How ‘abnormal’ is actually normal?
The answer to this question is one that Hurstville doctor Alejandra Izurieta hopes will give young women more confidence.
Hurstville Private Hospital’s gynaecologist, obstetrician and IVF specialist has a particular interest in adolescent female sexual health.
Dr Izurieta previously worked in a practice at Randwick, but said many of her referrals were from St George and Sutherland Shire.
She says a lack of adequate information from general practitioners means more teens are using ‘Dr Google’ to educate themselves about their sexual health.
Dr Izurieta is leading an education campaign to teach mums and teenage girls more about their bodies, specifically in relation to their cycles.
Growth spurts, developmental and weight changes can affect hormones, she said.
“There is a lot happening in a teenage girl’s body, which while a normal process, can be quite emotionally and physically disruptive to young women,” she said.
“As the body adjusts to erratic hormones, they become quite concerned and anxious about the absence of a regular cycle, abnormal bleeding and associated pain.
“It can take up to five years to adjust to having a regular cycle, and often the majority of a female’s teenage years can be in a state of hormonal flux.
“It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong, just that the body is having to get used to hormones in its system.
“From a health perspective, gynaecologists intervene to ensure we rule out any serious medical conditions, and reassure girls how to manage their bodies during this trying time.”
Dr Izurieta says a challenge is educating young women and their mothers about fertility and the contraceptive pill.
“Most mums who come to my practice have experienced the contraceptive pill of a different era, from a time when it had a lot of side effects and was given in very different doses,” she said.
“We often have to discuss the ramifications of placing young girls on the pill, and together, weigh up the benefits of the pill against associated menstrual cycle issues.
“Teenage girls are typically not big meat eaters and iron deficiency becomes a common concern. In some cases, they need to have a blood transfusion.
“We also have associated lethargy, loss of concentration at school, poor sleep, and problems with their skin.”
“We often have to reassure mums [who come in with pre-conceived ideas] that the pill doesn’t affect fertility in any way.
“Of more concern on fertility are the lifestyle choices that teenagers and young adults make, including heavy smoking, which also leads to an increased risk of cervical cancer.”
“We know that heavy smoking can age eggs by up to 10 years in females.”
She also says anabolic steroid use can affect young men’s fertility.
“I often see the strong association between steroid use and sperm count reduction, and sometimes sadly, this can include irreversible infertility in males,” she said.
“Educating all teenagers is vital in ensuring their future fertility.
“The earlier we can educate adolescents about their bodies, the better their future pregnancy rates and sexual health outcomes.”
The hospital is hosting an information session on May 8.
To register call 9579 7777 or click here