The Women's Health Resource Center
Puberty is the process when the body begins to develop and change. The body, grows faster during puberty than at any other time. No two people are alike, but everybody goes through puberty. Puberty generally starts sometime between the ages of 8 and 13. For most girls, the first evidence of puberty is breast development and the growth of pubic hair. At some point, usually after a girl's 8th birthday the brain triggers the release of a special hormone that starts the changes associated with puberty. This hormone is called the gonadotropin-releasing hormone, or GnRH. When GnRH reaches the pituitary gland, this gland releases two more puberty hormones, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). In girls these hormones go to the ovaries and trigger the production of the hormone estrogen, preparing the girl's uterus for pregnancy. The culminating event will be the arrival of the menstruation.
The first signs of puberty are followed by a growth spurt. A girl's body will begin to build up fat and take on the contours of a woman, hips will get wider, breast will take shape and arms, legs, hands and feet will all get bigger. This growth during puberty is the last time the body will grow taller. About 1 to 2 years after the first signs of breast development, girls experience their first menstrual period.
During the menstrual cycle, one of the eggs comes out of the ovary. There are two ovaries, which hold thousand of eggs that have been there since birth. The egg leaves the ovary and travels through the fallopian tube ending up in the uterus. While the egg is traveling, the uterus is building up its lining with extra blood and tissue. If the egg gets to the uterus and is fertilized, it will stay there and grow into a baby. When the egg doesn't, stay the uterus no longer needs the extra blood and tissue, so it leaves the body through the vagina as a menstrual period. The period usually lasts from 4 to 7 days, and comes about every 28 days.
Another sign of puberty is hair growing in places where it didn't grow before, under the arms and in the pubic area. Also, acne or pimples usually start around the beginning of puberty, caused by hormones that are present during puberty. Puberty hormones also affect the glands under your arms causing you to smell bad. It is a good idea to bathe and use deodorant every day.
Puberty hormones can also cause girls to feel confused or emotional, they may feel overly sensitive or anxious about their bodies. You may also have sexual feelings which are unfamiliar. It is important for girls to get all their questions answered and to be responsible for what they do with their bodies. Today, nearly 20% of all people diagnosed with AIDS are in their 20's, since the incubation period from HIV to AIDS is 10 years, this indicates that they were infected as adolescents.
For more information on puberty and your changing body contact the Women's Health Resource Center at 415-600-0500 or the Community Health Resource Center at 415-923-3155.
What you can do…
- Feel good about your new body. Gaining some weight is part of developing into a woman. Do not go on a diet. If you have concerns contact your health care provider or talk to a parent.
- To help reduce skin from breaking out, wash twice daily with water and mild soap.
- Talk to your parents or another trusted adult about questions you may have about your new sexual feelings.
- Educate yourself about sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
- Shower daily and use deodorant.
- Find out about different sanitary napkin and tampon products and with the guidance of a trusted adult, choose which combination works best for you.