Puberty in Girls

image001Puberty causes a lot of changes in both body and mind which can be overwhelming. At this time it is important to remember that all of the women in your life from mothers to teachers and friends went through this same period of change and can help answer your questions along the way. The period of developing into a young lady can be exciting, but also very intimidating. Understanding the changes your body is going through and what is normal can help you manage this time with more confidence.

When Does Puberty in Girls Occur?

When your body is ready to enter puberty, the brain releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone or GnRH, which stimulates the pituitary gland below the brain to produce puberty hormones. Both boys and girls have these hormones, but they will work on different parts of the body. For girls, puberty hormones target the ovaries to stimulate estrogen which will allow the body to mature to prepare for pregnancy. This usually occurs between the ages of 7-13 for girls, but your body will develop according to its own schedule.

The effects of puberty can last anywhere up to age 20. These changes occur in states rather than hitting the body all at once, so some girls may start to develop at a very young age but not show other signs of puberty until they are older. For example some girls may start to develop breasts when they are young but will not have their period until several years later.

What Are the Signs of Puberty in Girls?

Puberty Signs

Description

Body growing bigger

You may notice that your child is growing faster than they did in childhood, with their hands and feet getting much larger. They will get taller and the bones will increase in size, which can be awkward until their body becomes proportional again.

Breast changes

Girls will start to develop breasts which will slowly become fuller and can be a bit sore. They will need to start wearing proper undergarments to support these breasts, especially if they come from a family where breasts tend to be large.

Body hair growth

Body hair will start to grow in the pubic area and under the arms. Hair on the legs may become thicker and darker. Hair may also become curlier. This will take 1-3 years to fully develop.

Sweat and smell

Sweat glands will become more active, which will cause increased sweating. This usually comes in conjunction with breast development. Girls will need to start wearing deodorant to manage this.

Acne breakout

The pores will start to develop more oil which can cause acne or more oily hair. Girls will need to develop a skin care routine and start washing more frequently.

Genital development

The genitals will start to develop hair and increase in size. The uterus will also be getting bigger, though you will not be able to see this change.

Vaginal discharge

A creamy fluid will start to develop in the vagina as a way of self-cleansing. This can cause yellow or white stains in the underwear. This is a sign your period will start soon. If the discharge is thick or clumpy it could be a yeast infection.

First period

The body will start menstruation. It is normal for this to be unpredictable for the first two years, but regular cycles should develop eventually. Purchase items to protect clothing from the blood and track periods to start learning their schedule.

Mental and emotional changes

It is normal to have sexual urges and thoughts during puberty. You may also start to have more intense feelings which can cause mood swings. As you develop your feelings become more complex, which in some cases can make it easy to dwell on the negative. You may feel out of control, but this is perfectly normal. Managing your feelings and urges will become more intuitive with time. Try to relax and allow these feelings to pass in the m

Watch a video to learn more about puberty in girls--what triggers the changes and what will happen:

How to Deal With Puberty in Girls

Talking to a trusted adult is a good place to start. They can help you learn what to expect during puberty. If your hormones are making you feel restless, consider joining an activity that will help release excess energy like dance or sports. Try to remember, these changes are normal and it is healthy to share your feelings with someone you trust who can help you decide how to manage them. Many teens find that acting, writing, or making music or art are effective ways to manage stress and can help them feel better control their mood changes as well as having a better understanding of what’s going on in their body and mind.

If you are uncomfortable asking your parents, consider talking to a health care provider. You should also talk to your doctor if:

  • You are worried about puberty
  • Have irregular periods that do not seem to be moving into a regular cycle
  • Have long or very heavy periods
  • Experience a lot of cramping or pain during your period
  • Have itching or odors coming from the privates. This can be a sign of a sexually transmitted disease or yeast infection.
  • Heavy acne. Some special medications or soaps could help ease this.

How to Support Your Kid During Puberty As a Parent

  • Talk to her. In many cases puberty is painful and embarrassing. Parents have an important job of providing comfort and support during this time. Do not hesitate to get more support for yourself or your child if this seems necessary. Talk to your daughter about what is going on with their body and describe what normal changes are. If your daughter’s friends are going through changes she is not, be sure to explain that everyone develops differently.
  • Read with her. There are plenty of books and other resources about puberty you can provide for your child. Reading these together can help you bond with your daughter as you help her understand what is going on with their body and their emerging sexuality.
  • Find support. Many children are teased as puberty symptoms arise, so be sure to watch friends and teachers to ensure your child has plenty of support. If your child seems depressed or withdrawn, encourage activities such as a sleepover that will help them feel better. Try to remember, while your daughter’s body looks older they are still a child and may not act as old as they appear.