Puberty for Girls: What to Expect

November 12, 2012

Puberty for Girls: What to Expect

Puberty for girls can be a rough transitional phase. Being a teenager is already hard enough without the addition of hormones and body changes.

So you wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and realize that you are starting to look different. Your clothes don’t fit as well and you feel taller. Your emotions seem to be all over the place and you are anxiously waiting for further signs of womanhood. Puberty for girls can be a blessing or a curse depending on how well someone is prepared to handle it. If caught completely by surprise, you may be lost, confused, and overly agitated when you should be adapting to the changes taking place.

Effects of Puberty

Puberty for girls is the result of a combination of hormones triggering physical and mental responses. Estrogen is responsible for most of the changes and will begin to affect girls as early as the age of nine. The process is different for every girl, but every healthy girl will eventually hit all the stages of puberty. On average, puberty for girls takes place sooner than puberty for boys.

Some things to expect include:

  • Hair growth- This is one of the earliest signs of puberty. Hair will begin to appear in new places such as the pubic area and armpits. There may also be a significant increase in the amount of hair growing on the legs and arms. You may have noticed that many women shave parts of their body hair. Talk to your parent about shaving if it is something you would like to start doing so you can do it safely. There are cultures where women do not shave so talk to your mother about any family customs.

  • Growing up- You will begin to grow taller and put on weight. The extremities grow first which means your arms and legs will grow followed by your torso. You may notice that the girls in your class are almost as tall if not taller than the boys. This is because they have their growth spurt later. Weight will begin to redistribute itself through your body and you will notice fat settling in your upper back, hips, and thighs. If you get an annual physical, your doctor will be able to track your weight gain and growth.

  • Development of breasts- Breasts are one of the most noticeable signs of puberty. This is the time to talk to a parent about possible using a training bra so that you can get comfortable with wearing a bra before you actually need the support. It will probably be necessary to change bra sizes a few times throughout puberty.

Menstruation

Getting a period is the hallmark of puberty for girls. Every girl will begin menstruation so never feel embarrassed about trying to better understand it. The average age for the first period is about 12-13 but it can be sooner or later. If you have not started your period by high school, it is recommended that you speak with a healthcare professional. Your period will normally start with a few days of heavy blood flow followed by a few days of lighter blood flow. A tampon or pad will need to be worn in order to protect your clothes. Your parents can help you find the option right for you. It is also good to note that school nurse’s often have a supply on hand in case your period catches you by surprise. Sadly, the menstruation process has some irritating side effects:

  • Nausea

  • Cramps

  • Bloating

  • Pain in the back and legs

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Diarrhea

There are a number of over the counter medications designed specifically for period related ailments. Heating pads, hot showers, and light stretching can also help relieve symptoms.

Your body is in on a set hormonal cycle which results in a regular menstruation every month. As hormones surge before each period, you may find yourself experiencing severe mood swing and moodiness. This is often referred to as premenstrual syndrome or PMS. It can result in:

  • Food cravings

  • Retention of fluids

  • Sleeping problems

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

The effects of PMS normally vanish within a few days of your period starting. With all the changes occurring, some girls may experience self-esteem issues. It is common to compare yourself to other girls, but it is important to work on being satisfied with you. If you are feeling very sad or you simply need someone to listen, find a person you trust who you can confide in.

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