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Dr Kelly Loi from the HEALTH AND FERTILITY CENTRE
FOR WOMEN offers a helping hand in understand
your young daughter’s path to womanhood.
For many young girls, puberty can be a challenging, exciting and even confusing time. To help your young princess manoeuvre this phase of her life, you should encourage open conversation with a gynaecologist about several topics – previously taught to be too embarrassing or taboo.
Puberty and precocious puberty
Typically occurring around the age of 10, puberty is identified through the development of breasts, pubic or underarm hair, rapid growth in height, the onset of periods and acne on previously perfect skin. Precocious puberty – puberty that occurs before age eight – can indicate an underlying health problem and it’s important to get a medical evaluation to exclude serious conditions such as hormone disorders, tumours or brain abnormalities.
An average menstrual cycle happens monthly over five to seven days but can be irregular in the initial few years. If periods are irregular or stop abruptly, visit a doctor to identify the cause. Menstrual cramps, which range from mild to extremely painful, are often a rude shock for a young girl. While not often serious, cramps can disrupt normal activities and a consultation could rule out serious issues and help with pain management.
The hormones that trigger puberty have well-publicised emotional and mental effects, leading to mood changes called premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Often the subject of jokes, PMS can cause severe mood swings which can spiral into depression.
Normal vaginal discharge has a faint smell, is either clear or white and helps keep the vagina healthy. Itching, a strong odour, a burning sensation or a change in discharge colour indicates an infection. Encourage your young charge to tell you if this happens as a medical consultation is needed to identify candida or thrush, which require treatment.
Ultrasound scans and imaging methods are useful to assess the health of the reproductive system while blood tests help assess hormone profiles and determine hormone-related disorders.
Contraception, STIs and HPV vaccination
It can be a challenge to decide when a young girl should be told about unplanned pregnancies, vaginal and pelvic infections and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but the conversation cannot be avoided. STIs such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea can cause lasting damage to the reproductive organs and cause subfertility. Also, since cervical cancer is predominantly caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), it is best for a young woman to be immunised against it before her first sexual encounter.Dr Kelly Loi
Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist