Puberty is when your body changes and you develop from being a girl to a woman. Learn what changes to expect so that you feel more prepared.
Expect Changes with Puberty
Know that you are going through a growth spurt.
You have not grown this much since you were a baby. You might grow 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) in a year. When you are done going through puberty, you will be almost as tall as you will be when you are a grown up. Your feet may be the first to grow. They seem really big at first, but you will grow into them.
Expect to gain weight. This is normal and needed to have healthy menstrual cycles. You will notice that you get curvier, with bigger hips and breasts than when you were a little girl.
Expect Lots of Body Changes
Your body makes hormones to get puberty started. Here are some changes you will start seeing. You will:
- Sweat more. You may notice that your armpits smell now. Shower every day and use deodorant.
- Start developing breasts. They start as small breast buds under your nipples. Eventually your breasts grow more, and you may want to start wearing a bra. Ask your mom or a trusted adult to take you shopping for a bra.
- Grow body hair. You will start getting pubic hair. This is hair on and around your private parts (genitals). It starts out light and thin and gets thicker and darker as you get older. You will also grow hair in your armpits.
- Get your period. See "menstrual periods" below.
- Get some pimples or acne. This is caused by the hormones that start in puberty. Keep your face clean and use non-oily face cream or sunscreen. Talk to your health care provider if you are having a lot of problems with pimples.
Know When Puberty Happens
Most girls go through puberty somewhere between being 8 to 15 years old. There is a wide age range when puberty starts. That is why some kids in 7th grade still look like young children and others look really grown up.
You may wonder when you will get your period. Usually girls get their period about 2 years after their breasts start to grow.
Each month, one of your ovaries releases an egg. The egg goes through the fallopian tube into the uterus.
Each month, the uterus creates a lining of blood and tissue. If the egg is fertilized by a sperm (this is what could happen with unprotected sex), the egg may plant itself into this uterus lining and result in a pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilized, it just passes through the uterus.
The uterus no longer needs the extra blood and tissue. The blood passes through the vagina as your period. The period usually lasts 2 to 7 days and happens about once a month.
Be prepared to get your period.
Talk to your provider about when you might start getting your period. Your provider may be able to tell you, from other changes in your body, when you should expect your period.
Keep supplies for your period in your backpack or purse. You will want some pads or pantiliners. Being prepared for when you get your period keeps you from being too worried.
Ask your mother, an older female relative, friend, or someone you trust to help you get supplies. Pads come in all different sizes. They have a sticky side so you can stick them on your underwear. Pantiliners are small, thin pads.
Once you have your period, you may want to learn how to use tampons. You insert a tampon into your vagina to absorb the blood. The tampon has a string that you use to pull it out.
Have your mother or a trusted female friend teach you how to use tampons. Change tampons every 4 to 8 hours.
Be Aware of Mood Swings
You can feel really moody right before you get your period. This is caused by hormones. You might feel:
- Have trouble sleeping
- Less confident about yourself. You may even have trouble figuring out what you want to wear to school.
Luckily, feeling moody should go away once you start your period.
Accept Changes in Your Body
Try to be comfortable with your body changing. If you are stressed about changes, talk to your parents or a provider that you trust. Avoid dieting to prevent normal weight gain during puberty. Dieting is really unhealthy when you are growing.
When to Call the Doctor
Talk to your health care provider if you have:
- Worries about puberty
- Really long, heavy periods
- Irregular periods that do not seem to get regular
- Lots of pain and cramping with your periods
- Any itching or odor from your private parts. This could be a sign of a yeast infection or a sexually transmitted disease.
- A lot of acne. You may be able to use special soap or medicine to help.
Garibaldi L, Chemaitilly W. Physiology of puberty. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JF III, Schor NF, Behrman RE, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 555.
Rosenfield RL, Cooke DW, Radovick S. Puberty and its disorders in the female. In: Sperling MA, ed. Pediatric Endocrinology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 15.
Review Date 11/20/2014
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.