Dr. Magryta: Teenage female issues
Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 12, 2019
When it comes to teenagers, we are often so busy messing around with behavioral issues and preparing for them to fly the coop that we forget some of the basics of aging.
For young girls, they begin to transition to womanhood through puberty and can struggle with issues related to menstruation. A few things to pay attention to at this time are related to natural physiology. Regardless of age, teenage girls starting puberty are physiologically preparing for the ability to become pregnant. This means many things to all of us with young daughters. It means that they need extra special attention paid to their macro and micronutrient status so that they have a robust gut microbiome and immune system to handle the physiologic changes of adolescence and thereafter.
They need to eat a whole foods diet that is minimally processed and loaded with vitamins and minerals in order to set the table for a healthy womb and mind. Remember that this is regardless of our or their desire to become pregnant. This is speaking purely from a scientific medical standpoint to optimize health. Taking a prenatal multi mineral/vitamin also makes sense. I believe that food first is the key to health. The multi mineral/vitamin is an insurance policy against genetic risk for the offspring and mom.
Another serious but under assessed issue is teenage iron status reductions, presumably from heavy menstrual bleeding. According to Dr. Sekhar and colleagues, 9 percent of young females that were tested and were not anemic had Iron deficiency. (Sekhar et. al. 2017)
Iron levels are important for neurological and other systemic functions. If your teen has heavy periods, consider getting a serum ferritin level and a CBC to look for insufficient iron stores that can effect sleep and cognition.
Dr. O’Brien and colleagues in 2018 noted that 1/3 of all teenagers that have heavy periods have a bleeding disorder and are at increased for blood loss each month. An additional 1 in 2 of studied girls had iron deficiency in this study. (O’Brien et. al. 2018) If your teen suffers from heavy periods, ask her provider to look for a bleeding disorder like Von Willebrands or an inherited platelet disorder.
Sexual intercourse is on the decline in America. Unfortunately, condom use is on the decline in sexually active teenagers, putting them at risk. This is an unfortunate train wreck waiting to happen for a teen. I see far too many young girls with sexually transmitted diseases and/or pregnancy. The young man involved initially is often long gone, leaving the young girl grasping for help. This is deplorable and real at the same time. Education is the key. Have these conversations with your teen regardless of your perceived belief of your child’s risk.
“Love” has a funny way of clouding a teen’s mind. Abstinence is great if it can be achieved. If not, barrier contraception is the next best avenue to safety.
Finally, teenage social media addiction is a real issue. Monitor and propose limits on excessive activity. If non compliance is occurring, look at social media control apps like Our pact to provide a parental layer of support as they learn to be balanced and grounded. Being a parent means being involved with the madness that is uncontrolled social media and screen time.
Remember that sometimes a teenager may not be capable of making the right decision in the moment.
Thank God for a parent!
Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at email@example.com