Puberty in girls

Around the age of 10 or 11, most girls notice changes in their bodies – this is called puberty. Read on girls, to find out everything you need to know about puberty.

Puberty in GirlsWhat is puberty in girls?

Puberty refers to the transition in life from being a girl into becoming a woman. It marks the inception of sexual maturity and a body which is capable of reproduction, marked by changes like breast development and mensuration.

Girls typically begin the process of puberty at age 10 or 11, and complete puberty by the time they are 15-17. The changes take place in all girls, but at different times – it could happen sooner for some and much later for others. Girls attain reproductive maturity four years after the first physical changes of puberty appear.

Puberty starts when extra amounts of chemicals called hormones are produced in the body. In girls, a hormone called oestrogen guides the changes that take place in the body.

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Physical changes you’ll notice during puberty:

Breast development: The first physical sign of puberty in girls is usually a firm, tender bump under the centre of the areola (coloured skin around the nipple) of one or both breasts. Some girls find that their breasts or nipple start to itch, this should stop when the breasts stop growing.

It is normal for one breast to grow faster than the other. They usually look more even, after they reach full development – which generally takes 3-4 years.

Pubic and underarm hair: Growth of pubic and underarm hair is often the second noticeable change in puberty. About three years after puberty begins, pubic hair will grow completely and fill the pubic triangle. By then, the underarm hair will also be denser. In some cases, one might see abdominal hair growing upward towards the naval and also hair growing on the thighs.

Vagina: The surface of the vagina undergoes changes in response to raising oestrogen levels, becoming thicker, and duller pink in colour (in contrast to the brighter red of pre-pubertal period). Girls will also experience a white discharge from the vagina, a normal effect of oestrogen.

Uterus and ovaries: With the onset of puberty the uterus, ovaries and the follicles in the ovaries increase in size. As time progresses, the uterus and ovaries mature and grow bigger in size.

Menstrual bleeding and fertility: The starting of a girl’s reproduction age is marked by menstruation. Menstruation is the shedding of the uterus lining that occurs on a monthly basis if fertilisation hasn’t occurred. It is a significant process which determines the fertility of a woman. Studies suggest that if a woman has experienced heavy irregularity in her menstruation, she is at an increased risk of infertility.

However, during the first two years, irregular periods are normal.

Body shape and fat distribution: In response to rising levels of oestrogen during puberty, the lower half of the pelvis and thus the hips widen in order to facilitate a larger birth canal. There is an increase in fat tissue, especially around the breasts, hips, buttocks, thighs, upper arms and pubis.

Body odour and acne: During puberty, rising levels of hormones change the composition of perspiration, resulting in a more ‘adult’ body odour. The hormones also increase secretion of oil, known as sebum from the skin. And this change causes acne, a skin condition characteristic of puberty. However, the severity can greatly vary.

Also check out Puberty in Girls: Say Hello to Sanitary Pads and Bras!

Photograph courtesy sxc.hu