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Puberty Advice For Teens: How To Prepare For And Deal With Puberty

Are you wondering what's happening to your body as you grow up? Here are all the answers.

Are you starting to notice changes in your body? From mood swings to pimples, puberty can be a bumpy ride. But it's also a time of incredible growth and discovery, as you begin to develop your own sense of identity and explore your place in the world. We’re here to address a common question among pre-teens and teens: What is puberty? Get all the information you need to make it through this transitional period with confidence.

The meaning of puberty

Puberty is the natural process of physical, emotional, and social change that occurs in the transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s a time when your body can be more unpredictable than the weather! Puberty is triggered by hormones, which are chemical messengers produced by the endocrine glands and circulated throughout the body. These hormones stimulate various organs and tissues to grow and mature. It’s truly impressive how much your body transforms during this time.

Signs of puberty

Puberty is a complex process of physical, hormonal, and emotional changes that occur in both *males and *females. The signs of puberty can vary from person to person, but here are some of the most common changes:
Growth Spurts
During puberty, both males and females experience a growth spurt, which usually happens between the ages of 8 and 15. It’s common to experience growing pains at this time as the body is rapidly changing. Be sure to stretch and rest to prevent the aches!

Females start their periods during puberty which is a major milestone. This usually occurs around age 12, but can happen as early as age 8 or as late as age 18. Make use of menstrual products such as pads and tampons to confidently manage your period at all times of the day.

Body Hair Growth
Pubic hair, underarm hair, and facial hair start to grow during puberty. In general, your body hair typically becomes thicker and more coarse too.

Breast Development
Females develop breasts, which is one of the earliest signs of puberty. This usually occurs between the ages of 8 and 13. At this time, you might want to buy your first bra to feel more comfortable.

Spots and Acne
As the oil glands become more active, many teenagers experience acne and skin changes during puberty. We suggest trying a skincare routine that is suited to your skin type. This would typically include a good face wash and cream with SPF. If you feel skin outbreaks are more likely linked to acne than spots, you may want to have a chat with your doctor or local pharmacist.

Body Odour
The sweat glands become more active during puberty, which can lead to body odour. Nevertheless, you can manage this by showering/bathing daily and using some form of antiperspirant.

Females may start to release a fluid called discharge, this is a clear or creamy yellow fluid that’s produced by the glands at the entrance to your uterus along with normal secretions naturally found on the walls of the vagina. It is generally noticed about 6-12 months before a first period.

Sexual Development
During puberty, you develop sexual feelings and begin to explore your sexuality. This is a good time to speak to trusted adults about healthy and safe sex. This might be a parent, caregiver, teacher or doctor.

Reproductive System Development

Puberty is a time of dramatic change in size, shape and function of all of the reproductive organs. Wondering about that abdominal pain? The sometimes barely-there tummy ache that continues between your periods? That’s your reproductive organs continuing to mature. Here’s what that means:

The vagina grows in length to reach an average adult length of approximately 9cm (this can vary from 6-12cm from person to person). Remember, your vagina is the muscular passage that leads to your cervix - it is not your external genitalia.

Your uterus grows very rapidly and its length can increase from 3.5cm to a final adult size of around 7.5 cm long.

During the initial years of puberty, your hymen will start to stretch naturally. Your hymen is a small piece of skin that surrounds or partially covers your vaginal opening. As you enter the later teen years, the hymen can change in texture and become thicker, sometimes with folds of skin being noticed.

Both during and after your period has arrived, you will notice a change to the shape and colour of your vulva with some girls feeling that their labia have ‘dropped’. But this is not the case, the labia are simply growing and maturing. The size and shape of the labia vary greatly between different bodies.

Muscle Growth
Both males and females experience an increase in muscle mass during puberty, which can lead to improved strength and athleticism.

Voice Changes
Males experience a deepening of the voice as their larynx (voice box) grows larger. This usually starts between the ages of 10 and 14. The same is true for girls but often this is so subtle you would not notice.

It’s not uncommon for these hormones to change your sleeping pattern, too. You may find you’re not at all tired at bedtime but then overtired in the morning. Don’t be alarmed if you struggle to get up or feel motivated: this is a perfectly normal experience during adolescence and you’re not just a ‘lazy teenager’!

Getting Smarter

Your brain is pretty busy during your adolescent years too, responding to the increases in both sex and growth hormones. On the plus side, here are some of the things your brain will become much better at in your teenage years:

1. Memory
2. Problem solving
3. Increased vocabulary
4. Improved grammatical skills

And what does this mean for you? You may start to see a more mature approach to the way you solve problems. You might also find that you use new or advanced vocabulary to articulate how you’re feeling or to explain an idea, either verbally or in your writing. Hello, new-and-improved you.

What is the age for puberty?

Puberty typically begins between the ages of 8 and 13 in females, and 9 and 14 in males. However, there are some instances where it might start a little earlier (precocious puberty) or later, depending on your genetics and environment. And if you haven’t noticed any signs of puberty around the age of 16, we recommend having a chat with your parents or caregivers. Perhaps you could visit a healthcare provider for some professional advice. It’s important to make sure your growth and development are on track so you can grow into a healthy adult.

Stages of puberty in girls and boys

The stages of puberty are slightly different for each person — so don’t worry if you’re still waiting for the signs. But there are some general physical and emotional changes that happen for most people. British endocrinologist, James M. Tanner, was the first to define the visible stages of puberty. Endocrinologists study conditions that are affected by your hormones, including puberty.

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Stage 1: Prepubertal

At this stage, there are no visible signs of puberty. However, there are some internal changes taking place. Your body starts to produce a whole lot of growth hormones.

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Stage 2: Early Puberty

In females, for many the first sign of puberty is breast development. Your smaller breasts are sometimes referred to as “buds”. During this time in your development, you might notice darker skin around your nipples and a bit of pubic hair growth in the genital area. In males, this stage is the start of enlargement in the testes and scrotum (skin around the testes).

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Stage 3: Mid-Puberty

Your breasts will probably continue to grow and feel heavier. This typically starts around the age of 12. Remember that everyone has different sized breasts and it usually comes down to genetics — your body is wonderfully unique! At this stage, you might also grow some underarm hair, notice your skin and hair becoming more oily, and grow a whole lot taller.

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Stage 4: Late Puberty

This stage starts around 13 years old in females. Your breasts usually get a little fuller and pubic area hair becomes more coarse and curly. At this pivotal time in puberty, you can usually expect your first period if you haven’t had it already. 

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Stage 5: Adult

Now puberty is complete you have reached full sexual development. For most females, this happens around age 15. But this doesn’t mean your body is completely done changing. Some of us continue to grow taller, develop larger hips, and put on healthy body fat right into adulthood. It’s the body’s natural way of preparing to carry children.

It is important to note that these stages are not an exact science and there can be variations in the timing and sequence of physical changes during puberty. However, the stages are a useful tool for healthcare professionals in monitoring and assessing the physical development of adolescents going through puberty.

Puberty hormones

Pubertal hormone changes seem to happen overnight. Hormones are chemical messengers that are responsible for regulating your bodily functions, including growth and development. It’s your body’s unique way of getting ready to take on the world!

The main puberty hormones that play a key role in the process of puberty are:

1. Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH)

This hormone is produced in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain. It stimulates the pituitary gland to produce luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which are essential for the production of sex hormones.

2. Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

FSH stimulates the growth and development of the ovary follicles in females and the production of sperm in males.

3. Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

LH stimulates the release of a mature egg during ovulation in females and the production of testosterone in males.

4. Oestrogen

Oestrogen is the primary female sex hormone that is responsible for the development of female characteristics such as breasts, wider hips, and the onset of menstruation.

5. Testosterone

Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone that is responsible for the development of male characteristics such as facial hair, a deeper voice and stronger muscles.

Puberty blues and emotions

Puberty can easily lead to feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and self-doubt. These feelings are commonly referred to as "puberty blues," a term used to describe the ups and downs of becoming an adult. It's important to know that you are not alone in experiencing these emotions and that it's totally normal to feel a little overwhelmed during this time. Be sure to have open and honest communication with trusted adults, such as parents, teachers, or healthcare providers, who can offer guidance and support. In some cases, you might need to chat with a counsellor or psychologist.

Final thoughts on puberty

Overall, puberty is a complex process that involves many different changes and challenges. Understanding all this can help you and your family to navigate this important stage of development with greater ease. For many of us, that means being equipped to manage your first period as it generally starts mid-puberty. With Lil-Lets, you can find all the period products you need to start your menstruation journey with confidence.

* We recognise that sex and gender exist on spectrums. In some cases, this article uses the terms “male”/ “boys” and “female” / “girls” to refer to an individual's sex assigned at birth.

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Frequently asked questions

What makes puberty happen?

Puberty happens when hormones from the brain initiate development. These hormones tell the body exactly what to do. In females, the growth and release of mature eggs from the ovaries initiate puberty. And for males, the testicles start producing sperm.

Does puberty affect maturity?

Puberty certainly affects maturity, both physically and emotionally. At this time, your body grows, further brain development kicks in and you reach sexual maturation. You might also notice your perspective on things changing and sexual attraction towards people becomes more noticeable.

Why is puberty necessary in humans?

Puberty is necessary in humans as the outcome is sexually mature adults with fully developed reproductive organs. It means people can have children if they want to and when they’re ready.  It’s also the time in our lives when we become more self-aware and start to experience a wider spectrum of emotions.

What is the latest you can hit puberty?

The latest you can hit puberty is not at a specific age. It truly varies from person to person. Typically, you’ll start puberty between the ages of 8 and 13 in females, and 9 and 14 in males. If you don’t notice the key signs of puberty by 16, speak to a responsible adult and visit a healthcare professional for medical advice.

Can you stop puberty?

It is not possible to completely stop puberty once it has started. Nevertheless, puberty blockers can delay or prevent unwanted physical changes. Puberty blockers are medicines used to postpone puberty in children and are typically used by transgender individuals.

Is puberty normal?

Puberty is incredibly normal. It causes body changes in both males and females as they grow into adult humans and become sexually mature.

Does everyone go through puberty?

Almost everyone goes through puberty and it typically starts between the ages of 8 and 14. However, there are some rare medical conditions that might delay or prevent the onset of puberty. For example, those with Turner Syndrome, a genetic condition in females, might have delayed puberty.

What happens when puberty ends?

The end of puberty is marked by the completion of physical and hormonal development and the beginning of young adulthood. You typically reach your adult height and size. Physical changes may continue for a few years after puberty. Additionally, emotional development and reproductive health are ongoing processes that require attention throughout an individual's life.

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