Going through puberty can be confusing and overwhelming for girls. Your body rapidly changes in unexpected ways that are sometimes embarrassing. If you’ve noticed new hair growth, breast development or other odd symptoms lately, you likely have questions. Read on to learn more about the signs that you’ve embarked on this transition from girlhood into womanhood.
What Is Puberty?
Puberty refers to the phase when girls biologically progress into functioning adults capable of reproduction. While customs vary globally, in most cultures after puberty you’re viewed as a woman regardless of age.
During this time your body transforms through changes like breast growth, menstruation and more. But what exactly signals that puberty has begun? Let’s explore some of the most common first signs.
Breast Development and Bras
One of the first indications puberty has started is tiny lumps forming under the nipple called breast buds. This means the mammary glands are starting to expand.
Try not to worry if your breasts look a bit strange or lopsided initially. They’ll likely keep growing until you’re 17 or 18 years old. Breasts come in vastly different shapes and sizes, so some asymmetry is very normal.
While you probably don’t need to rush out and buy bras immediately, having comfortable bralettes or training bras on hand helps provide support as changes progress.
Dealing With Unwanted Body Hair
Right around the onset of breast development, you’ll likely notice more hair growing around your bikini line, legs and underarms. Remember – body hair growth is 100% natural. The hair keeps sensitive regions protected and clean.
Shaving or waxing is optional, but helps many girls feel more confident. Take your time figuring out hair removal techniques right for your skin sensitivity. Never feel pressured either way by media images or friends. Your comfort comes first.
Preparing For Your First Period
Menstruation (a monthly period) typically begins between 10-15 years old, or about two years after breasts start budding. Despite inevitability, periods still surprise many girls! But try not to view it as “bad timing.” Your body knows what it’s doing.
During your cycle, the uterus builds up a lining preparing for possible pregnancy. When fertilization doesn’t occur, the unused lining sheds through the vagina. For the first few periods, flow might seem brownish or odd since the uterine lining takes time to slough off regularly.
Cycle length varies widely too – anywhere from 21-35 days. Tracking periods helps you identify what’s “normal” for your body long-term. But irregularity persists for many females into adulthood.
Decoding Vaginal Discharge
Another common change is vaginal discharge. Discharge keeps the vagina healthy by cleansing, lubricating and maintaining an ideal pH.
You’ll likely notice more wetness or strange fluids on your underwear even before fertility sets in. Discharge changes texture and color throughout the menstrual cycle due to hormone fluctuations. Pay attention to normal vaginal odor and textures for you. Alert a doctor promptly about abnormal discharge.
Moodiness, Cramps and Other Premenstrual Woes
Hormones like estrogen and progesterone don’t just influence bodily changes and reproduction. They also affect moods and emotions.
Many girls experience sadness, irritability, food cravings or fatigue leading up to their periods due to “Premenstrual Syndrome” (PMS). Cramps aren’t uncommon either.
Luckily PMS symptoms typically decrease after the first day or two of menstruation when flow stabilizes hormones. Over-the-counter pain relievers, heating pads and gentle exercise alleviates cramps for most women.
Puberty Comes With Growth Spurts Too
Besides breast development and periods, one obvious puberty change is rapid physical growth. Thanks to surging estrogen levels, your hips will widen to allow for easier childbirth later on.
It’s also common for pubescent girls to gain a few inches in height each year. Make sure to get fitted properly for bras, athletic wear and other garments as your proportions transform.
And while frustrating, try not to worry about temporary gawkiness or clumsiness. Your coordination will catch up as the growth spurts slow down!
Battling Body Odor and Acne
Unfortunately puberty brings some less fun side effects as well. Sweat and oil glands work overtime thanks to hormones and genetics. This winds up causing body odor (BO) and acne breakouts.
Washing regularly with antimicrobial soap coupled with over-the-counter acne medications helps control mild to moderate flare-ups. Wearing natural fibers, using deodorant and avoiding pore-clogging makeup assists too.
Remember even supermodels deal with blemishes and BO! Having a balanced diet, drinking water and getting enough sleep goes a long way toward healthy skin and hair regardless of age.
Puberty Unfolds at Your Body’s Pace
Even though puberty causes embarrassment and discomfort temporarily, changes occur gradually over several years. Try to be patient with your body as it blossoms into womanhood.
Lean on loved ones for support and let teachers or doctors know if you need help navigating challenges that arise. Stay confident knowing every girl faces the same awkwardness on their way to adulthood!