What is puberty?
Puberty refers to the specific physical changes that happen as a child develops into an adult. Though they happen in different areas of the body, these changes are all related to each other.
Some of these changes include: bone growth; getting taller; making hormones in the adrenal glands and ovaries; growing pubic hair, underarm hair, and breasts; and the start of regular, monthly menstrual bleeding. Ultitmately puberty causes the girl to become fertile and release eggs regularly.
During puberty, the brain starts to send increasing signals to the ovaries and adrenal glands. In response, the ovaries make the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Adrenal glands make small amounts of the “male” hormones (androgens) that are made in females. These cause the breasts to grow, cause pubic and underarm hair to grow, and start the menstrual periods.
How does my body change?
Your body changes during puberty — you are going from being a child to how you will be when you are an adult.
During puberty, a lot of different things happen.
- You’ll get taller, and this might happen quite quickly.
- Your nipples may look swollen and feel tender. This is the start of your breasts growing, and usually happens between the ages of 8 to 13.
- Your hips, bottom and thighs will probably get bigger and rounder.
- Inside your body, your ovaries and womb will get larger.
- Pubic hair will start growing around your vagina and under your arms. You may also find you have more hair on your legs. The hair will start off fine and straight, but become thicker and curlier.
- Your clitoris will get larger.
- Your first period, or menstruation, will probably arrive between the ages of 9 and 15 years. Every girl is different.
- Your vagina will start to produce a small amount of clear or cream-coloured fluid (called vaginal discharge). This fluid, which keeps the walls of the vagina clean, is normal and healthy.
- You may get oily skin and hair, and spots (acne) may develop on your face and body.
You may also find you sweat more.
- You may feel more emotional than usual and find you are sensitive to what others say.
These changes usually take place over about 4 years. By the time you are 16, you will have done most of your physical developing.