The teen years can be the most confusing time of your life, especially when it comes to your body. The Doctors answer the most pressing questions for the 19-and-under crowd.
Are Two Better Than One?
Many teens are curious about sex and how to stay protected. Kathryn, 16, is not sexually active, but has heard that using two condoms during sex is better than just one, and asks The Doctors if that is true. “You would think so, but not necessarily,” Dr. Lisa says.
She explains that wearing two condoms can cause friction, which can tear the material and ruin both condoms. “You can slip, cause breakage if you don’t have the right fit,” Dr. Lisa adds. “You can have the fluids leak out. The idea is that two is better than one, but if you don’t put one on right, the other one can come off really easily.”
Picking the right condom is extremely important, as well. If a condom is too thin, made of a weak material or too old, it can break and be rendered useless. Still, abstinence is the only guarantee against STDs and unwanted pregnancy. “For me, I didn’t want to become a dad as a teen,” Dr. Jim says. “So unless it was 100 percent, I was not going to engage. I was too scared.”
Teen Sex Myths
Due to a lack of knowledge, teenagers oftentimes hear and spread myths about sex. The Doctors tackle three questions that answer common myths about sex.
No. 1: Can I get pregnant during my period?
It is possible to become pregnant during your period because sperm can live for three days in a woman's body. Also, women can mistake slight bleeding with ovulation as the start of their period, and having unprotected sex during ovulation can greatly increase the chance of pregnancy. “Periods can be irregular cycles,” Dr. Lisa says. “If a girl has a shorter cycle, she can ovulate earlier in that cycle and still be bleeding, especially if she bleeds longer.”
“No matter what, whether there's a period or no period, if you do decide to be sexually active — condom, condom, condom,” Dr. Travis implores.
No. 2: Is it possible to have safe oral sex?
Oral sex can be just as dangerous as regular sex, because you can contract a sexually transmitted disease through any form of sex; oral, vaginal or anal. The Doctors stress that even during oral sex, using protection is extremely important. Protection for oral sex includes using a dental dam for woman, or a condom for the man. Twenty-five percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 19 will suffer from some form of STD, so protecting yourself is key.
No. 3: Can I get pregnant in a pool or hot tub?
Many teens believe that by having sex in a pool or a hot tub, they are at less of a risk of becoming pregnant because the chlorine or heat will kill the sperm, but that is not true. “The only thing the chlorine will kill is the vaginal pH!” Dr. Travis says. “So not only are you going to be irritated, you can still get pregnant, still get STDs.
“You can hang out in a pool or hot tub all you want,” Dr. Travis adds. “But if you're having sex, it doesn't make it safe sex. It doesn't mean that you're not going to pass on STDs or get pregnant.”
Choosing the Right Tampon for You
Tampons can be very useful, allowing women to partake in everyday activities without worrying about their period. Sixteen-year-old Kaitlyn, however, has experienced a lot of pain and discomfort while wearing them, and asks Dr. Lisa if there is something wrong with her body and what she can do to use tampons without pain or discomfort.
“That's an important question,” Dr. Lisa says. “Tampons really free us up to do a lot of things. If you're really active, then you want to be able to wear a tampon. When you first start to use tampons, you may spend an hour or two hours in the bathroom trying to figure out how they work: Which way do they go, do you have them in right? And that's really important to get familiar with your body.
“There are different kinds,” Dr. Lisa continues. “They make teen and junior tampons. You read the instructions and you can use lubrication if you need to. Sometimes, if you're using the cardboard ones, even though they are environmentally friendly, they can really, really hurt when you're starting out. The plastic ones can be a little bit more first-time-user friendly. You just want to experiment with different sizes, but, in the end, if it still really hurts, you should go see a doctor. I have seen teenagers that have a little thin membrane of the hymen left, and that's what's actually causing so much pain. So if you've tried all this, and it still isn't working, that's one reason why we encourage gynecologic visits early, because sometimes there is something we need to correct.”
Hannah, 16, is a ballet dancer who suffers from painful cramps on the first day of her period. The cramps are so extreme, they cause her to vomit and faint, and she is unable to dance. “It just feels like a football player's cleat is just digging into my stomach,” she says. “Dancing is my passion, but when this happens to me, I'm not able to do, full out, what I love.
“I want people to know me, not the person who every month is absent because of her period,” she adds.
Dr. Lisa explains that this is a common problem for teenage girls. If cramps are mild, taking anti-inflamitories or calcium supplements, or using heating pads can help ease the symptoms. For more severe pain, which can be caused by hormone fluctuation, Dr. Lisa suggests taking birth control pills. Certain birth control pills can even eliminate the period altogether.
Hannah's mother, Lucy, however, is uncomfortable with her daughter taking the pills at such a young age. “You have to remember that they're also a form of medication,” Dr. Lisa says. “They're just a hormonal medication. Her hormones are out of balance. Just talk to your daughter, and I talk to them as well, about the fact that we're not using this as contraception. We're using this as a medication.
No More Sharing
As kids, we're taught to share, but sharing certain items can actually put your health at risk. Courtney, 14, often swaps makeup with friends, and asks The Doctors if it is safe to do so.
Bacteria and infections, such as pink eye, can be transmitted through sharing mascara. Eyelash mites and mucous membranes around the eye can stick to a mascara wand and be transferred to others who use it. Also, swapping lipstick or lip gloss puts you at risk for contracting the herpes virus. “That kind of changes your mind, doesn't it?” Dr. Lisa asks. “So, even though it's fun, and we all like to get together and go, 'Oh, I like your color,' really, you shouldn't do it.”
Courtney asks how to tell her friends that she doesn't want to share the makeup any longer. The Doctors advise her to inform them of the risks involved with makeup swapping so they won't transfer the bacteria, either. “Or, better yet, blame us!” Dr. Travis jokes. “The Doctors said I can't do it. I'd love to, but I can't! Say, 'Jim Sears, he never shares his makeup with Drew or Travis, so I'm not going to, either.'”
Q: Can I get an STD from a tanning bed?
A: No, you won't get STDs from using tanning beds, but always make sure to go to a place that disinfects the beds between EVERY client, because some bacterial and fungal skin infections can be transmitted. However, while you cannot catch an STD from laying in a tanning bed, that of course does not mean you can’t get an STD if you have sex with someone while in a tanning bed.