This page is divided into two parts. First, for kids. Second, for parents.
Part I: Girls and Puberty
So I'm Going Through Puberty - Yikes:
Puberty is a time in which the body - and everything else - changes. It's the time where girls become women, boys become men, and everything changes. Puberty is caused by a number of hormones in the body all working together to start a number of physical and emotional changes.
It's also a time when you might start feeling insecure about the way you look, wondering how to fit in with the cool kids, and how to become independent from your parents.
Here are some things to expect when you're going through puberty.
When Will I Start Puberty?
Puberty hits at all different times, and depends a lot upon when your parents went through puberty. The changes you go through during puberty don't happen overnight - generally, they take years.
Girls tend to go through puberty before boys do - puberty for girls begins between ages 7 and 13 although it can start earlier or later.
Boys tend to start puberty between ages 9 and 15.
When Will I Grow Breasts?
One of the first signs that you're starting puberty is the growth of breasts. Your chest will appear less and less flat as the breasts begin to grow - sometimes the first growth is called "breast buds." It may feel tingly or itchy as your breasts grow, but that stops when your breasts are developed.
When you begin growing breasts, you may want to get a bra. Likely, you'll go through several bra sizes before your breasts are done growing. Have your mom, dad, or older sister to take you somewhere that can help actually fit you and size you properly. There's NOTHING worse than an ill-fitting bra.
One Of My Breasts Is Bigger Than The Other:
Like everything else on the body, sometimes the growth rate of your breasts may be a little lopsided, which can be kinda embarrassing. If it's REALLY noticeable, you can have your mom buy you a bra that has padding.
Okay, My Hips Are Getting Pretty Big:
While your breasts are growing, your whole body shape is changing from that of a child to that of a woman. Growing your hips isn't something that'll happen overnight or even over a year, but you will notice that while you're going through puberty, your hips will widen.
All those hormones working to give you bigger boobs and causing you to menstruate have an added bonus (and by "bonus" I mean "crappy side effect"): acne. Some girls get tons of acne, while others only get the occasional zit. Either way - totally embarrassing, right?
There are tons of acne medicines on the market so you can try those and make sure to wash your face in the morning and evening. That should help with the oil production. If this becomes an on-going issue, talk to your doctor, who can help you with additional treatment.
I Smell! I'm Sweaty!
Another awesome part of puberty is that those pesky hormones begin to make you sweat more and that sweat? Smells. Luckily, you have a ton of options for deodorant and antiperspirants. You can smell like a garden! Just make sure to apply it every morning before school. (I used to bring a small-sized one in my backpack). It can also be helpful to apply it at night before bed, as your body absorbs it better when it is in a cooled down state.
What's Up With All The Hair, Um, Down There:
Another thing all those puberty hormones do is cause hair to grow in places you may have been just fuzzy before. While you're going through puberty, you'll notice that your pubic hair (the hair on your vagina) is growing in. At first, it'll be thin, fine and straight hair on your vagina. Over time, that hair will thicken, become coarser, curlier and extend out to your "bikini" line (the fold between your vagina and your legs).
You may want to start shaping that hair at some point, but wait until you're ready.
Speaking of Hair...
You'll also notice that you're getting hair in other places.
Like your legs and under your arms. Most girls, once the hair becomes too unsightly or unmanageable, decide to shave their legs and underarms.
It's important that when you do begin shaving, talk to your mom or dad or older sister (whoever will be less embarrassing to talk to) about it. That way, they can get you your own razor and show you how best to shave your legs and armpits. If you're not careful, you can cut yourself pretty badly, so it's a good idea to have someone show you how best to shave.
What About *whispers* My Period?
Most girls will have their first period between ages 11 and 14. Some may start as early as 8 or as late as 17. It's all normal for you, so don't get too upset if you're still waiting on Aunt Flo to visit.
What happens is this: each month, your uterus (the place where, if you decide when you're older) fills with blood and menstrual tissue in preparation for pregnancy. Now, you're not going to need to think about pregnancy until you're much older.
Each month, when your egg is released from your ovaries, it travels down your fallopian tubes to the uterus. If it is met by sperm cells (from boys), it will fertilize and potentially implant into that nice cushion of endometrial tissue (the blood and menstrual tissue lining the uterus). Because you are not pregnant, your body then tells the uterus that it's time to shed that lining.
Most girls have menstrual periods that last 3-7 days, during which they bleed and pass some tissue. The average time between menstrual periods is 28 days (it's counted from the first day of your period to the first day you start your period again), but it varies from girl to girl.
The amount of bleeding also varies from girl to girl. Some girls may (luckily) get really light periods while others bleed heavily. You'll learn to deal with your period either way.
How Do I Keep The Blood From Going Everywhere?
Luckily, there are a wide range of things that you can use to control the flow of blood and make sure you don't ruin your underwear. Here are your options:
- Tampons - tampons are a specially rolled-up piece of cotton with a string hanging down. Tampons are available in tons of sizes. You use a tampon by following the directions on the package - generally, you push the tampon up into your vagina where you leave it for a couple of hours. Most tampons have special applicators to make it easier to push up into the vagina. You can get tampons at the pharmacy, the grocery store, and even convenience stores. Follow the package directions.
- Maxi-Pads (also called sanitary napkins) - maxi-pads are specially designed bits of cotton-like material that adhere to your undies by a sticker. Maxi-Pads come in all sizes and for all flow rates. You'll have to experiment to find out what's best for you. You generally want to change your pad every couple of hours.
- Menstrual Cups are a relatively new way to contain the mess from a period. With a menstrual cup, you take a small latex or silicone cup, fold it half, and put it up into the vagina, where it will catch the blood. Every couple of hours, you remove it, empty it, then reinsert it. The advantage to menstrual cups is that they are reusable. The downside is that it takes awhile to get the hang of using one.
Once you find out what works best for you, be sure to carry an extra tampon, pad or menstrual cup with you at all times - until you're familiar with the warning signs of your period showing up.
What About Cramps?
Some girls get pretty painful menstrual cramps during the first few days of her period. Usually over-the-counter pain relievers can help with cramping. If the pain becomes tremendous, tell your doctor so he or she can try putting you on birth control, which can reduce the severity of your period as well as the cramping.
Remember, though, that while using birth control is effective (if used properly) at preventing pregnancy, it is NOT a way to protect against STD's.
Read about Sexually Transmitted Infections.
How Does Pregnancy and the Menstrual Cycle Work?
Once you start getting your period and it comes on a regular schedule, you must learn how your menstrual cycle works. Here's a brief primer:
During the first half of your menstrual cycle, your estrogen levels rise (estrogen is the female hormone) which makes the lining of your uterus grow and thicken into a place in which a fertilized egg can implant itself.
As the uterus is developing the thick endometrium (the lining of the uterus), an egg is maturing in your ovaries. About halfway through your menstrual cycle, or two weeks after the first day of your last menstrual period, this mature egg leaves your ovary. This is called "ovulation."
A woman is fertile, or more likely to become pregnant, the three days before ovulation to the day of ovulation. This fertile window is the time in which you can become pregnant and varies from girl to girl - some girls have longer cycles, others have shorter cycles.
Because this fertile window can be very hard to predict, this means that you must ALWAYS practice safe sex.
The egg then travels through the fallopian tubes into the uterus. If it is not met by a sperm cell (from the semen of a boy), on day 28, the unfertilized egg will be ejected from the body during your period.
Read more about Teen Pregnancy.
Am I A Virgin If I Use Tampons?
Yes. Until you experience sexual penetration, you are still a virgin.
Can I Get Pregnant If....?
I have sex? YES.
The first time I have sex? YES.
On my period? YES.
If he pulls out? YES.
If he releases his semen on my vagina but not IN it? YES.
If I have sex in a hot tub? YES.
If I have anal sex? Possibly - semen can drip into the vaginal canal. AND, anal sex has increased risks for STIs.
From oral sex? No - but you can get STIs that way if you have unprotected oral sex.
If I have sex standing up? YES. Sperm can swim.
Part II: My Daughter Is Going Through Puberty! Yikes!
Unlike us, kids today are exposed to a lot more information at earlier ages about sex, sexuality and relationships. By the time your daughter hits puberty, she may already know a lot about sex and sexuality. Unfortunately, much of what she's learned may be wrong and it's up to you to help her out.
We can't change the world, so we, as parents, we have to start discussing puberty and sexuality sooner. We must arm our children with information - proper information - and discuss sex and sexuality openly.
Age 8 is when we should start talking about the emotional changes of puberty with our daughters. It seems young, but the emotional changes of puberty occur over a number of years, starting around age 8 or 9. And we should talk not only about the changes our daughters will go through, but also what boys will go through, as sex ed in school generally segregates boys and girls.
Read more about Puberty and Boys.
Information is power.
It helps to know what to expect when your daughter goes through puberty.
Five Stages of Puberty for Girls:
Puberty doesn't happen overnight. Over the course of many years, a girl develops into a woman in five stages. The five stages of puberty for girls are:
1) Stage One: Age Range 8-11.
During Stage One, there are no outward signs of development in young girls, but inside, her ovaries are enlarging as hormone production begins.
2) Stage Two: Age Range 8-14: Average 11-12
Breast buds - often one of the first outward signs of puberty in girls- begin to grow as the girl may grow in height and weight. Pubic hair grows in, but it is fine and straight, not curly and dark.
3) Stage Three: Age Range 9-15: Average is 12-13
During Stage Three of puberty, the breasts continue to grow as pubic hair - though sparse - becomes coarser and darker. The vagina is enlarging and may begin to produce a clear opaque discharge (the vagina's way of self-cleaning). Some girls may get their first menstrual period.
4) Stage Four: Age Range 10-16: Average 13-14
Pubic hair becomes a triangular shape, but doesn't cover the whole pubic area. Menstrual periods and armpit hair generally appear during this stage. Some girls begin to ovulate during this stage of puberty.
5) Stage Five: Age Range 12-19: Average is 15
In the fifth, and final, stage of puberty for girls, a girl is officially physically an adult. Her breasts and pubic hair are complete and she is now her full height. Menstrual periods are established and the girl ovulates monthly.
Okay, So What Do I Say About Puberty To My Daughter?
The most important thing that a parent can reassure his or her child that the all of the changes she is experiencing is normal - ALL of it is normal. Reassure your daughter that it's okay to feel insecure about the way she looks or if she hasn't yet developed breasts. This is a very important thing to do for your daughter.
Go through what to expect during puberty:
- Girls become rounder in the hips and legs.
- Girls breasts grow, sometimes at different rates.
- Both boys AND girls get hair in their underarms as well as pubic hair. This hair will spread down their legs and become thicker.
- Tell your daughter that you will teach her to shave her legs and armpits when she is ready.
- Both boys and girls get oily skin and may get acne.
- Both boys and girls should begin to wear deodorant as puberty means that your child will begin to sweat and smell.
- Both boys and girls will grow taller.
- The penis and testicles of boys grow and become bigger.
- Boys' voices change and become deeper.
- Boys grow facial hair.
- Boys get bigger muscles.
- Boys get "nocturnal emissions" or wet dreams - in which they ejaculate in their sleep.
- When a girl starts her period and gets it regularly once a month, her uterine lining fills with blood in preparation for a fertilized egg. If the egg is unfertilized, she will have her period. If it's fertilized, she will become pregnant.
- A girl's period may last for three days to a week.
- Explain how to use a tampon or maxipad during her period.
And don't neglect the sex talk. While it may be uncomfortable to talk to your daughter about sex, it's very important that she gets the proper information from her parents and feels open enough to discuss what is going on in her life. This can be a pivotal moment between you and your daughter.
Read more about how to talk to teens about sex.
Remind your daughter that no matter how embarrassing the subject, you're there to talk to her about anything at any time.
And be sure to ask your daughter every now and again about her life - don't assume that she'll come to you unprompted.
You can do this. I promise.
Additional Parenting A Teen Resources:
Advocates for Youth – a resource for helping young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Many articles and resources are available in several languages. Includes areas and information for both parents and teenagers.
Siecus – The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. This organization was founded to provide accurate information on sexuality to young people and adults.
SexEdLibrary – a comprehensive online resource for all things about sexual education.
The National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy – was primarily founded to help prevent teen and unplanned pregnancy. They support teaching responsible sexual behavior to both young men and women. They have specific resources for African-American youth and the Latino community.
Stay Teen – this sister site to The National Campaign is geared toward teenagers and they strive to provide teenagers with facts about sex and to provide them with unbiased information and different viewpoints. Some articles are even written by teenagers themselves.