Your Changing Body

A lot is going on right now… learn how your brain, body and personality are all developing in their own way.

Your Body: Puberty and Physical Changes

Puberty is the time in your life when your body begins to mature physically. Sexually, this means boys develop the ability to produce sperm and girls are able to become pregnant. Puberty can start as early as age 9, or as late as age 16. You don’t have any control over when it starts or how it affects you.

Sometimes, puberty may seem like you’re “morphing” into someone you don’t even recognize – but it’s honestly a normal part of growing up.

Puberty is such an important time in everyone’s life that most adults remember it like it was yesterday, even though it may have happened to them years ago. If you’ll take the time to ask your parents or the adults you trust, they should be able to relate, maybe tell you how they felt and offer some good advice, too.

Some parents are hesitant to talk about it because, as much as they WANT to help you, they either are embarrassed or don’t know how to bring it up. So why not try asking THEM a question instead of waiting for them to ask you?

Take a look at the chart below that lists the many physical changes that take place during puberty.
Even when you’re sleeping, your body is busy, turning you into an adult.

Your Brain: It’s Changing, Too!

Research shows that many areas of the teenage brain are still developing, and this is one reason some teens have difficulty with behavior and learning. Brain development, just like the physical changes, also varies from person to person.

While your brain is in the middle of this big growth spurt, you may become frustrated with yourself. Some days, it will seem like you can’t make a decision, can’t figure things out. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry; whether to jump up and do something on impulse, or sit still and keep thinking about it. You may be full of plans and dreams, but have no idea how to carry them out, or even how to get started. Strange as it seems this is NORMAL, and it won’t last forever.

The best thing you can do when you’re feeling like this is…nothing! Try to keep some structure in your life – no big decisions, no big emotions. Just keep up with your schoolwork, job and family responsibilities and try not to stress out. During this time, it is VERY important for you to have trusted adults in your life that you can check in with. Just someone to bounce your ideas off and blow off some steam will help a lot.

(The research: Weinberger, D.R., Elvevag, B., Giedd, J.N. The adolescent brain: a work in progress. National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2005.)

It Feels Like a Rollercoaster: Emotional and Social Changes

One of the most common feelings in teenagers is the need to “fit in,” and it can be pretty intense. You want to be noticed, and to get the positive attention you need, from friends instead of getting it all from your family. You would almost always rather hang out with your friends than with your parents, siblings, grandparents, and so on. You want MORE PRIVACY, and you want everyone else in your family to GET THAT, and respect it.

All this is normal. It’s part of learning to become independent, to make your own choices and figure out your own opinions. It can also be a time of maximum communication – you’re always talking on the phone, texting, and emailing so much that it mystifies (and frustrates) your parents!

Have you ever thought about what YOUR big transformation looks like from THEIR point of view? For years, your parents have helped you and supported you. Now, you’re never around and, even when you are around, it seems to them like you’d rather be anywhere else. You can’t really blame them for feeling left out of your life.

Adults also see your highs and lows, and it reminds them of their own teenage years – because, hey, NOBODY can forget them! If you’re acting rebellious or really sad, or if you’re having trouble at school or with a boyfriend or girlfriend, they worry about you and try to think of ways to help. Will any of their ideas work for you? Well…you never know until you listen.

Are You Ready For Sex?

Take a minute and ask yourself some important questions about sex and if you truly feel ready.

Deciding whether or not to have sex can be a tough decision to make. Before you have sex, here are some questions worth considering
  • How am I going to feel about myself afterward?
  • How am I going to feel about my partner afterward?
  • Why do I think I want to have sex?
  • Do I feel I am being pressured into having sex?
  • Is having sex ‘okay’ with my values? With my family’s values?
  • Is this something I really want to do at this point in my life?
  • Am I ready for all the emotions that a sexual relationship can bring up?
  • What if I (or for guys, ‘my girlfriend’) gets pregnant? Am I ready to deal with that possibility?
  • Am I responsible and knowledgeable about birth control and preventing STIs?
  • Have I talked with my partner about birth control and STIs?
  • Have I talked with my partner about sex we may have had with other people?
  • Have we both been tested for STIs, including HIV – and shared that information honestly with each other? Did we talk about the “window period” for STIs and HIV testing?
    • The time it takes a test to show if you have STIs or HIV, after you have had contact with someone who has an STI or HIV. Window periods vary for each type of STI and for HIV; please call a health clinic for exact window periods for each STI or HIV.

If you decide to become sexually active, it’s important to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.

What If You’re Just Not Ready?

If you don’t feel you’re physically or emotionally ready for sex, you’re not alone: More than one-half of U.S. high school students have not had sex.

That doesn’t mean you’re not tempted. Peer pressure as a teen can be amazingly strong, and so is the human sex drive. So, how do YOU stay even STRONGER in your desire to wait until it’s the right time – for you? Here are some smart, safe strategies for doing that:

  • If you date, make sure your boyfriend or girlfriend understands that you’re not ready to go all the way.
  • Hang out with groups of people, and avoiding being alone with only your date.
  • Hang out with friends who make it clear that they believe it’s okay to wait to have sex – they won’t hassle you, pressure you or tease you about waiting, too.
  • Be aware of the common lines (see below) that someone may use to try to pressure you into having sex – and don’t fall for ‘em!
  • Stick up for your friends if they’re being pressured to have sex.

Saying ‘NO’ to sex

Sex is something you should discuss with your partner before things get too hot and heavy. Trying to backtrack when you’re already in a lip-lock doesn’t work nearly as well as talking about your feelings when you’re both calm and cool.

Decisions under pressure are much tougher decisions to make and follow through on. But if you do feel you’re being pressured, here are some tips.

  • Take a deep breath and say these words, “No, I don’t want to have sex.”
  • If the question arises while you are kissing or fooling around, stop what you are doing and change the tone of the moment. Stop kissing and fooling around. Emphasize your actions with words. Say something like: “I don’t want to have sex.”
  • Be prepared for questions and/or objections. Stay true to yourself and your stated feelings.
  • Calmly explain why you choose abstinence. List all of your reasons like: “I don’t think it is moral to have sex before marriage,” or “my education and career are too important to let sex mess them up,” or “I don’t feel comfortable having sex this early in our relationship,” or “I don’t want to have sex until we use birth control and get tested for STIs,” or “I’m scared and am just not ready now.”
  • If you have had sex before don’t let the other person use this to bully you into it now. Just because you have done it before doesn’t mean you have to do it every time you are asked.
  • Tell the other person how you feel about them and be honest. If you don’t feel close enough to them yet, say so. If you really love them but aren’t interested in sex, say so.
  • Tell the other person the depth of your commitment to abstinence. If you don’t plan on having sex until you are married, say so. If you are curious but not ready, say so.
  • If the other person keeps on pressing, say “No!” again. You may have to say this more than once to make them see you are serious.
  • Do not try to diffuse the tension with lots of kissing and/or other physical gestures; this will confuse your message of “No!”
  • Draw the line firmly and if the other person doesn’t appear to be getting it, leave.
  • If the other person starts trying to coerce you or force you to have sex YELL “No!” and physically push them away. Leave and talk about it the next day.
  • If the other person pulls the old, “If you loved me you’d do it” line, tell them “If you loved me you’d wait.” Sex is not a test of your love or feelings for another person and saying “No!” to sex does not mean you have failed to show your love.
  • If you feel uncertain of your ability to stay true to your initial “No!”, leave. Your first instinct was to say no and now is not the time to second guess yourself.
  • Saying no now does not mean you are saying no forever.


  • Abstinence is the only 100% effective form of birth control and the only way you can guarantee you won’t catch an STI.
  • If you aren’t a virgin you can still choose abstinence with pride, it is okay to say yes one time and no another, even if it is to the same person.
  • Having sex is a big deal and abstaining from sex is more than acceptable. Despite what rumors and gossip may suggest, the majority of students in most high schools are abstinent.
  • If you kiss somebody passionately or get into heavy fooling around this does not mean that you have to go all the way and it doesn’t make you a tease.
  • Intimacy takes many forms, intercourse is not the only or best way to show somebody the depth of your feelings. Hugging, kissing, and sharing feelings and emotions are equally rewarding ways to show intimacy. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

(The above material is advice from’s Jessica Stevenson. The material was edited for content and adapted for this website.)

This is about making a safe, healthy decision THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU. Make sure you can THINK, ACT, and COMMUNICATE clearly. If you can’t do all three of those things, others can take advantage of you.

Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings. If the person you’re with really cares about you, they will respect your wishes. And never, EVER feel obligated to “pay someone back” with sex in return for an expensive date or gift. YOU can’t be “bought!”

Good Websites for more information:

  • The Naked Truth – An eye-opening page written especially for teens, where you can get the latest info about STDs/STIs and read stories of real-life people who have first-hand experience with them.
  • I Wanna Know – On this site, you’ll find everything from extremely honest info about sex (click on “Sex on the Brain”), to questions to ask about tattoos and body piercing.

Is it sex?

Did you know there are 5 types of sex? Get the details here on what is considered sex and what isn’t.

Did you realize there are FIVE types of sex?

Each type involves a different kind of genital contact with another partner. Even looking at this list can be kind-of embarrassing for some people, but you really need to know this stuff! The five types are:

  • Vaginal penetration
  • Anal penetration
  • Oral (mouth) contact with a partner’s genitals
  • Manual/Digital (hands/fingers) contact with a partner’s genitals
  • Skin-to-skin contact with a partner’s genitals

Some teens are having oral, anal and/or skin-to-skin contact, and they’ll absolutely swear that what they’re doing “isn’t REALLY sex.” NOT TRUE! All five kinds of sex require some type of protection against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and/or the possibility of pregnancy.

Abstinence is making a decision to NOT have sex. It’s a choice people make at different times in their lives, and for different reasons. Some teens choose not to have sex because of religious reasons, while other teens choose not to have sex so they can focus on school. And some teens abstain in order to avoid STI and pregnancy.

If you choose to have sex, knowing the facts about birth control/condoms will help reduce your chance of STI and pregnancy. But remember, abstinence is the most effective way to prevent STIs and pregnancy.

Birth Control

There are many different types of birth control. Doing your homework can help you make a smart choice and prevent pregnancy.

Birth Control Methods

Vaginal Suppositories or Foam

Effectiveness: perfect use: 82% Typical: 71%
Advantages: easy to use, no hormonal side effects, over the counter
Disadvantages: no protection from STIs, can cause irritation, can be messy


Effectiveness: perfect use: 92% Typical: 85%
Advantages: helps protect against STIs, no hormonal side effects, over the counter
Disadvantages: must be put on correctly before having sex.


Effectiveness: perfect use: 94% Typical: 84%
Advantages: does not affect menstrual cycles
Disadvantages: no protection from STIs, spermicides can increase risk of STIs.


Effectiveness: perfect use: 99.7% Typical: 92%
Advantages: no interruption of sex
Disadvantages: no protection from STIs, can be difficult to use, possible side effects.


Effectiveness: 100% in preventing pregnancy & STIs
Disadvantage: difficult to abstain for long periods of time.


Effectiveness: 100% in preventing pregnancy.


Effectiveness: perfect use: 99.7% Typical: 92%
Advantages: similar as the pill, once a week
Disadvantages: no protection from STIs, possible side effects.


Effectiveness: perfect use: 99.7% Typical: 97%
Advantages: similar to the pill, highly effective
Disadvantages: no protection from STIs, possible side effects.

Vaginal Ring

Effectiveness: perfect use: 99.7% Typical: 92%
Advantages: similar to the pill
Disadvantages: no protection from STIs, possible side effects.


Effectiveness: more than 99%
Advantages: can stay in for 3 years
Disadvantages: no protection from STIs.

Fertility Awareness Method

Effectiveness: typical: 75%
Advantages: does not require using a contraceptive
Disadvantages: very high failure rates, this method is not encouraged!


Effectiveness: more than 99%
Advantages: always stays in place, doesn’t interfere with sex
Disadvantages: no protection from STIs, periods may be affected.

Do These Birth Control Options Work?

True or False

  1. Douching prevents pregnancy.


    Douching (using feminine rinsing products) does not prevent pregnancy. Douching products can increase yeast infections and pelvic inflammation.

  2. Urinating after sexual intercourse prevents pregnancy.


    Urinating after sex will not help prevent pregnancy. However, it may help prevent urinary tract infections.

  3. Homemade condoms fashioned from saran wrap, plastic bags, or sandwich bags prevents pregnancy.


    Homemade condoms fashioned from saran wrap, plastic bags, or sandwich bags will not help prevent pregnancy.

  4. Stopping intercourse before the woman has an orgasm prevents pregnancy.


    Women can become pregnant if they have an orgasm or not.

  5. Stopping intercourse before the male ejaculates (pull-out) prevents pregnancy.


    Males release pre-ejaculate during intercourse that may contain sperm.

  6. Having sex standing up prevents pregnancy.


    Women can become pregnant in any position.

  7. Having sex during your period prevents pregnancy.


    Having sex during a woman’s period does not prevent pregnancy. Women can become pregnant at any time.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Honest facts about what STIs are, how you can get them, and what to do about them.

STI or STD – What’s the difference?

STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. STI stands for sexually transmitted infection. STI is the broader and more modern term for all diseases and infections that can result from sexual activity. On this web site, we use the term STI.

STIs can have lifelong physical and psychological consequences. In some cases, if they go untreated, they can cause serious health problems. And yet, the social stigma about STIs keeps many people from talking honestly with their partners – and from getting tested and getting the medical help they need.

Exactly what can you “CATCH” by having sex?

There are three groups of STIs: bacterial, viral, and parasites.

Bacterial STIs include gonorrhea and syphilis. These can often be treated and cured if caught early enough.

Viral STIs include HIV, HPV (genital warts), and herpes. They have no cure, but their symptoms can be eased with treatment, and people who have these infections should also take safety measures to reduce the risk of exposing their partners.

Some infections are not “technically” STIs, but they can be spread through close human contact, including sex. The most common ones include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis – a bacterial imbalance
  • Hepatitis B – a virus
  • Molluscum contagiosum – a virus
  • Scabies, lice, crabs – parasites
  • Trichomoniasis – a parasite

How do you “catch” an STI?

STIs are transmitted from one partner to another partner through close contact and bodily fluids. This means vaginal fluids, semen, blood and saliva. It’s a common misunderstanding that you have to have sexual intercourse to get an STI –that’s just not true. Any contact with the mouth, genitals and/or anus of a person with an STI, can give the STI to his or her partner.

How do you prevent an STI?

“Did you realize there are FIVE types of sex?

Each type involves a different kind of genital contact with another partner. Even looking at this list can be kind-of embarrassing for some people, but you really need to know this stuff! The five types are:

  • Vaginal penetration
  • Anal penetration
  • Oral (mouth) contact with a partner’s genitals
  • Manual/Digital (hands/fingers) contact with a partner’s genitals
  • Skin-to-skin contact with a partner’s genitals

Some teens are having oral, anal and/or skin-to-skin contact, and they’ll absolutely swear that what they’re doing “isn’t REALLY sex.” NOT TRUE! All five kinds of sex require some type of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and/or the possibility of pregnancy.”  Sexual abstinence (not engaging in sexual activity) / [hover text] is the only reliable way to prevent an STI. If you are sexually active, you can reduce STI risks by always using a latex condom and limiting the number of sexual partners you have. To further reduce your chance of getting an STI it is recommended that you:

  • Talk openly with your partner about his or her risk for an STI.
  • Talk openly about your risk for an STI.
  • Get tested for STIs.
  • Talk honestly with your partner about STI test results.
  • Talk to your partner about the number of sexual partners he or she has had and the number of sexual partners you have had.

How do you know if you have an STI?

Not all STIs include symptoms that are easy to identify; some people don’t see or feel any symptoms at all. That’s one reason STIs are so common – someone can be unaware that they have an infection, and pass it on without realizing it.

So, the only way to know for certain if you’ve been infected is to be tested at a health clinic or doctor’s office.

For more information about protecting yourself from STIs, and about the types and symptoms, testing and treatment, visit the CDC website.

Other sources of STI information: