Our in-house sex educator answers all of your questions!
by Danielle Sinay
We know you have a lot of questions about your bodies, and sometimes they’re super embarrassing to ask IRL. Fortunately, we have Jacq Jones, Sex Educator here to answer all of them for you online (anonymously, if you’d like)!
This week our readers asked about periods, discharge, dating, and sexuality. Were loving all of Jacq’s answers, and we know you will, too!
Read on for this week’s installment of Ask Jacq!
Sometimes my period my flow is REALLY heavy, but other months it doesn’t come at all! Is that normal?! What is a “normal” period even supposed to look like?
There’s a lot of variety in normal! Especially when it comes to periods. And, when you’re a teenager, variety is exactly what most young women experience.
When you go through adolescence, your hormones (estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone) are settling into new patterns. You’ve always had these hormones, even when you were little, but now they’re working at a level that’s new! But they don’t go to these new levels in a consistent pattern. They go up and down in unpredictable ways.
Your period is all about your body responding to those hormones. They decide how much lining builds up inside your uterus. How much lining there is determines how heavy your period is. Your body lets go of that lining after your ovary has released an egg and the egg hasn’t been fertilized. All of that happens based on the levels of your hormones and the way they interact with each other. Pretty cool right? As you get older, in most cases, your hormones will settle into a more reliable pattern.
For a lot of women and girls, their periods come every 28 days (or so) and start out heavier and get lighter. But that’s not true for everyone. Some women have periods that continue to be unpredictable. Some women have periods that are so heavy or painful that it makes going to work difficult. If you have periods that are super heavy (soaking a pad or more an hour), painful or unpredictable, talk to your doctor. There are options, like going on the birth control pill, that may help to make periods lighter or less painful.
In the meantime – keep a tampon or pad in your purse – if you don’t need it, a friend will! And don’t stress about your period being a certain kind of way. Having your period is a part of life. It might look different from cycle to cycle, but it means your body is healthy and doing what it’s supposed to do!
Should I be worried if I’m getting discharge?
Discharge is normal. As our bodies go through our monthly(ish) cycles, it’s totally normal to experience different types of discharge. But, it should never have a strong odor. If you find your discharge has a strong smell, it’s a good idea to go to the doctor and find out what’s going on. You might have a yeast infection, or if you’re sexually active, it’s possible that it’s a sexually transmitted infection. Regardless, you want to find out what it is and get it treated.
If it is a sexually transmitted infection, make sure you talk to your health care provider about what things you can do to prevent an STI in the future. If you choose to be sexually active, using protection and getting regularly tested for STIs is always the best choice. Getting diagnosed and treated for an STI doesn’t say anything at all about what kind of person you are! It does say that you’re paying attention to your health and taking care of yourself when something goes wrong. The worst thing you could do is beat yourself up. The best thing you could do is take a look at how to better protect yourself in the future. There are a bunch of different options for protection ranging from abstinence to barriers like condoms. Pick what works best for you!
All of my friends are dating and kissing boys, but I don’t feel ready to do that yet. Is there something wrong with me?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. In fact, there’s something very, very right with you. You’re paying attention to what feels good for you and listening to what you want. The Listening to What You Want Skill and the Identifying What Feels Safe Skill are two of the best skills you could ever have. Do you and your friends like all the same foods? Is one of you Team Kim and one Team Taylor? Wanting or liking things that are different from our friends is one of the things that makes each of us special.
Keep listening to your feelings. When you are ready to date or kiss boys, that skill will help you make good decisions. Trust me, when you listen to yourself, you end up with the best dates and the best kisses.
How do I know if I’m gay? Is there a way to tell?
Lots of people are gay. Some people are attracted to people of multiple genders. It’s good that you’re thinking about it! Figuring out what gender (or genders) of folks you’re attracted to is an important part of becoming an adult. Don’t put too much pressure on your self. You’ll figure it out in time.
The only way to tell if you’re gay, is to notice if you feel sexually attracted to someone who’s the same gender as you. All of those things that we talk about around gender presentation –like being sure that all lesbians wear flannel and big boots and drive trucks, or look like Ellen – those don’t have anything to do with sexual orientation. Sure, some lesbians wear flannel and Timberland boots. Other lesbians look like me – long hair, makeup, high heels with super cute purses.
Who you’re attracted to isn’t about what you look like, what you do or even who you kiss. It’s about how you feel inside. Be patient. In time, it’ll become clear.
If you have more questions about your body (or any question you’re too embarrassed to ask IRL), tweet or DM them to @YSBnow or email email@example.com, and we promise to get them answered ASAP!