When will we, living in the Information Age, understand that conversations about maturing bodies, male or female, cannot be avoided?
That's a rhetorical question. But really, where are our teens getting their information? OK, that's another rhetorical question, but clearly provocative.
I'm trying to decipher why young women lack information about the way their bodies function. As an OB/GYN, I encounter this state of oblivion more often than I should.
Here's an example:
A 14-year-old sat with her mother in the exam room. She was seeking a refill on her Depo-Provera® prescription. She had been prescribed Depo-Provera due to her heavy, painful periods. We chatted a while and seemed to reach a general consensus concerning management of her symptoms.
Finally, I said to her: "Now, you won't need a pelvic exam today, but at some point in the near future, you'll have to schedule your first reproductive health visit."
She looked at me as if I were suddenly speaking Greek. “What's that?” she asked incredulously.
I showed her a speculum and demonstrated the nature of the pelvic exam.
"That's nasty!" she exclaimed.
It began to dawn on me that she was entirely caught off-guard. So I asked: "Do you know where the blood comes from when you bleed every month?"
She sat there with her flawless application of mascara and makeup and admitted to her lack of knowledge. That was a brave confession.
I went on with a brief description of the pertinent points of menstruation and reproduction, which were punctuated with her exclamations of "That's nasty!"
Her mother and I made eye contact. It was a poignant moment. She shrugged and said: "She never asked....”
How, in this over-sexualized culture, can this situation exist?
The blood mysteries
These are the blood mysteries. The questions young women don't ask are the most important bits of information they need to understand to navigate their hormonal awakening.
Perhaps a coming-of-age party should accompany the first period.
I can see it now, a gathering of women, young and old, who will share information acquired from reputable sources. There will be baskets of flowers, tampons and mini-pads. Special calendars and apps will be exchanged to keep track of the transformative event. Each young woman will become filled with awe and wonder as they listen to the description of how their minds and bodies become a synchronized hormonal milieu. There will be gifts of attractive, yet portable, menstrual huts that adapt to any terrain for days when you know your hormonal climate will be stormy.
You can fantasize your own event. Or even better, you can begin to talk about the "party" as soon as possible.
If there is one thing we need to agree on, in regards to our teen women, let it please be that we are willing to share more information without inhibition. Our children are young for a brief moment and ever so vulnerable.
Let me know how your conversations go. Or, let me know how I can coach you through a discussion.
Depo-Provera® is a trademark of Pharmacia & Upjohn Company LLC.