Puberty is a phase in your life when you transition from childhood to adulthood. During this phase, you’ll experience different changes to your body as it matures. This includes physical, emotional, social and cognitive changes.
Change can be an exciting but also a confusing time, which is why it is important to know the changes that you’ll experience during puberty, before it happens!
To read more about puberty, click here.
Puberty for girls
Puberty for girls usually starts at around the ages of 10 and 14 and it doesn’t happen overnight. Puberty follows through different stages and it can last up to 4–8 years. You will generally notice these following physiological changes during puberty:
- Growing breasts
This is probably the first change you will notice in your body. What you may find is some swelling under the nipple. This process is the first stage of breast development called budding. Your nipples can be sore or tender to touch. Often, you notice this just on one side – don’t worry, it is common. The colour, size, and shape of your nipple will change too. The colour can change to become pink or darker and they can turn inward or stick out. Your breast and the areola (the dark skin around your nipple) will get larger too. Don’t be surprised if one side grows faster and bigger than the other. It is normal and the other will catch up in a few weeks or months. Once your breasts are finished growing, their size will be pretty close but may not be exactly the same. This is normal as our bodies are not exactly the same on each side, just like how one hand is usually slightly bigger than the other.
- Growing hair
Another change you will probably notice early in puberty is hair growing in new places in your body. These can be under your arms, in pubic area, or even the upper lip. However, if you start growing hair on your chest or chin, this may be a sign of hormone imbalance and it will be good to see your doctor.
Hormonal changes during puberty may trigger acne, which refers to whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. Increased hormone production stimulates production of sebum which may cause greasy skin, blocked pores, and acne. It is important to wash your face regularly to prevent buildup of blocked pores which causes acne. Using facial products which contain salicylic acid and makeup with non-comedogenic labels may also help to prevent acne formation.
During puberty, the sweat gland in armpits, groin, and feet become more active. Hence, you will naturally sweat more. When sweat mixes with the bacteria on our skin, it may cause body odor or foot odor. To minimize body odor, it is a good habit to wash your body with soap and change your clothes regularly, especially after physical activity. Changing underwear and any clothes worn right next to the skin is important. This is to prevent build-up of bacteria as these clothes collect dead skin cells, sweat, and body fluids – all of which is loved by bacteria. To minimize foot odour, your feet should be washed thoroughly and regularly in the shower. It also helps to change your socks regularly and air your shoes every now and then. If this is not enough, you can use foot scrubber to clear off dead skin cells regularly.
- Changes in body shape
During puberty, you may also go through a growth spurt. You will grow taller very quickly, your hip will widen, and your body will become curvier. Accompanying this growth, you will also gain weight. Gaining weight is a normal part of puberty and a sufficient and healthy diet is essential to support the growth which is happening in your body. It is unhealthy to go on a diet to try to prevent this normal weight gain and that may adversely affect your growth. This growth spurt usually happens 1-2 years after the start of your puberty and can last for up to 2-3 years. It is also usually around this time that menstruation starts.
- Vaginal Discharge
Not long after the breasts bud, you will start to have vaginal discharge – a clear / cream-coloured fluid produced by the vagina to keep the walls of vagina moist and clean. It is normal for the discharge to have a light odour and get thicker or stickier during menstrual cycle. However, if the odour gets stronger and the colour turns a dark yellow or green colour, it is recommended to see your doctor in case of infection.
One or two years after budding, you may notice a blood stain in your underwear. This may mean that you are getting your first period. Each month, the lining of your uterus is built up with extra blood and tissue as the body prepares for pregnancy. When an egg is fertilized, it is anchored into the wall of the uterus and needs the extra blood and tissue to grow and stay protected. However, if the egg does not get fertilized, the extra lining is not needed anymore. Therefore, the extra tissue and blood on the wall lining of the uterus is shed and comes out through the vagina.
A period usually lasts from 5 to 7 days. Blood flow is usually heavier during the first day or two and becomes lighter towards the end of your period. The colour of the blood may also be bright or dark red in the beginning and turns brown towards the end.
To read more about menstruation and the menstruation cycle, click here.
Personal hygiene gets even more important when you start having your period. There are a few hygiene measures you can take during menstruation:
- Wash your genital area with lukewarm water.
You can use vaginal soap on top of water to wash your genital area. However, do not use body soap as it may be too drying and it may affect the pH balance. Affecting the pH balance can kill good bacteria in your vagina and increase the chance of urinary / reproductive tract infection.
- Change underwear and sanitary protection regularly.
It is important to use clean undergarment and change them regularly, especially during your period. If you are using a sanitary pad, change it at least every six hours. If you are using a tampon, change it every 2-3 hours. It is important to not use your tampon overnight as it may cause toxic shock syndrome. Toxic shock syndrome is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by toxins from bacteria.