What is puberty for girls? Explaining Body Changes
Puberty often begins earlier than parents think―especially for girls. You can help your daughter navigate this time by learning about these changes and starting conversations about them early. In this article, we discuss, “What is puberty for girls” and how you can support them during this crucial phase of their life.
What is puberty for girls all about?
Puberty is the time when kids grow into young adults through physical and emotional changes. It can start when kids are as young as 8 or 9 but you won’t see any physical signs until a few years later. For females, you can usually expect to start seeing physical changes when they are aged between 10 and 13. Everyone experiences puberty differently, which means that some kids may be the first in their group of friends to change… or the last. But eventually, everyone catches up, and the differences even out.
It's also important to remember that everybody goes through these changes. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to look. We are all unique, inside and out.
What Physical Changes Happen During Puberty?
The earliest sign of puberty in most girls is the development of breast "buds," nickel-sized bumps under the nipple. It is not unusual for breast growth to start on one side before the other. It's also common for breast buds to be somewhat tender or sore. Uneven breast growth and soreness are both totally normal and usually evens out with time.
Coarser hair will begin to grow in the genital area, under the arms, and on the legs. In some girls (about 15%), pubic hair may be the first sign of puberty―showing up before breast budding starts.
A word about shaving
Around the time girls reach middle school, many will begin to show interest in shaving their legs and armpits. This is a personal choice; there is no medical reason to shave armpit or leg hair. If she decides to groom her pubic hair, make sure she does it safely and understands how to use the right tools. If she is requesting a full-blown ‘Brazilian’ or waxing of all vulva hair, it’s possible that she or friends of hers have been exposed to porn and are feeling pressured to meet the visual ideals represented in pornography. If you haven’t already discussed online porn with your daughter, this might be an opportunity to begin the conversation. Check out our blog on the dangers of online porn for more info.
|Our book ‘All About Consent’ also offers important tips and empowering advice for your kids - both daughters and sons.|
Before giving your daughter a razor, emphasize that body hair is natural and that in many cultures girls don’t feel the need to shave. However, if she chooses to shave, show her how to use it properly to avoid skin irritation and cuts, which can become infected. Here are some tips:
Wet the skin & use lotion or gel. Shaving dry skin can scratch and irritate it. It may be easiest to shave in the shower or bathtub when the skin is already wet. Shaving gel, lotion, or cream acts as a buffer on the skin and can help avoid cuts.
Use light pressure. Pressing too hard on the razor could shave off some of the skin. Use extra care around the knees and ankles to avoid nicking the skin.
Replace the razor or its blade often. A dull blade is more likely to tug, scrape, and irritate the skin.
Don't share razors. Sharing a razor can spread bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and cause skin infections.
Electric razors. Some electric razors are designed specifically for girls. These may be less likely to cut the skin, although they can still cause irritation.
Some girls experience a small to moderate amount of clear or white vaginal discharge that starts about 6-12 months before their first period. This is a normal response to growing amounts of the hormone estrogen in the body.
While timelines can vary, most girls get their first period within two to three years after the development of breast buds. The average age for girls to get their first period in the United States is around age 12. It's important to emphasize that periods are a normal part of growing up. Young girls should know that it's okay to talk about periods and ask questions about them. Some young people may have anxiety about how to handle their first period, given that it can happen unexpectedly. Providing supplies (pads, tampons, and pantiliners) for your child's locker or backpack and reviewing resources at school, including the school nurse, can help alleviate this worry. Our partner, Period.org is a wonderful resource for youth who cannot afford period supplies.
NOTE: In providing period kit supplies, encourage your daughter to find the product that suits her best. Also, remind her to change her period products regularly to stay comfortable and prevent any odor. Using mild soap and water to clean the genital area (only water, no soap!!) during her periods is also a good practice.
While some girls will have bright red blood with their first period, other girls may only have spotting with red-brown discharge―both are normal! While some people will have periods once a month, periods may be irregular in the first few years as the body adapts to rapid physiological changes. Also, normal cycles of periods can be as short as 21 days or as long as 35… so even people with regular cycles might not have a period every single month!
Abdominal cramping or pain with periods is also common. For most people, ibuprofen or naproxen used as needed are the best medicines to help with period cramps. If menstrual cramps are severe or cause your child to miss school, talk to your pediatrician about other options.
Check out our Yoni Magic Book, The Power of Periods! For Ages 9+.
Every girl, boy, and parent should learn about the POWER OF PERIODS! This lovely book covers an important overview of the menstrual cycle, making it both accurate and fun. This book shows girls the power their bodies hold and why they should be proud of their period.
Increase in Height
Most girls have their growth spurt at a younger age than boys do. The fastest rate of height growth usually occurs in girls between when breast buds start to develop and about 6 months before they get their period. Once a girl has had her first period, her growth has already started to slow down. Most girls grow another 1-2 inches after getting their period, but increased height beyond that is less common.
Her hips may get wider and her waist may get smaller. This is tied to fertility and the body becoming more suited to carry pregnancies and deliver babies. Of course with a foundation of comprehension sex education, your daughter will be many years away from considering the very serious consequences of having children and partner sex.
Other Common Changes
Many young people develop acne during puberty. This can be related to changes in hormone levels during this time. Sweating under the armpits and increased body odor are also normal changes―and why most girls begin using deodorants and/or antiperspirants at the start of puberty. With more oil and sweat being made by the skin, girls this age may start wanting to shower or shampoo their hair more often.
Finally, and most importantly, keep the lines of communication open. Let her know that she can always talk to you about any questions or concerns she has regarding puberty. Be a source of support and information as she navigates this significant phase in her life. If you don’t have the answers, please utilize My Little Yoni as a resource. The main thing is to become an open, trusted source for your daughter.
Remember, you've got this, and your daughter will appreciate your guidance and understanding more than you know. Puberty is just one step on the journey to adulthood, and you're both on this path together. 😊