What's happening to my body? Stages of puberty in girls
As your daughter approaches her teen years, you will begin to see changes in her body that signal the onset of puberty - a period of her life when she transitions from childhood to adulthood.
Involving physical, hormonal and emotional changes, this journey is rarely without its dramas (particularly if your daughter is going through a particularly hormonal phase!), so the best way to prepare for this time is to be armed with all the information you need to recognise the first signs of development and the onset of puberty.
The first physical signs of puberty
There are certain physical signs that indicate the beginning of puberty in a young girl's body. It is important to note that every girl physically develops at her own pace, and there is nothing you or she can do to slow it down or speed it up. Instead, reassure her that there nothing abnormal or scary about becoming sexually mature or being the first or last in her group of friends to experience these changes.
Puberty between 8-11 years:
Your daughter's hormone production begins, and ovaries are growing. There is no physical outward sign of this.
Puberty between 8-14 years:
The first visible puberty sign for girls is usually the start of breast growth. Her body will be growing, often in spurts, and getting a curvier shape. At the same time, pubic hair appears, but it will be fine and straight in this early stage of puberty not dense and curly.
Puberty between 9-15 years:
Her breasts continue to get bigger, and your daughter will gain more height and weight and her figure will become more 'womanly'. The hair in the pubic region slowly darkens and becomes coarser. Also at this stage, your daughter's vagina will be growing internally and may begin to produce a clear or white discharge, which is a part of its in-built cleaning process. Her period may begin at this stage of puberty.
Puberty between 10-16 years:
Ovulation may begin in your daughter (thought not regularly at this stage, and her period usually begins. Pubic hair begins to grow into the more adult 'triangle' shape, and underarm hair usually appears. The skin on the face will produce more oil, which can result in acne. Sweat glands also become more active, meaning washing daily is a must and she will need to start wearing deodorant.
Puberty between 12-19 year:
The final stage of puberty heralds your daughter as an adult. Breasts are usually as big as they will ever be, her height will be that of her adult life, and her pubic hair will be fully grown. Periods are regular, and ovulation occurs each month.
The emotional signs of puberty
Puberty isn't just about the physical changes. There are also a range of emotions your pubescent daughter has to deal with as her body changes.
- Interest in boys, and relationships, and romantic feelings (which can be a touch confusing at first).
- Stress over body changes. She may be the first or last in her group of her friends to hit puberty and that may make her anxious.
- Excitement that her body is changing and that she is on the cusp of womanhood.
- Concern about new independence, including growing apart from her parents and leaving her childhood behind.
Delayed and early puberty in girls
Puberty is considered early (known by specialists as 'precocious') when physical signs begin to appear at the age of seven or eight. Though this can be a variation of normal puberty in girls and is definitely influenced by genes amongst other factors - you may want to check with your doctor if it happens before this age, as there can be medical causes for early puberty.
Delayed puberty may be occurring in girls who have no breast tissue growth by 14 years of age, or haven't started their periods for over five years after their breasts begin to grow. Delayed puberty can be caused by medical reasons, but there are also other factors that can affect it such as low body weight or malnutrition.
Weight and puberty
Studies have linked obesity in young girls to early puberty. It can also be seen as an indicator of future health issues, so if you feel your daughter's weight is linked to the onset of her puberty, do consult your doctor. On the flip side, excessive exercise may slow puberty in females, as it burns energy the body needs to fuel the physical body changes of puberty.
This article was written by Lauren Rowland for Kidspot, New Zealand's best parenting resource. Sources include Children, Youth and Women's Health Service.written by Corinne Draper for Kidspot, New Zealand's best parenting resource. Sources include Health Insite.