Dear Dish-It: I Haven't Gotten My Period
I'm 13 and haven't started my period yet. I get pains in my abdomen area every so often throughout the day and have sudden mood swings. I occasionally get brown sticky discharge but I don't know what it is. I don't carry pads or anything because I don't know if I am going to need them yet? Any advice?
Thanks so much for sending in your question. It’s one of those tough ones to ask, but I bet there are tons of girls your age out there wondering the exact same thing. Besides, how will you ever get any answers if you can’t even ask the questions, right?
First off, I want to tell you is don’t worry about not having got your period yet. Every body is different and every girl is different. Some girls get their first period as young as nine years old. Others don’t start menstruating until they’re 14, 15 or even older. It all depends on your own unique system. When your body is ready, it will let you know.
Let’s talk about …
… vaginal discharge. As icky as it may seem, vaginal discharge is part of every day life for most women. Young girls start producing vaginal discharge during puberty, about a year before they have their first period, and they continue to produce it until they reach menopause – the time when they stop menstruating (this happens much later on in the life of every woman).
Vaginal discharge is a fluid secreted by the glands in the vagina and cervix to keep the vagina clean, lubricated and healthy. A small amount of discharge is produced every day, and as it flows out, it takes with it the old cells that line the vagina.
Some days you will get a little more discharge, some days less. This is normal, as the amount of mucus produced by the glands depends on the amount of estrogen circulating in your body and therefore varies throughout your menstrual cycle.
Normal discharge usually does not have any odor or smell. Therefore, women who have bad-smelling discharge should suspect something. It also appears clear or milky when it dries on clothing. You may notice it as white spots or thin, stringy-looking discharge on your underwear. Your vagina will produce normal discharge if it is in a healthy condition – that is, if the pH of the vagina is maintained in its natural acidic balance.
The acidic pH of your vagina is produced by good bacteria that act to prevent infections. However, the natural balance of your vagina can be disrupted by anything that interferes with its normal environment. There are a few conditions that can cause changes in the appearance or consistency of your vaginal discharge:
- Your menstrual cycle
- Emotional stress
- Any prescribed or over-the-counter medications that contain hormones
- Sexual excitement
- Your diet
This list is just to make you aware that, sometimes, changes in your discharge are normal.
Beware, when your vaginal discharge has a foul smell or an abnormal color such as grey green, or yellow, something may be wrong. Same if your vaginal discharge suddenly increases or decreases in amount.
If your discharge appears abnormal and you also have the following symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately:
- If you feel weak, tired or really sick
- If you have a yellow or green vaginal discharge and a fever
- If you experience mild or severe abdominal pain for more than two hours
- If you experience itching or irritation around your vagina
- If you experience discomfort or a burning sensation during urination or sex
- If you have a rash, sores or blisters in your vaginal area
These abnormal changes to your vaginal discharge could be caused by vaginal infections. Infections can occur when the natural pH balance of your vagina is disrupted. This can be caused by things like vaginal douches, feminine hygiene products (like feminine sprays), perfumed or deodorant soaps, antibiotics, diabetes or microorganisms like bacteria, yeast, viruses and parasites.
The most common types of vaginal infections are candida or “yeast” vaginitis, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, chlamydia vaginitis, viral vaginitis and non-infectious vaginitis. Some of these are sexually transmitted and all can be effectively treated if you go talk to your doctor right away.
Staying healthy down under
Here’s what you can do to reduce getting vaginal infections and abnormal discharge:
- Wear cotton panties so that your vaginal area can stay ventilated and dry.
- Do not use feminine hygiene products, perfumed or deodorant soaps, powders, lotions and bubble baths, which can irritate the vaginal area.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing for too much time at once.
- Do not use vaginal douches.
- Do not use petroleum jelly or oils for vaginal lubrication, as they can encourage bacteria to grow.
- Always wipe from front to back after going to the washroom to prevent bacteria from spreading to the vagina.
- If you are being treated for a vaginal infection, use all the medication as directed even if you have no more symptoms.
- Don’t have sexual intercourse during treatment for a vaginal infection and until you have no more symptoms.
- Do not scratch your vaginal area, as it will make the itching and inflammation worse!
- Do not self-treat a vaginal infection; see your doctor for treatment.
- If you have your period while you are using vaginal creams or suppositories, continue your regular medication schedule during your period and don’t use tampons – use pads instead.
- Practise safe sex with the use of condoms.
At the same time, practise good basic hygiene overall, get plenty of sleep and eat a well-balanced diet. Go for regular check-ups, including a Pap smear, at least every two years. All these are not only good for your vaginal health, but also for the rest of your body and your mind.
Finally, even if you don’t feel comfortable talking about vaginal discharge with anyone, at least be aware of what’s normal and what’s not.
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