Frequently Asked Questions

What are periods?

Periods occur when a girl’s body matures enough to give birth to a baby. This phase in your life when you start noticing lots of changes in your body is known as puberty. During this time, each month, the lining of the womb (uterus) thickens and one of the ovaries releases an ovum or egg. If a sperm from a male fertilizes the ovum, the fertilized egg gets implanted into the womb and the thickened lining of the womb supports the egg. But in case the egg doesn’t get fertilized, the lining of the womb is shed via the vaginal opening as blood. This is what is called periods or menstruation and happens every month in a female.

What are the pros and cons of menstrual cup, tampons and pads?

Advantages of Menstrual cups are:

They are cheaper and can be reused. They produce fewer odors due to menstrual blood. They help in maintaining the pH and beneficial bacteria of the vagina. You need fewer changes while using a menstrual cup and they are easy to use.

Disadvantages of Menstrual cups are:

Emptying the cups can be messy. Young girls may find insertion of menstrual cups difficult. Sterilizing and reusing the cup is also an issue for some females.

Pros of using tampons:

They are comfortable to wear, and females can stay active after wearing them. They are more hygienic and make you feel cleaner. They can allow you to go swimming during your menses. They are not visible through your clothes. No odor is produced by wearing tampons. They are easier to carry and dispose off.

Cons of using tampons:

Use of tampons increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome, which is a bacterial infection caused due to streptococcus bacteria with symptoms of fever, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, muscle pain and dehydration. Some females find tampons difficult to use. The material used in tampons is not eco-friendly or biodegradable. You cannot tell when to change your tampon as it is not visible from outside.

Pros of using sanitary pads:

They are reliable when used right. They are comfortable and easy to change and use. There are many brands available in the market to choose from, which are of high quality and uses super absorbent material. They do not carry the risk of TSS.

Cons of using pads:

They can’t be worn while swimming. They can be seen through pants. They can produce foul odor and you can’t hide them in your purse.

What do I do when I get my periods?

When you get your periods, the first thing is to use adequate protection by using sanitary pads. Eat foods rich in iron during this time such as lentils, leafy green vegetables, beans, eggs etc. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You can take over-the-counter pain killers to relieve pain and discomfort associated with your periods. However, it is best to take advice from a doctor or any elder such as your mother or any other female member of your family before taking any medicine. You can use heating pad on your belly to soothe the period cramps. Take lots of rest.

How should I calculate the date of my next period?

The usual menstrual cycle in a female range from 28 to 35 days. The first day when your period starts is taken as the first day of your menstrual cycle and the days till your next period are counted as the length of your menstrual cycle. If you have a menstrual cycle of 28 days and your period started on 1 January, then your next period will be due on 28 January. If your menstrual cycle is of 30 days and your period started on 1 January, then your next period is due on 30 January.

What is PMS, what does it include?

PMS or Premenstrual syndrome is a condition, which affects the physical health, behaviour and emotions of a female just before her periods. The symptoms of PMS begin 5-11 days before periods and gets better once periods starts. The symptoms are pain in abdomen, abdominal bloating, soreness in breasts, acne, constipation, cravings for certain foods, diarrhoea, headaches, fatigue, irritability, depression, sadness, changes in pattern of sleep and emotional outbursts. You should see a physician if your daily life is affected by the symptoms of PMS.

How do I reduce period cramps?

You can reduce the pain due to period cramps by taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as paracetamol; by applying heating pad to your belly and lower back area; by massaging your abdomen, back and side gently using lavender oil and by drinking chamomile tea and ginger tea. You should also avoid foods which result in water retention and bloating including fatty foods, caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee, carbonated beverages such as cola and salty foods.

Do I need to see a doctor regarding my periods?

You should see a doctor in case:

  • Your periods haven’t started by the age of 15 years or they haven’t become regular after you have been having them for 3 years.
  • Your periods have stopped suddenly or have become irregular.
  • Your periods are heavy or long, and you get them frequently.

You have very severe pain during your periods.

How to maintain hygiene during periods?

Follow the below mentioned tips to maintain hygiene during periods:

  • Choose appropriate method of sanitation. In India, sanitary napkins are most popular.
  • Change regularly, the standard being to change a pad every 6 hour.
  • Wash your private parts regularly.
  • Avoid using soaps and hygiene products in the vaginal area.
  • Always clean or wash from front to back, i.e. from vagina to anus and never in opposite direction.
  • Discard the used pads properly.
  • Be aware of the rash caused due to pads. Stay dry and change regularly. Apply an ointment (antibiotic) to heal the rash.
  • Have a shower or bath regularly.

Myths regarding periods-temple, sex, aachar, bathing, going to school, entering kitchen, cooking etc.

There are many common myths prevalent in India related to periods that if you touch aachar during your periods it will rot, or you should not enter the kitchen and do cooking or if you enter a temple during your periods, the place will get polluted and the Gods will get angry and so on. All these are mere baseless myths and there is no truth behind these myths. You can go to a temple, touch aachar, go to your school and enter kitchen and do cooking during your periods.

Taking a regular bath is very important to maintain hygiene during periods.

Having sex during periods is a personal choice. You can have sex during periods, though it can be uncomfortable and messy. However, you can still get pregnant in case you have sex without using protection during periods if you have early ovulation.

What are scanty periods?

Scanty periods are periods where either the duration of flow of blood is less than 2 days or the total quantity of blood lost during periods is less than 80 ml. Scanty periods are medically referred to as ‘hypomenorrhea.’ Scanty periods are normal after puberty as ovulation is irregular during this time.

What is normal flow?

The normal blood flow can be different for different females depending on various factors. However, majority of the females experience a blood flow falling in between 10 and 80 ml during two to seven days whereas the average quantity of blood that is expelled from a female’s body during menses is approximately 35 ml. This is around 6 tsp or 2-3 tbsp. It is quite normal to have heavy bleeding during the initial couple of days of the periods.

What is the normal age for periods to begin?

Majority of the girls will get their first periods between the ages of 11 and 14 years; however, they can occur anytime between the age of 8 and 16. You should keep in mind that every girl is different; hence, you may not get your periods at the same age at which your friend has got hers.

Can I go swimming during my period?

You can go swimming during your periods if you use a tampon as a method of sanitation as sanitary pads don’t work while swimming. When inserted into the vagina correctly, a tampon will not fall out. If you have not used a tampon previously, you can always ask your mother or other elderly female member in your family regarding the use of a tampon and go for swimming.

Does having periods produce unpleasant odour?

Unpleasant odour occurs when the blood discharged during periods gets into contact with air. If you are using tampons as a method of sanitation, the blood gets absorbed in the vagina itself and not exposed to outside air; hence, no odour is produced. Using sanitary pads may produce some odour; however, you can prevent this from happening by frequently changing the sanitary pads and tampons.

What are heavy periods?

A heavy period is characterized by abnormally prolonged or heavy bleeding and is referred to as menorrhagia. A period is heavy if you are soaking through 1 or more tampons or pads each hour for many hours, you require double sanitary protection for controlling your flow, you require to wake up at night to change your sanitary protection, you bleed for more than one week, you pass blood clots that are large than a quarter, your daily activities are restricted as a result of heavy blood flow and you are showing symptoms and signs of anaemia such as fatigue and shortness of breath.

At what age can I start to have sex?

The legal age of consent for sex is 18 years in India under the Criminal Law Act, 2013. The age at which a girl can start to have sex is often based on her own desire. However, as a teenager, your body and brain are still developing and undergoing through a stage of puberty. You are not aware fully of the risk factors involved with having sex such as sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and emotional consequences. Furthermore, in India, having sex before marriage is still considered a taboo in many societies. However, before having sex, get proper information about contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases etc. Before having sex, think about, your personal values, your career goals and the physical and the emotional risks you are ready to take. You should also think whether your friends and family are in support of your decision (and what is the importance of that support is to you).

What exactly happens when one has sex?

The sequence of events, which occurs to your body while having sex, is divided into four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution. During the excitement phase your vagina lengthens and expands and your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure are raised. During the plateau phase the opening to your vagina narrows and vaginal walls swells with blood. The muscles in the hips, buttocks and thighs become tense. The orgasm phase is the climax of cycle. It last for few seconds. During this phase, there is rhythmical contraction of first third of walls of the vagina in every 8/10th of a second. The breathing, blood pressure and pulse rate rise continuously. During the resolution phase, normal resting state returns. Any muscular tension relaxes and swelling disappears.

How can you get pregnant?

You can get pregnant in case you involve in sexual intercourse with a boy and the boy releases his semen or sperms inside your vagina. There are two small ovaries situated in your belly on either side of your womb. Every month, one egg is released from your ovary. Two testicles are present in the scrotum of boys and sperms are produced inside the testicles. Thousands of sperms are released when a male ejaculates semen during sexual intercourse. One sperm is needed to fertilize the egg and when an egg gets fertilized it travels via your fallopian tube into your uterus and gets implanted into the uterine lining. When this happens, you get pregnant.

When do I use contraception?

As a young woman or teenage girl, you may be beginning to think about how it feels to be getting into a sexual relationship with a boy. There are multiple things about which you need to think before you have sex including prevention of pregnancy and protection from sexually transmitted diseases. You should use contraception while having sex if you don’t want to get pregnant and to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In case you are having sex, there is always a risk of STIs and pregnancy. You can reduce this risk by practicing safe sex (by having sex with only one uninfected sexual partner) and making good decision regarding contraception.

What is emergency contraception? Does it always work?

Emergency contraception is a method that is used to prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex. They are often referred to as morning-after pills. They are hormonal pills, which when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse by females can prevent pregnancy from happening. They work by delaying ovulation or by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb. How much effective these pills are in preventing pregnancy depends upon how soon you consume them after unprotected sex. The effectiveness of most emergency contraceptive pills is between 80-90% if taken within 72 hours after having unprotected intercourse.

What are male and female condoms? Do they always work?

Female and male condoms are barrier methods of contraception, which are used to stop the meeting of sperm with an egg. A male condom is made to fit over the erect penis of a male and is made using very thin rubber (latex) or plastic (polyurethane). A female condom is made using plastic (polyurethane). It is made to put inside the vagina and loosely lines the vagina. The male condom is 98% effective if it is used according to the instructions. The female condom is 95% effective if it is used according to the instructions.

What are STD’s?

STDs or sexually transmitted diseases are infectious diseases, which spread from one person to another through sexual contact. They can affect girls and guys of all age groups if they are having sex. The things which increase your chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection are started having sex at a young age, having more than one sexual partner and having unprotected sex without using latex condoms. You should use condom each time you are having sexual intercourse or a dental dam in case a girl is getting involved in oral sex. Some of the STDs are Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital warts, genital herpes, HIV and AIDS, Trichomoniasis and syphilis.

What is the best way to avoid STDs?

The only method to completely avoid all types of STDs is abstinence from all types of sexual activity. If you are getting involved in any sexual activity, the best way to avoid STDs is to use a condom each time you are having sexual intercourse or use a dental dam in case a girl is getting involved in oral sex. Moreover, if you are having sex you must get regular exams by a gynaecologist for two reasons. First, during these exams, your gynaecologist will get a chance to educate you about STDs and how to protect yourself. Secondly, this gives your doctor an opportunity to check for signs and symptoms of STDs while the infections are in their treatable, earliest stages.

How do I know if I have an STD?

You can identify the symptoms of the STD. Gonorrhoea may present as yellow, green or while coloured discharge from vagina or burning during urination.  You may also develop irregularities with your periods. Trichomoniasis may present as unusual vaginal discharge or odour with burning during urination. Chlamydia may present as painful urination or vaginal discharge. You may also develop pain in abdomen or frequency of urination. Bacterial vaginosis may present as milky vaginal discharge with a fishy odour. Painless sores in the genital area may indicate syphilis. Painful blisters in mouth or genitals may indicate herpes. Genital warts (presence of fleshy outgrowths in the vaginal area) may indicate infection with human papilloma virus. Having flu like symptoms post sexual intercourse may indicate HIV or syphilis.

Is it okay to have oral or anal sex?

Oral sex involves stimulating another person’s genital organs by using your mouth. Oral sex may be liked by some, and not by others. Some persons like giving it but they don’t like getting it done while some others like getting it and not like giving it. All these are completely normal and fine. The decision is totally on you as to what you feel comfortable with. You should then inform your partner about your decision. Getting involved in unprotected oral sex will not make you pregnant but you may get a sexually transmitted infection.

Anal sex involves anal intercourse or penis in butt or anus intercourse. Anal sex is enjoyed by some people, whereas it is not liked by some people. Either way is normal and fine. You will not get pregnant by getting involved in anal sex. However, there is a greater risk of contracting STDs from having anal sex (unprotected).

What would be the right way to prevent pregnancy?

The best way to prevent pregnancy is to consider abstinence from having sex. However, for those who are involved in sexual intercourse, you can consider using birth control. There are various types of birth control methods that you can try such as:

Male and female condoms-Male condoms are worn over the erect penis of a male, whereas a female condom lines the vaginal cavity of a female.

Oral contraceptives-Oral contraceptives or the pills are available on prescription from a physician and contains hormones that prevent ovulation in a female.

Intrauterine Device or IUD: You can get an IUD implanted in your womb for prevention of pregnancy. A doctor can insert this into your uterus. It is up to 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Is bleeding after my first time normal? What if I don’t?

Yes, bleeding after first time having sex is quite normal. Your vaginal opening is partially lined by a very thin membrane called hymen. When a penis enters your vagina during sex, the hymen gets torn and there is little bleeding due to that. However, in some females, the hymen may get torn even before having sex due to activities such as riding a bike, doing strenuous exercise, doing gymnastics, or riding a horse etc. Hence, if you don’t bleed during first time you have sex, then it’s perfectly normal and there is no need to worry.

What is hymen?

The hymen is a thin membrane like tissue that partially lines your vaginal opening. In some cultures, and religions, an unbroken and intact hymen is taken as a proof of virginity and it is believed that it should get torn during first sexual encounter after marriage. When it gets torn during sex, there is some bleeding and pain. However, in some females, it may get torn due to other activities other than sex such as doing vigorous exercises, riding a bike, riding a horse, or doing gymnastics.

Is there a way to prove I’m a virgin?

No, there is no way to prove that you are a virgin. A virgin is any person who has never got involved in sex. As already stated, in females, an intact hymen is taken as a proof of virginity. However, hymen can get torn due to many other activities besides sex such as doing strenuous exercises, riding a bike, doing gymnastics etc. Furthermore, some females are born without a hymen. Virginity is a concept which can’t be proven.

Is it okay to take abortion pills?

If you want to terminate a pregnancy then you should never take the abortion pills on your own. Instead you should consult a gynaecologist and only under their guidance should abort your pregnancy. They will decide depending upon the age of your foetus whether to give abortion pills or do surgery to abort the foetus. If your pregnancy is less than seven weeks, then abortion pills are given. Two sets of pills are given. The first pill that is given is known as mifepristone. After 48 hours, the second pill misoprostol is given. This starts cramping of uterus and bleeding. You may also develop nausea, loose motions and vomiting. Over the period of next couple of days, the product of conception is passed out via the vagina. You may bleed for 7-10 days. The doctor may perform ultrasound after two weeks to confirm that the abortion has been completed.

What do I do if my periods are overdue? How many days should I wait?

Irregular and missed periods are common in teenagers. However, you should visit a physician if you did not get your period for the last 3 months. The first reason for your missed period could be pregnancy if you are sexually active. You should wait for seven days after your due date and get a home pregnancy test. If your pregnancy test is negative and your period doesn’t arrive, then take another pregnancy test in a week. Apart from pregnancy missed period could be due to excessive exercise, stress, eating disorders or taking birth control pills. You should consult a physician if you suspect that you have an eating disorder, or you don’t have periods for 2-3 months at a stretch. This may indicate a hormonal issue.

Can I get pills without going to a doctor?

Abortion pills are not available over-the-counter at pharmacies in India and you cannot get them without a doctor’s prescription. You should never take abortion pills without medical advice and supervision of a physician as the manner of taking abortion pills require the knowledge of the age of the foetus and the health of the female. You should always go to a gynaecologist and get an ultrasound done to determine the age of your foetus before taking abortion pills.

What should I expect the first time I have sex?

The first time you have sex you may feel slight uncomfortable and some pain due to tearing of the hymen if your hymen is still intact. It may also produce slight bleeding or light spotting. However, if your hymen has been torn before due to other activities such as doing strenuous exercise or while inserting a tampon or riding a bike then your first time may not be that much painful. The discomfort or pain that occurs during the first time is not due to penetration but due to the tension and anxiety that you may feel and that make it hard for your body to self-lubricate. While getting involved in sex, it is important to remember about pregnancy and STDs; hence, you should use condoms as a contraceptive. To prevent the discomfort, you can use water-based lubricants.

Who should I contact if I get pregnant?

You should tell your partner and your parents about your pregnancy. You can do a home pregnancy test to confirm your pregnancy. You should visit a gynaecologist and get a full check up, and ultrasound done to determine the age of the foetus and how to proceed with the pregnancy.

What is masturbation?

Masturbation is the stimulation of your own genitals for sexual pleasure. During masturbation, a person self-stimulates their sex organs to the point of orgasm. Approximately 40% of adolescent girls and 60-90% of adolescent boys masturbate. Masturbation is not shown be harmful to the physical, psychological or emotional health of the persons. For the young individuals it provides an opportunity for sexual exploration privately before getting engaged in sexual activity with any other person. According to many physicians, masturbation is a normal, healthy and natural way of sexual expression and self exploration and it does not carry the risks associated with sexual intercourse such as contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

Is female masturbation normal?

Yes, female masturbation is completely normal. It is a healthy thing to practice masturbation. Every female has a sex drive and if you are not having a partner you can opt masturbation to satisfy your sexual desires. It’s completely fine to do so. Even if you do have a partner, it’s completely fine to masturbate.

How often should one masturbate?

You can masturbate as often as you find comfortable doing it. Some females masturbate daily or even a couple of times during the day, some females masturbate a few times per week while some females masturbate a couple of times in a month. It is completely on you to decide how many times you want to do it. If it is not affecting your general levels of energy and your routine activities and life it should be fine.

Is it possible to get infections through masturbation?

It is not likely to get vaginal infections through masturbation. It is possible that you may develop an irritation of the vagina if you develop an allergy to some object that you place in the vagina such as a sex toy or lubricant. STDs are spread by an infected person to an uninfected person by having unprotected sexual intercourse or by sharing of sexual toys. It’s important that you clean your hands and any sex toys in case you are using them before you masturbate.

Does masturbation make me impure?

No, masturbation does not make you impure. It is a completely normal and healthy behaviour which is beneficial for the physical, psychological and emotional health of individuals. It increases the flow of blood all through the body and releases the feel-good chemicals from the brain referred to as endorphins. Hence, it helps in relieving stress.

Am I no longer a virgin if I masturbate?

A virgin is usually a person who has not had sex with another person. Hence by masturbation, you will not lose your virginity. However, if you are looking at this by the angle of tearing of your hymen, then your hymen may get torn due to insertion of your fingers or any sex toy during masturbation. Nevertheless, hymen may get torn due to many other reasons apart from sex such as dancing, bike riding, doing vigorous exercises etc. Hence, an intact hymen though taken as a proof of virginity in some cultures is a vague concept.

What is the best way to masturbate?

It involves stimulating the vagina or clitoris till the female achieves an orgasm. Some females get sexual pleasure and achieve orgasm by stimulating their nipples and breasts. You may use your fingers or a sex toy including a vibrator to stroke or touch yourself. It’s very similar to sex without any involvement of actual person. You can also watch or read something erotic to get you in the mood. The whole process may take anywhere between two minutes to one hour depending upon your physiology and state of mind.

Is it possible that I hurt my genitals due to masturbation?

Yes, you may hurt your genitals due to excessive masturbation. You may develop extreme irritation and rawness in your genitals from excessive friction due to too much masturbation. If you rub your vagina aggressively you may cause injury to your vagina. You may also develop low back pain and tiredness due to excessive masturbation.

What is sexual harassment? What is its punishment?

Sexual harassment is sexual bullying or threatening or inappropriately promising someone of services in exchange of favours that are sexual in nature. According to majority of the modern legal systems, it is illegal to sexually harass a person and it is unlawful to harass a person due to his/her sex.

The punishment for sexual harassment ranges from counseling to suspension, dismissal and legal prosecution with imprisonment for up to three years. It is the severity of harassment that determines the level of penalty. The Indian Penal Court (IPC) and the Sexual Harassment for Women at Workplace Act, 2013 have implemented many rules to punish the culprits. The victim can immediately call the police, record the name of the harasser, incident and the location. The victim should make sure to keep everything in writing. The IPC has laws and punishments for all form of sexual harassment. These punishments include both, jail term and fine from the culprit.

Masturbation hurts, am I doing something wrong?

If masturbation hurts, then you may be masturbating excessively or aggressively. You should not rub your clitoris or vagina aggressively as it will cause rawness, irritation and pain in the vagina.  Moreover, excessive masturbation may cause the following:

  • It may result in significant distress
  • You may injure your vagina
  • You will feel tired and fatigued and develop pain in lower back and pelvic area
  • You will masturbate multiple times in a day and try to run away from the realities of routine life
  • You will constantly feel the urge to masturbate and satisfy your lust
  • You will not have time for your family and friends

Who is a gynaecologist?

A gynaecologist is a physician who is specialized in treating the diseases of the reproductive and genital organs of the women and providing the women overall healthcare with a primary focus on their genital and reproductive organs. All diseases of fallopian tubes, womb, vagina, ovaries, cervix and vulva are examined, diagnosed and treated by a gynaecologist.

Where can I find a gynaecologist?

While looking for gynaecologists consult your close female elderly members of the family such as your mother or any other member whom you can trust. You can also check online for the best gynaecologists in your city. Find a reputed doctor and one who has good standards. You may check the hospitals for which the doctor works for and then form an opinion about them. Since you must share a lot of personal information with the gynaecologist, you should fine one who is gentle and has a friendly nature. It is better to go to a female gynaecologist as you may not feel comfortable with a male gynaecologist.

How often should I meet a gynaecologist?

According to doctor’s recommendations, girls should get their first gynaecology check up between the age of 13 and 15 years. This is the time that they are going through puberty. After you get your first gyn exam, you should meet a gynaecologist once in a year even if there is nothing wrong. Your doctor will quickly look at your external genital organs and your breasts to make sure everything is fine. She will discuss with you about your periods, growth of breasts, sexuality, STDs, birth control, pregnancy, relationships and body image. This is the time when you can ask the doctor any questions you may have.

Do I need a gynaecologist even if nothing is wrong?

As already stated, according to doctor’s recommendations, girls should get a yearly gyn exam even if there is nothing wrong. Since, majority of the reproductive organs are situated inside your body and not visible from outside, you may not be able to tell always if there is some problem. Furthermore, at this visit you get a chance to ask queries about almost anything you have in mind such as whether you should remove your hair on the pubic area or not, how can you prevent STDs etc.

What should I do if my gynaecologist is judgemental?

If your gynaecologist is judgemental, then it’s better to change your gynaecologist. Your gynaecologist should express concern over things that may compromise your health such as having unprotected sex, but they should never make you feel guilty about how you lead your lifestyle. It is also imperative that similar philosophies related to healthcare are shared by both of you. You should also go for a gyn exam every year even if there is nothing wrong with you.

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