Your Most Embarrassing Gyno Questions, Answered
OK, so going to the gynecologist isn't exactly fun. But the good thing about your annual visit is that it's a one-stop, totally confidential way to get your most sensitive questions answered. And it's essential that you ask them! After all, there's nothing more important than keeping your dancer body—every part of your dancer body—in tip-top shape. If you're feeling shy or embarrassed, just remember: Gynecologists have heard it all. Here are the answers to some of the questions they get asked the most.
My periods are irregular. Should I be worried?
Teens often expect to get their period on the same day each month, but normal cycles range from 21 to 35 days. “It's also common to have periods outside this range when you first start having them," says Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. If you've already started your period but it's frequently irregular, check in with your doctor.
Dancers, like many female athletes, often get their first period later than their peers due to their intense activity level. Dr. Colleen Cavanaugh, a gynecologist in Providence, RI, says there's usually no reason to worry (unless you're severely underweight). Getting a first period anywhere between the ages of 10 and 15 is normal. Your doctor may recommend going on a contraceptive pill to help get your periods started or make them come more regularly.
My periods are so heavy and painful. Any advice?
For those prone to painful periods, Dr. Lauren Streicher, a gynecologist and associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, recommends popping an Advil the day before you start menstruating, to ward off excessive cramps and even lighten bleeding. Then continue as needed during your period. A heating pad can also be a lifesaver on painful days.
If your period pain regularly forces you to call in sick to school or the studio, or if you need to change a large tampon or pad every hour, it's time to talk to your doctor. Very rarely, severe cramps during menstruation may be a sign of endometriosis, a condition where uterine lining grows outside the uterus. If you're otherwise healthy, your doctor may prescribe a birth control pill or suggest a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), a tiny T-shaped object that can stay in your uterus for up to five years—certain types have been proven to reduce bleeding and discomfort.
My body is changing—and I'm not sure if I look normal. What does “normal" even look like?
Every teen wonders if her body looks normal—but this is especially true for dancers, who go through puberty in front of full-length mirrors. Remember that normal development looks very different on everyone.
For vulvas (the visible part of your vagina), Streicher says there's a broad range of normal. “They can differ drastically in color, shape and amount of pubic hair, and they're often asymmetrical," she says. “Just like noses can be short or long, so can your labia—the inner and outer folds of the vulva at either side of the vagina."
The same is true for breasts and nipples, which can range drastically in size, shape and color. Asymmetry is also common, especially while developing, so don't be alarmed if one of your breasts is larger than the other. “Nipples range from light pink to brownish black. Some stick out like buttons, and others look more like slits," McDonald-Mosley says. “Remember, different is normal."
How much vaginal discharge is normal?
Most teens will start to notice some clear or white discharge on their underwear starting during puberty. This liquid, called leucorrhea, is completely natural. It may have a mild odor, but it actually helps your vagina stay clean.
How much you see will change slightly throughout your menstrual cycle, getting heavier when you're ovulating. “That's all completely normal," Cavanaugh says. “But if it's dark, itchy, has an intense odor, or comes with pelvic pain, you should see a doctor to check for an infection."
My doctor recommended birth control (for acne/heavy periods/pregnancy prevention), but I'm worried about gaining weight and other side effects.
According to Streicher, scientific studies say that the correlation between birth control pills and weight gain is a myth! That being said, each type of pill affects each body differently. Your doctor will do his or her best to prescribe the best option for your needs. (Streicher says that's usually a pill with a low dose of estrogen). You're most likely to experience nausea, spotting (bleeding between periods) or breast tenderness within the first two to three months after starting birth control, but then those symptoms usually go away. If you continue to notice unwanted side effects, feel free to ask if you can try something different. Just give it some time before making a switch.
What's the deal with the HPV vaccine? Do I need it?
HPV stands for human papillomavirus, a very common virus that is usually sexually transmitted. Some high-risk types of HPV can cause genital warts or cervical or other cancers, while other, low-risk types don't have harmful effects at all.
The HPV vaccine, called Gardasil, protects against the most common types that cause genital warts and cancer, and it's administered through three shots over a period of six months. “I encourage all my patients to get vaccinated as soon as possible," Streicher says. “Ideally, they'd do it even before they become sexually active, and it's FDA-approved for girls as young as 9 years old." No matter your age or sexual experience, ask your doctor about it—your body will thank you later
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.
The coolest place she's ever performed:
I'd have to say the Super Bowl. The field was so cool, and Katy Perry was right there. And there were so many eyes—definitely the most eyes I've ever performed for!
Something she's constantly working on:
My feet. I'm flat-footed, so I'm always hearing, 'Point your toes!' And I'm like, 'I am!'
My hair! That, and a pair of leggings with a T-shirt or tank top.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
For a long time, I was the strongest dancer at my studio. But this year there's a new girl in my class who's very talented, and my teacher's attention has definitely shifted to her. I'm trying not to feel jealous or discouraged, but it seems like my whole dance world has changed. Help!
In the dance world, Mandy Moore has long been a go-to name, but in 2017, the success of her choreography for La La Land made the rest of the world stop and take notice. After whirlwind seasons as choreographer and producer on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," she capped off the year with two Emmy Award nominations—and her first win. Dance Magazine caught up with her to find out how she's balancing all of her dance projects.
Marzia Memoli may be the Martha Graham Dance Company's newest dancer, but her classical lines and easy grace are already turning heads. Originally from Palermo, Italy, Memoli started studying at age 16 at the Academy of Teatro Carcano in Milan. Later, she attended the Rudra Béjart School in Lausanne, Switzerland, before heading to NYC in 2016 to join MGDC. This month, she'll perform The Rite of Spring in the Martha Graham Studio Series in NYC, and tour with the company in Florida. Read on for the dirt.