Sexual Health is more than deciding on birth control and protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases, it’s about making positive choices for both you and your partner.
Sexual health and learning how to look after yourself is important. Anyone who has sex can be at risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Some people don’t show any symptoms and there are consequences if infections are left untreated.
On these pages you can find advice on body changes, contraception, how to avoid infection, and how to get tested and treated.
What is Puberty?
Puberty is the name for the time when your body begins to develop and change as you move from being a young person to an adult.
It’s important to remember that puberty can start at different ages, it is completely normal for you start before or after your friends. Everyone is different, girls usually start between 8 and 13 and boys between 9 and 14. If you are worried about puberty or if you have any concerns talk to a trusted adult and enquire about making an appointment with your GP.
Daniel and Eman join Childline for a chat about awkward puberty moments and how to deal with them.
Puberty is tough on everyone, but for trans people there are even more things to consider. Alex Bertie and Charlie Martin chat to Childline to put some trans puberty myths to rest.
Your body will go through many changes when going through puberty. One of the most noticeable is acne but this doesn’t effect everyone.
Acne is a skin condition that looks like spots, blackheads or pimples and it’s often on your face and back. There are many reasons why people get acne, including hormones, stress, diet, and genetics.
Nobody likes it when spots appear, but remember that everyone goes through this. Some get it worse than others, but it is important to learn how to look after your skin to help keep it healthy and reducing spots.
There is a lot of advice out there about how to keep care for your skin, but it is important to remember that everyone is different and will need different products. Don’t be afraid to try new products by trusted brands to experiment with and do some research.
To look after your skin, you can try:
- Don’t pick or squeeze spots. They may be annoying, and it can be satisfying (and gross) to pop spots, but this will only irritate them and potentially leave scarring.
- Washing your face twice a day. Don’t over wash your skin as this will only lead to more breakouts, and don’t use regular soap for your hands as it will dry out your skin. Instead, use water and products made for washing your face.
- Make sure to wash off make up at night. Make up products can be great to increase confidence, but if left on your skin too long, they will clog your pores and cause spots to appear.
- A balanced diet. If your body feels good, it can help improve your skin. Your health will benefit from a balanced diet, including fresh fruit and vegetables.
- A good nights sleep. Much like the previous point, looking after your body is important to helping your skin. You will feel better with a good sleep schedule, and this can help stop spots from showing up.
If you’re worried about your acne, you can talk to your doctor as they can prescribe medication to help with hormonal imbalances to stop spots.
When a girl goes through puberty, she will begin having periods. This is a part of her menstrual cycle where a woman bleeds from her vagina for a few days – usually between 3 and 8 days, but this varies from person to person.
Here is a helpful video by Childline talking about periods:
Sometimes periods aren’t regular, especially when they first start and it might be difficult to plan exactly when you’ll get your period.
Mobile apps can be a great resource for tracking your period. This can help you know when to expect your period and to notice irregularities. You can check out an article HERE by Women’s Health that list eight period tracker apps recommended by an ob-gyn, or you can keep a diary. Sudden changes to your normal period could be a sign of a more serious condition – if you are worried, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor.
There are many period products available, including sanitary pads, tampons or menstrual cups. These are designed to collect the blood, so it is always handy to keep your preferred product in your bag incase your period arrives unexpectedly. It will take some trial and error to find the products that work best for you, but in a pinch you can use some tissue or toilet paper until you can get something to use. Make sure to regularly change your pad/tampon/menstrual cup regularly – there will be instructions on the packaging, but the general recommendations say every four hours.
An unfortunate effect of periods is pain and cramps. 90% of women experience some form of period pain or discomfort during their period. Some women also experience heavy or irregular bleeding.
If you experience pain, this can be treated at home with painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen. You can also try applying heat with a hot water bottle, gentle exercise or light massage.
If your period pain is severe, visit your GP to check whether another medical condition is causing your pain. Your GP may recommend that you try a form of contraception, such as the combined pill, which can help to ease period pain.
Unprotected sex comes with the risks of pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections, so it’s important to look after your sexual health.
It can be an uncomfortable conversation to have with your partner, but it is important to talk about so you’re on the same page. There are many options available for free through the NHS, and you can search for your local sexual health clinic HERE using NHS Direct Wales. These are places that give advice on sex, pregnancy, abortion and STIs.
Remember, you should only have sex with someone if you feel ready. Don’t let anyone pressure you to do something you don’t want to.
Hannah Witton, a vlogger who discusses sexual health and relationships, talks about contraceptive options:
If you have had unprotected sex recently, you can read about emergency contraceptives including the morning after pill HERE.
It might feel embarrassing talking to a doctor or nurse about contraception, but don’t worry. They’re used to talking about embarrassing things. They’re there to help. And you can talk about anything to do with sexual health with Brook. It’s confidential, which means you don’t have to give your name.
You have the right to get help from sexual health services confidentially, even if you’re under 16.
STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections)
An STI, sometimes called an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease), is passed from person to person through having sex and sexual contact.
Your best chance at avoiding an STI, besides abstinence, is to use contraceptives such as condoms as these provide a physical barrier to prevent the spread of disease and infection.
Some of the most common STIs are:
Unprotected sex can also leave you vulnerable to HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). This can be passed on when infected bodily fluid, such as blood or during sex, is passed into an uninfected person.
It is important to communicate with your partner about your sexual history and take STI tests so you’re aware of the potential risks of infection.
If you think you have an STI and want to take a test you can go to your doctor, nurse, family-planning clinic, or your nearest sexual-health clinic. They’ll be able to check for any infections and offer you treatment.
It can be embarrassing talking about this with your doctor, but there is nothing to worry about. They are medical professionals who are used to hearing these things. They are there to help you with your health and well-being.
Here is a list of services that can offer information, advice and support for Sexual Health, Puberty, and STIs:
Brook – Brook has been putting young people’s health and wellbeing first for 50 years, often swimming against the tide, but always putting young people front and centre.
NHS Direct Wales – A health advice and information service available 24 hours a day, every day.
SH:24 – Providing free and confidential sexual and reproductive health services 24 hours a day.
Sexwise – We’re here to give you honest advice about contraception, pregnancy, and STIs.
Contact – The charity for families with disabled children. We support families, bring families together and help families take action for others.
FPA – Sexual health information and advice on contraception, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy choices, abortion and planning a pregnancy.
BPAS – The leading provider of abortion services in the UK with over 40 abortion clinics and sexual health centres in England, Wales and Scotland.