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What your teenage daughter needs to know about sexual health

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Teenage years can be tough for girls. They have to deal with the physical and emotional changes of becoming a woman and leaving childhood behind.

Sexuality is a big part of that change. It can be a minefield for teenage girls who’ve been party to myths and half-truths about sex and sexual health.

Sorting the fact from the fiction can be tricky.

Leading sex expert Peter Greenhouse is a consultant in sexual health at the Bristol Sexual Health Centre. He’s also advisor to Channel 4’s Sex Education Show, The Joy of Teen Sex and BBC 3’s How Sex Works.

He has spoken to us at BootsWebMD about some of the issues teenage girls are concerned about.


Starting your periods is the first step a girl takes towards becoming a sexual entity. In basic terms, when it happens it means it’s possible for a girl to get pregnant.

In days gone by as soon as this happened the girl, who may have been 11 or 12, was marriageable material. Thankfully, these days that’s not the case but menstruation can still be a lot to deal with for many teenagers.

Peter Greenhouse says menstruation is the commonest reason for school absence and poor academic performance in girls.

"Most women can remember someone in their class who was hit so badly by period pain they were off school for a couple of days every month or had to spend most of the day in the nurse’s room."

He says one in 10 girls has severe period pain. It’s more likely that if you, as a mum, suffer from bad menstrual cramps, your daughter will too.

His advice is to go to your GP and get medication for this. Often being given the contraceptive pill helps alleviate the severity of the pain.

Also he thinks teenagers should be more aware of the common condition endometriosis in which small pieces of the womb lining are found outside the womb. This could be in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, bowel, vagina or rectum.

Endometriosis commonly causes severe pain in the lower abdomen (tummy), pelvis or lower back. It may also lead to fertility problems.

Peter Greenhouse says it often takes seven years to have this condition diagnosed. The NHS reckons endometriosis affects around two million women in the UK.

Contraception myths and reality

There are numerous methods of contraception, including caps, the combined pill, the progestogen-only pill, condoms for males and females, implants, injections, patches, the diaphragm and the vaginal ring.

Contraceptive services are free and confidential for people, including those under 16 as long as they're mature enough to understand the information and decisions involved. There are strict guidelines for healthcare professionals who work with people under 16.

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