Puberty: A Time of Change

Today’s post is by “Obi,” a Nigerian doctor conducting his field experience at Planned Parenthood as part of his MPH program. He was a general practitioner in his home country with main interest and expertise in maternal and child health.

Puberty is one of the most complex periods of human development. In terms of body growth and development, puberty is second only to the period in our lives when we are babies. It may also explain why teens can be so difficult sometimes – the transformation they are undergoing is incredible!

Pubertal changes are a result of neurological changes in the brain and endocrine effects from the gonads (testes for boys which release testosterone and ovaries for girls which release estrogen).

These changes start during adolescence and continue until early adulthood. The average age of pubertal onset is between 10 and 11 years for girls (however between 8 and 13 years is normal). For boys the average age range is between 11 and 12 years (however between 9 and 15 years is normal).

Due to this wide range of onset, some children may be confused when they see these pubertal changes in others but not themselves. Although the endpoint of puberty is similar for most, the experiences and degree of these changes vary widely among individuals.

Pubertal changes in boys:

  • Enlargement of testicles and thinning of the scrotum
  • Production of sperm begins
  • Growth of pubic hair
  • General body growth with rapid increase in sizes of different body parts
  • Penile growth
  • Changes in voice. As vocal cords widen, voice deepens, but may “break” at times, which is normal.
  • Growth of facial and underarm hair. Facial hair is like the holy grail of maturity for boys – most can’t wait for this change. It usually begins growing on the upper lip, then chin, then sides of the face.
  • Development of acne (varies greatly, seek help from a dermatologist if it is severe)
  • Some boys may develop slight breast enlargement but this is usually temporary and resolves after a while.

Pubertal changes in girls:

  • Growth of breasts (Although breast development follows a consistent pattern, the breast size varies widely among different women.)
  • Growth of pubic and underarm hair
  • General body growth
  • Menstrual cycle begins (ovaries begin releasing eggs)
  • Development of acne (varies greatly, seek help from a dermatologist if it is severe)

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Finally, apart from the physical changes there are other changes which are as important and have huge impact on adolescents. These include:

  • Becoming oversensitive and self conscious
  • Development of mood changes (these could be mild or severe)
  • Development of uncertainties, conflicting thoughts and ideas
  • Urge to create an identity (this increases susceptibility to peer pressure and influence from popular media and culture)
  • Increase in curiosity about sexuality. Development of sexual feelings during puberty is a normal process of sexual maturation. It may be a confusing time for adolescents and most don’t know how to explain or adjust to these new changes. It is important that they get answers to their questions and concerns from an informed adult who they are comfortable with (parent(s), teacher, doctor or a counselor).

Help with Open Enrollment: What’s a CAC?

Obamacare-Works-4mil-tax-credits-640x960In case you missed it, Open Enrollment is here again, which means everyone has the option to check out the Marketplace and see what their options are for health care coverage! Additionally, people who enrolled last year also have the chance to reenroll in their plans if they opted out of automatic reenrolling, or to select a new plan if they decide they are interested in something different! For some people, however, signing up for a health care plan can be intimidating. Maybe they don’t understand all the different types of plans (it can be a LOT of information), maybe they need help understanding their options for payment of premium tax credits, may they just need help with the motivation to get through the application process! For these individuals, I have good news.

Many people don’t realize it, but you can actually get FREE assistance throughout the entirety of the application process. There are a variety of people who offer their services to consumers, completing different kinds of high level training in order to be certified to assist consumers with the application process. Here at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, we have CACs or Certified Application Counselors. CACs can assist people through the application process, as well as with any appeals. They provide non-biased guidance, and don’t force individuals to choose a particular health plan. Along with this, CACs should also be able to assist consumers with access other resources in the area that may be helpful to them (i.e. providing information on local job assistance programs to unemployed consumers). Another great benefit of CACs is that the assistance they give is always free of charge!

We plan to provide assistance to anyone who needs it until February 15th, when Open Enrollment ends. If you are in our service area, and are interested in setting up an appointment at one of our participating health centers (Sarasota, Fort Myers, Saint Petersburg, and Tampa), you can search for us on Get Covered America’s Connector Tool or call 725-222-0592. If you are outside of our service area, you can visit the Connector Tool to find local help in your area!

Fun Friday: Why You Should Move to Florida, In 5 Pictures

Did you know that Feronia’s home base is in sunny Florida? In Florida, November is second only to April in terms of best weather months, so we really pity the folks who are literally buried under snow right now. Of course our pity is expressed with a slight grin because we don’t have to put up with this nonsense . . .

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Why Shaving My Legs During the Winter Sucks More Than a Hoover

I woke up to temperatures in the single digits this morning, which reminded me of this funny (but true) post from last year… 

many-bladesSo I had to shave my legs today and it sucked BIG TIME. Why? …because there were about 43 blades on the razor and not a single one could chop down the Redwoods I had been cultivating for about a week …because my Everest-like goosebumps hurt like hell to shave over …because it is literally 12 degrees out and I kinda need the insulation. If I don’t shave for the span of a week, my leg hair growth goes something like this:

Day 1: silky smooth, foxy legs
Day 2: fine grain sandpaper
Day 3: highly effective lint trap for fleece pajama pants
Day 4: sharp little blades waiting to slice anyone who dares touch (AKA Velcro status)
Day 5: Why haven’t I shaved? Do I shave now or wait three more days so I can make the “crossover” (leg hair turns soft)?
Day 6: wearing spandex or tights causes physical pain
Day 6 (evening): natural birth control
Day 7: Amazon Rainforest status, including three previously undiscovered plants species

Cold weather separates leg-shavers into three categories:

The Daily Shaver: AKA massive time waster
The Capris: special occasion coming up? that’s ok, just shave up to the knee
The Sasquatch: ’nuff said

Which kind of Winter shaver are you? I’m a Sasquatch until that deep-seated stereotypical feminine “ideal” creeps into my consciousness and I feel compelled to give into my role as a “woman.” Thanks for nothing, Winter, for the cognitive dissonance.

Believing (more of) what you read


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These days, it seems as though science comes in two pretty different forms. There are peer-reviewed papers – what academics think of when you say “scientific research” – and then the coverage of those papers by news and media outlets – what the majority of people hear about. When it comes to issues like sexual and reproductive health, in particular, they often get a lot of media attention.

But not all attention is created equal – anyone who’s ever fallen prey to some of the more click-bait-ey headlines can attest to that. Even though many popular media writers do have expertise in the fields they cover, they don’t always distill the findings down accurately when they’re working to turn a dense 20-page paper into a 400-word synopsis on a deadline. (And some don’t seem to try all that hard.)

One way that some academics are addressing this is to try to bridge the gap themselves. After all, they’re in the best position to present their work, since they know all of the details. These days, some folks are also choosing to go beyond a dispassionate press-release approach, and are finding themselves engaged in a more activist stance, arguing for (or against) specific policies.

Some fields, like Gender Studies and Ethnic Studies, have a strong tradition of engaging in advocacy work, and there are a number of academics who get called on to offer commentary on current events, local politics and other news stories. But other disciplines are still pretty skeptical about researchers beginning these conversations with their own work as a starting point, which can make for a tense time when it comes to things like getting tenure.

But that’s the only way that some of these conversations will happen. The essay I mentioned above talks about the author’s research on weight stigma for women with higher BMIs, and the fact that it has a strong negative impact on their lives. There’s no shortage of stories about women’s weight in the mainstream media, but there aren’t a lot of more nuanced discussions about the impact that all of that public hand-wringing has.

So I’m glad that more researchers are promoting their work directly, and am hopeful that this will get us to a better place when it comes to a lot of issues around women’s health, and around science generally. Bottom line?  Just like with the “Sexy PhD Costume” that got a lot of attention this Halloween, it’s always better to hear from the academics themselves.

History of the Tampon Video

The History of the Tampon


Tampons are a part of many people’s lives, but it’s fascinating to me how secretive we were about them for years. They’ve been used for millennia, but there was a total ban about advertising on TV until the 1970’s!

Personally, I love my Luna Cup and am a big fan of alternative menstrual products in general, but I love learning more about these pieces of history.

(Also: I have absolutely no idea why this series of videos is called the “Mansplainer Series.” The two videos released so far are fun bits of history about tampons and bras, with no weird condescension issues. It may be a terribly meta joke that isn’t landing, or someone in their PR department may just have grabbed hold of the term without knowing what it is.)

Why Do My Boobs Sag?

This is a question that many women of childbearing years ask their doctors and friends. Unfortunately gravity is not pleasant to all women. When we are in our 20’s they are perky and saying hello to you when you look in the mirror. As we reach our 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s they start the downward spiral of slowly drooping.

boobsWhen we are younger the breasts are made of mostly glandular tissue and as we age it gets replaced by fat. Then to make it worse, if you have given birth your breasts increase in size when the baby is born or during breastfeeding, but once you stop they look like two deflated balloons. This occurs because the breast tissue decreases after the milk producing mechanisms in our bodies shut off. For those of you that think you are in the clear because your breasts are still perky and round, Mother Nature may still play a trick on you when menopause comes around. During menopause our bodies tell our breasts that they can close up the milk factories and may start to sag or drop even further!

Some people claim that wearing a bra can help curb sagging, but most experts agree that it will not prevent the inevitable from happening. Ptosis (a fancy term for the degree of sagging) occurs because of our genes, diet, breast size, hormones and the stretchiness of our skin. There is no muscle in the breast tissue, so wearing a bra is not going to tone them. However, bras can help women who are less endowed or perky feel more confident when they have breast changes. Bras come in all sizes and can help some women feel sexier or more comfortable in their own skin. Whether you choose to wear a bra or go commando, know that you are not alone if you’re feeling self-conscious about your breasts. As I have gotten older I have realized that I will never have a perfect body, but at the end of the day life is pretty great and I have realized that aging means I’m still here.

The Divorce-Proof Marriage

birdcaketopperWhen examining what contributes to a long lasting marriage, most people think of things like good communication, having a sense of humor, sharing common interests and not going to bed angry. But a recent article on factors contributing to a divorce-proof marriage brought up things I hadn’t even considered. Research was done on 3,000 U.S. married couples to determine how likely they were to get divorced. Here’s a summary of their findings.

Time Spent Dating Before Proposal
Using dating less than one year as the baseline, it was found that people who dated one to 2 years before becoming engaged were 20% less likely to divorce. Even better were couples who dated for at least 3 years before the proposal. They had a 39% less chance of getting a divorce than couple who dated under a year.

Annual Household Income
Even more dramatic was the disparity between couples who made $25,000 a year or less and couples who made over $125,000 a year. Higher income couples were 51% less likely to get divorced. Not in that higher income bracket? Fear not. Even if you have a combined income of between $25,000 and $50,000 you still have a 31% lower chance of getting divorced.

Religious Attendance
If you attend religious services regularly you are 46% less likely to divorce.

Looks and Wealth
If your marriage is based on your partner’s looks or wealth you have increased your chances of divorce. Men are 50% more likely to end up divorced when they married someone for their looks and women were 60% more likely to divorce if they married someone for their money.

Size of the Wedding
The more people who attend the wedding, the less likely you are to get divorced. Couples who have 200+ attendees are 92% less likely to divorce than couples who have no guests.

Cost of the Wedding
BUT, the trick is to ask lots of people but make it cheap! If you spend more than $20,000 on your wedding you are 46% more likely to divorce than people who spent between $5,000 and $10,000. Even better, people who spend less than $1,000 are 53% less likely to get divorced than people who spent between $5,000 and $10,000.

People who went on a honeymoon were 41% less likely to divorce than couples who stayed home.

Considering the average American wedding now costs about $30,000, it might be helpful to study the research on divorce before you lavish your income on a quick engagement, flashy ring, cosmetic surgery, and expensive wedding. Do take a few years to get to know each other, have lots of people celebrate modestly with you and definitely take some time alone together after the big day.

We think it would be interesting to conduct this research again in 20 years after same sex couples have the right to marry everywhere and, perhaps, change the landscape of what marriage looks like. Do you think it’ll be any different?

Fun Friday: Out with Barbie, In with Miss Possible

While Barbie sales are down 21%, two young female engineers have a better idea for a doll for today’s girl. Go to their Indiegogo page to learn all about Miss Possible! You can even preorder a doll for your little one. Yay for products that explore and nurture a girl’s real potential!




So You’re LBGT, Why is STD Testing Important?

Today’s guest writer, “Deeds,” is a Masters of Public Health student (with a concentration in health education) and has BA in exercise science. Some of her areas of interest are body image, sexual health, and LGBT issues.

Hello there friends of the rainbow!

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