WHEELING - The teenage years are defined by changes in almost every aspect of a young woman's life. Venturing into emerging adulthood will bring up numerous questions of a teenage girls health including physical, emotional and social needs.
Dr. Mary Hammond of the Center of Pediatrics at Wheeling Hospital said she urges young women to speak up about these changes to help define what is normal and what changes require help.
"School is stressful and relationships are stressful and it can be very overwhelming," Hammond said. "I encourage all teenage girls to get yearly physical exams and to talk to somebody if something is not right about their emotional side and speak about problems and concerns."
Numerous cell phone apps make it easier than ever to keep track of the dates of a menstrual cycle.
Hammond said a common issue for teenagers today are problems with body weight. She said it is important to keep up good nutrition and exercise during the teenage years to develop healthy habits for a lifetime.
"Teenagers are notorious for grabbing fast food, because they are busy with sports and schools, they skip breakfast and having too many sweet drinks," hammond said. "We encourage breakfast and physical activity because it's good for your heart and lungs. You don't have to be on a sports team. Walk the dog, rake the grass or take a walk around the block."
Hammond said teenagers often do not get as much calcium and vitamin D as they need during this time of growth. She recommended teenagers drink 12-16 ounces of low-fat or skim milk each day instead of consuming sweet drinks such as sports drinks, juices, Kool-Aid and soda.
Hammond also said young women should be taking note of the changes of their body as they grow into adults. She said tracking your menstrual period soon after it occurs for the first time is an important step to becoming familiar with what is "normal" for an individual. Teenage girls can easily keep track now, she said, with many cell phone apps designed specifically to track a period. Although the menstrual cycle can be very irregular for the first two or three years, young women who remain irregular should consider seeing a gynecologist. She also noted changes in diet, physical activity, weight gain and weight loss can all affect a woman's period, so it is helpful for a young woman to understand her natural rhythms.
Teenage girls may also experience many different emotions during a time of such dramatic physical changes. Hammond said young women shouldn't be afraid to talk to adults about issues that cause stress. Bullying, peer relationships, boyfriends, friends and peer pressure are all aspects teenage girls must navigate.
"We encourage girls to speak up and be honest about things and let them know they have resources," she said.
"They need someplace to speak their mind to see how they're feeling and what is going on."