is a hormone that helps to calm the body and prepare it for a long, restful sleep. This is why people tend to become lethargic and sleepy after sex that causes an orgasm.

4. Ease Of Penetration

Some women have issues with vaginal dryness that causes difficulties during sex. The benefit of engaging in sex during a period is that this issue is almost entirely alleviated. There is more than enough lubrication present during this time of the month to allow for easy penetration and increased pleasure because of the lubricated sensation.