Info For Teens
Puberty for Girls
Puberty is the time when our bodies begin to change from girls' bodies to women's bodies. It can take several years, and usually happens between the ages of nine and 17. Girls often start puberty before boys do.
What happens to a girl’s body during puberty?
Your body begins growing faster. How long this "growth spurt" lasts and how tall you will be at the end of it depends on a lot of things — but mostly it has to do with how tall your family members are. Some girls have uncomfortable growing pains in their arms and legs as the bones grow faster than the muscles can stretch to keep up with them.
During puberty, your breasts will start to change in size and shape. This change may happen quickly or slowly. And one breast may grow faster than the other. Your breasts may grow so fast they become sore. Your hips will start to widen. You may not even notice this because it's a very subtle change and goes on for a while.
Your clitoris will grow a little, too. The inner lips of your vulva will become more prominent. They may stick out from the outer lips. They can be short or long, wrinkled or smooth. Some are equal in size and shape on both sides. And some are not. The inner lips can vary in color from pink to brownish black depending on the color of a woman's skin. They may change color as women mature. They are also sensitive and can swell when a woman is aroused. There is a lot of diversity in what a woman’s inner lips look like, and that's normal.
Coarse hair (pubic hair) starts to grow under your arms and around and above your vulva, and finer hair begins to show on your legs and arms. You’ll probably begin to sweat more under your arms, and your sweat may smell different. This is easy to deal with — you can shower or bathe more often and begin using deodorant or antiperspirant if you don't like the smell.
During puberty, both girls and boys may develop acne (also called "pimples" or "zits"). Acne is very common and fairly easy to treat. Your health care provider can help you find a treatment that's right for you.
What’s a period?
At some point during puberty, you will begin to get your monthly period. Periods are part of a monthly cycle that most healthy women's bodies go through during their reproductive years (the part of their lives when they're able to have children). You don't usually see or feel the rest of the cycle, so your period is an indicator that the cycle happened.
The menstrual flow is usually heaviest during the first few days. Some women get cramps before or during their periods. This is normal and usually goes away with Tylenol or ibuprofen or the use of a heating pad. If you have a lot of cramping, you can get help from your health care provider. Some women feel irritable, bloated, or have any number of other symptoms before their period starts. These symptoms are temporary and are called "PMS," which stands for premenstrual syndrome.
At first, most women have "irregular" periods, meaning they don't have them every month, or at the same time from month-to-month. Most women become more regular after a year, although some women never do. Women’s cycles can be as short as 21 days or longer than 35 days. Most cycles are between 25 and 35 days long. There are a few things that could make your period late:
- excessive exercise — many female athletes have irregular periods
- not enough food (anorexia)
- big changes in your life — taking a trip somewhere, moving
- birth control — some hormonal methods of birth control can affect a woman's menstrual cycle
- illness — sometimes being sick or not feeling well can cause your period to be late
What is discharge?
Leukorrhea is the medical name for the white, yellow, or greenish sticky discharge that leaks out of the vagina once in a while. It can leave a stain on underwear. Leukorrhea is perfectly normal. Girls shouldn’t worry about it unless the vulva becomes itchy or irritated. If that happens, girls should see a health care provider.
How does puberty affect my emotions, moods, and thoughts?
During puberty, you'll start to have more sexual thoughts and urges. You'll develop an attraction to guys or girls or guys and girls, and you may discover what having a crush on someone feels like.
You may start to feel things more intensely. One minute you may feel on top of the world, and the next minute you may feel pretty down in the dumps.
As you get older, you begin to be able to think ahead, think about the past, and even analyze situations in a new way. Your new abilities allow you to have more complex thoughts and feelings, but one downside is that it can be harder to move on from negative emotions.
Some teens find that they are sexually aroused a lot when they are going through puberty. While being aroused a lot can feel embarrassing or out of control, rest assured that it is normal. As you get older and get more used to arousal, it will seem less intrusive and more in control. Some teens choose to masturbate to release sexual feelings, and others just wait for the feelings to pass.
Puberty can be very confusing. We might think a love relationship will help us feel stable. We may want it to be the one thing that does not change in our lives. But that might not be a realistic expectation.
How can I deal with my changing body and moods?
A good place to start is to talk with your parents or another trusted adult. Your parents have been through it — they can let you know what to expect and give you tips on how to deal with changes. Older sisters or cousins can be helpful, too.
Many teens find that writing, acting, or making music or art are good ways to manage stress and help them feel more in control of their moods. Your changing hormones may leave you hyper and restless, and finding a creative outlet — or doing something physical, like dancing or playing sports — can be a great way to release excess energy.
Remember: although your feelings may seem out of control, your changing moods are a normal part of growing up.
This is normal, and it's a good idea to share your feelings with someone you trust, especially if you feel very sad or frustrated. Everyone goes through puberty, so you should be able to find an adult who understands to help you sort out your feelings.
You can talk with a health care provider if you have questions that you don't want to ask your parents. Staff at the nearest Planned Parenthood health center can be very helpful.
When does puberty stop?
It can take up to 20 years of age for all the changes that happen during puberty to take place.
Puberty doesn't happen all at once — it happens in stages. So a girl may show some signs of puberty at an early age (like breasts beginning to grow), but may not show other signs of puberty until she is much older (like getting a period).