Questions you may be too shy to ask

There are some things that you wonder about, that may even keep you awake at night. But who can you ask? Mother, father, teacher, friend? Sometimes it may be too embarrassing. That's why we answer them for you here.

I'm a 14-year-old girl and I haven't got my period yet. Is something wrong?
A girl's period, also called menstruation, starts after she's reached puberty. This is usually between ages 8 - 13, but it's quite normal for a period to only start at age 14 or 15. Usually periods start about 2 years after the first signs of puberty. These things also run in families – if your mother or sisters only started their periods at 14 or 15, chances are you will too. Stop worrying about it. The things that could delay the start of periods are very vigorous exercise, over- or underweight, and stress.

Can I get pregnant if I have sex during my period?
Many people believe that this isn't possible, but it is. Sometimes a little bleeding occurs at ovulation, when you're at your most fertile, and this is often mistaken for menstruation, which it isn't. Sometimes ovulation can take place before the bleeding from your period has stopped. This is usually the case when a girl's menstrual cycle is shorter than 20 days. In either of these cases, pregnancy can result.

Am I still a virgin if use a tampon?
Yes. Losing your virginity happens when you have sexual intercourse for the first time. Inserting a tampon definitely isn't sexual intercourse. This concern is an old-fashioned one, when an intact hymen was a sign of virginity. The hymen is a thin piece of tissue that stretches across part of the opening of the vagina – some girls are born without one though. Sometimes, when a girl still has a hymen, and she has sex for the first time, it breaks and may cause slight bleeding. Even if a tampon breaks the hymen, only sexual intercourse can end the state of virginity.

Will our braces get stuck when we kiss?
Braces are a reality for many teens – and horror stories abound. Braces today are a lot smaller and smoother than they were, say, twenty years ago. Chances are that it might feel a little uncomfortable kissing someone else with braces, but getting stuck? Not easily. If anything does manage to get stuck in your braces, don't try and remove it yourself – call the orthodontist, as you could do costly damage if you try getting it out yourself!

I worry that I might have smelly breath! What to do?
The first step is to ensure you look after your teeth and gums: brush and floss twice a day, and use a mouth wash regularly. Also make sure you go to the oral hygienist every 6 months or so. Smelly breath can be caused by sinus infections, decaying teeth, bad digestion, chronic tonsillitis and gum disease. It can also be a sign of certain diseases, such as diabetes. If the problem persists, ask your family doctor to look for the cause or to refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist.

(Health24, September 2013)

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