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All about bodies: different is normal

Monday, March 2, 2015

Feature

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is more youer than you.”

That’s our favourite quote from philosopher and author Theodore Geisel – better known as Dr Seuss.

It’s a perfect introduction to this month’s feature where we look at bodies – and in particular some of the concerns young people often have that their bodies don’t look normal or the same as everyone else.

DIFFERENT IS NORMAL

Check out this video from our friends at Planned Parenthood. It shows how different bodies look – and how they’re all normal.

Your questions answered

We’ve answered some of the questions we’re most commonly asked by young people about their bodies – about the size, shape and speed of their physical development.

Our conclusion? Most of the things young people are worrying about are completely normal.

“Do all women look the same down below?”

Our faces aren’t all the same, and that goes for our genitals too. Labia can vary in colour, form light pink to dark brown. One outer lip (labia majora) may be bigger than the other or the inner lips (labia minora) may hang below the outer lips.

“One of my breast is bigger than the other – is that okay?”

Changes to your body is normal during puberty.

The size and shape of breasts is different for everyone. It’s also common for one breast to be slightly larger than the other, and this can be more common during puberty when one breast can develop faster than the other. Other people aren’t likely to notice.

And, while on the subject of breasts - nipple size and colour can also be different for each person and this can change during puberty.

“Everyone else has their period. When will I get mine?”

That depends. Generally girls get their periods between the ages of eight and 16.

Before you get your period, you’re likely to notice other changes in your body first – your breasts will start to grow, you might get a discharge from your vagina and you’ll start to grow hair under your arms and around your genitals.

So, if those changes have yet to happen you might have to wait for a bit longer.

It’s really common for girls to worry that everyone has their period except them or that they’re the only one who has their period.

Periods arrive when it is the right time for each individual girl – there is no right or wrong time.

“I have thick, white stuff coming from my vagina. Is there something wrong with me?”

This sounds like a vaginal discharge and it is totally normal. You will have different vaginal discharges throughout your menstrual cycle.

Usually about half way through your cycle, your vaginal mucus changes to a thinner texture that is more elastic and a clearer colour. This usually signifies when you are most fertile. It is totally normal.

If you’re having sexual intercourse – then it could be an infection such as thrush. If this could be you, the best thing is to get it checked out.

“My penis bends about half way down. Is this normal?”

Yes this is normal. Every penis is different and unique.

“My penis is very short when erect. What can I do about it?”

Every penis is different and unique and all penises come in different shapes and sizes. There isn’t anything you can do to make your penis longer. It will still be pleasurable to touch, and you can learn a range of ways to get and give pleasure.

“One of my balls is bigger than the other. Could something be wrong?”

Both testicles should be approximately the same size and weight so if one testicle is larger than the other, it would be a good idea for you to visit a doctor.

One testicle will likely hang a little lower in the scrotum than the other. This is so they are less likely to be knocked together when doing things like running.

“I’m a guy and recently I have grown what look like small breasts! What’s happening?"

This is very common and is caused by changing hormones. Many males grow breasts especially during puberty. They usually disappear as you continue to grow and may take 1 to 2 months to a couple of years to disappear. It would be a good idea to talk to you doctor about how you are feeling, as they will be able to offer support and guidance.

What if I really think there’s something different about me?

If you’re really worried about your body or the changes that are or aren’t happening, there are people you can talk with.

Family Planning or your doctor will be able to help. Your school nurse or counsellor may also be able to help or put you in contact with someone who can.

Could I be intersex?

Some people (about one in 2000) are born with conditions that mean their genitals are neither totally male nor totally female.

These people may be intersex – which is a general name for different conditions which can affect people’s sex chromosomes, genitals and other sex characteristics.

For some intersex people, the differences are visible in their external genitalia and for others they’re not.

Sometimes these differences don’t become apparent until puberty or sometimes even later. You can find more information on the Intersex Awareness New Zealand.

Got a question?

Our new website is a great source of information if you have a question. Use the search function to help find your answers.

Our nurses and doctors are always happy to answer questions. Make an appointment or drop-in to a clinic to talk to a nurse or doctor.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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