Puberty signs and stages for girls
Natural as it is, puberty can make us wonder if the changes we’re going through are normal. They all start when our brains trigger the release of hormones in our ovaries, but what is supposed to happen next? Let’s take a look at what puberty could mean for you.
In a nutshell, puberty means you’re growing and starting a new chapter in your life. On one hand, your body is likely to change shape and your moods may ride a roller-coaster, but on the other, you’ll get to know yourself better.
Puberty also means your body is now able to handle pregnancy (which is not to say you must have a baby right now!). Whether you end up becoming a parent one day or not (more and more people are child free by choice), you’ll also probably become more interested in sex...it's all very natural.
It can sound like a lot, though, and many of us may find it difficult at first but getting clued up on all the signs and stages of puberty can really help to adjust to the process.
When do girls start puberty?
Puberty can begin from about the age of 8, up to around the age of 14.  So don’t worry if you’re one of the first of your friends to experience it or even late to the party; everyone’s body is different so it’s completely normal to go through it at different times!
Whether you start earlier or later, puberty is triggered the same way: your body starts producing the sex hormone oestrogen and as a result you will experience some physical and mental changes.  Some of them may sound scary but they are absolutely nothing to be worried about – it’s all just part of growing up.
What are some of the first signs of puberty?
Your breasts will get bigger
During puberty, your breasts will start to develop and get bigger. At times, they may feel a bit sore and/or itchy – and that’s normal! Keep in mind there’s no real way to predict what your boobs will look like or how much they’ll grow – just like we never entirely know how tall we’ll be or what shoe size we’ll end up with. Although looking at your family members could give you a clue, it’s best to try not to compare yourself with others as ultimately, every one of us is unique.
You will grow pubic hair
Puberty comes with some particularly big developments on your vulva and mons pubis (the area of skin running from just below your belly button to between your thighs). Most likely, there will be pubic hair there – this will be thicker and coarser than the rest of the hair on your body.
It takes some getting used to, but your pubic hair is there to reduce friction, so that your intimate skin doesn’t become irritated. You may decide to keep it as it is, or you may prefer to groom it in a way that looks and feels good for you – the decision is completely yours!
You'll get familiar with vaginal discharge
You may have already noticed in your pants a clear or creamy fluid with a very slight smell. That’s vaginal discharge and it is simply your body’s way of keeping your cervix clean and your vagina moist to prevent infection. And while there isn’t anything special you need to do about your discharge (apart from washing your vulva and changing your underwear daily), some people don’t feel comfortable with that feeling of dampness in their pants and choose to use liners throughout the day. If you’re unsure about what is right for you, you can always give them a try for a few days and then make up your mind.
Your period will start
Another thing to look out for, of course, is your period. First periods are often light, perhaps just a small amount of blood (known as spotting) or they might be very dark, almost brown. How often they come can be quite random at first, making periods difficult to predict. This is nothing to worry about, and your menstrual cycle will eventually settle into a routine. But writing the dates of your period down in your phone or on a calendar, or using a period tracker can be helpful in getting to your body better and figuring out the patterns of your cycle.
You may go through mood changes
During puberty, your brain chemistry is changing by creating new cells and working out new ways of thinking. Basically, parts of your brain are still developing and even though it might feel weird to cry one minute and crack up with laughter the next, mood swings are totally normal.
Your emotions may feel like you’re on a merry-go-round that you can’t get off...we’ve all been there! So it’s important to talk about them with people you like and trust, like your parents, siblings, or even teachers. And if you ever feel like your emotions are too overwhelming you can also help yourself by doing activities that relax you; that might be taking a walk outside, calling a friend, watching your favourite film – or reaching for a meditation app.
When does puberty end for girls?
As with every process that your body goes through, there is no a specific date for when puberty will be done. However, it does tend to take about 4 years from the moment it started – but this could be a little more or less depending on your body.  Try to be patient and give yourself time to adjust at your own pace... there's no rush, it’s not the puberty Olympics, after all!
Taking care of your V-Zone during puberty
Pubic hair, sweat, and discharge could make your V-Zone (the vagina, vulva and V-shaped front you can see) start to smell a little stronger than before – this is completely natural and to be expected.. But it does mean that a good intimate hygiene routine is really important; showering daily, wearing clean clothes and ‘breathable’ underwear (such as cotton), are little things you can do to ensure that you keep fresh and comfortable. And once you start menstruating, it’s important to change your period product frequently. Intimate wipes may come in handy for some extra clean up.
During puberty you may also find that using perfumed soaps, shower gels and bubble baths around your intimate area can make your skin sore, so why not consider intimate washes? They help to support your vulva’s natural pH and keep you feeling fresh and comfy even after your shower. Just remember that the vagina is self-cleaning so there’s no need to wash inside it (known as ‘douching’). This can mess up your vaginal pH balance and lead to uncomfortable conditions like thrush or bacterial vaginosis.
Who can I talk to about puberty?
‘I think I smell bad’, ‘Why am I always angry’ or ‘Why are my nipples sore?’. No question is dumb or too weird when it comes to puberty, and you won’t be the first (or last) person to have asked.
Choose someone you trust – your mum, your dad, your best friend, an older sister or another relative who’s been where you are. The help you’ll find from talking about your worries, however big or small, will be totally worth it – plus they may also be able to give you all the tips and advice from having gone through puberty themselves.
From the serious to the hilarious, sharing can go a long way in making you feel better. If you want to get something off your chest but feel too nervous to someone else, there’s always the option of writing them a note instead.
There are also lots of books about puberty as well as online videos to help if you’re not ready to talk yet. Getting more information can make it easier to explain to others how you feel.
Although puberty is just something we all go through at some point, it’s definitely a big change and it can be challenging at times. But there’s no need to worry about it as it’s just part of growing up! And remember, you’re not alone.
Now you’re here, why not find out more about how to handle puberty and dealing with body image?
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.