Your body changes
Girls usually mature a couple of years before boys – something that’s all too obvious at times! Puberty usually starts between 10 and 16 years of age, but there’s nothing wrong if you happen to be a bit younger or a bit older.
Puberty means that your body is in the process of changing from a child’s body to an adult one. The whole process takes a few years, or so. During puberty, you become sexually mature – meaning you can become pregnant, not that you’re suddenly an expert in all there is to know about sex!
Not all of the changes in your body happen at the same time, and the order in which they happen can differ from one person to another. Some girls develop breasts, grow pubic hair, start their periods, develop wider hips, and grow taller almost at once. Someone in the class is bound to start her periods before everyone else, but it’s quite possible that she’ll experience no more changes for a few years. Or you can start having vaginal discharges and your breasts might grow, but your periods take their time starting. Puberty is different for everyone, and you can’t hurry it up, no matter how much you might like to.
It’s absolutely OK to find puberty weird and a pain. It can be a confusing time dealing with the changes that happen, as it’s not just the outer you that changes, the inner does as well. You start thinking and feeling differently, growing into a different person from the child you were. Some people find it more exciting and fun, and don’t see it particularly as a problem. Hopefully, you’re one of them! Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing in advance how you, personally, are going to react to puberty. The only thing you can be absolutely certain of is that everyone goes through puberty, sooner or later. And that everyone gets through it!
You won’t wake up one morning and look completely different. The process is gradual, though occasionally things may take you by surprise, so it helps to have an idea about what’s likely to happen so you don’t end up worried unnecessarily.
Take breasts, for example. Many girls realise they’ve entered puberty because their breasts become tender, or slightly lumpy. Sometimes it feels as though there’s a small pea sitting behind your nipple. The ‘pea’ is a sign your breast is growing and is nothing to worry about. Your breasts will probably also grow at slightly different rates – it happens that way for most women. The breast that grows more slowly usually catches up, by and large, but very few full-grown women have breasts of exactly the same size. No one else notices but them. Your feet are unlikely to be identically in size either, but it would be weird to freak out about that, so don’t get into a state about breasts either!
Puberty is also when hair starts sprouting in various places on your body it hasn’t been before. That’s mainly around your genitals and under your arms, but some girls get extra hair growth on their arms or legs, for example. There’s no need to feel like some sort of furry freak if this happens. Pubic hair is designed to protect your more delicate bits and to keep them ventilated. In other words, it’s a good thing to have. And don’t worry – you’re not going to grow an entire forest of hair overnight!
One of the things about puberty that might seem completely unnecessary, not to say hugely annoying, is that the glands in your face start producing oils that make your skin greasy. Greasy skin = spots (also known as acne). Fortunately, the spots disappear after a while, but it’s no fun having a pimple right on the end of your nose on the very day that the school photographer is coming. Your sweat glands will also start working harder during puberty, so you’ll find yourself sweating more than before. The sweat might smell a bit different, too, so washing thoroughly every day and using a deodorant is a good idea.
A lot of people grow taller very rapidly during puberty. If you buy new jeans, it’s a good idea to buy them longer than you need, because it would be a shame if a month later they were flapping around mid-calf! Girls also grow wider around the hips. This is because your pelvis is growing to allow you to give birth to a child. And because you’re getting bigger in every direction, it’s quite normal for your weight to increase during puberty.
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