Illustration of a woman shaving her legs on the bath - Libresse

Around the time your periods start, your body goes through a whole load of changes. Collectively, these are known as puberty.

Signs of puberty in girls include developing breasts and pubic hair, growing taller while your hips become wider, and getting vaginal discharge before the start of your periods. But these may not all happen at the same time. That’s because puberty is different for everyone.

Puberty basically means that your body is in the process of changing from child to adult. It usually starts between the age of 10 and 16 for girls, although some can start younger. And girls usually mature a couple of years before boys. While you won’t wake up one morning looking and feeling totally different, your body will gradually come to seem a little new and unknown. Sometimes the changes are rapid, sometimes they’re slow.

For many girls, the first sign of puberty is that their breasts become lumpy and tender, even a bit painful. It can feel as though there’s a small pea sitting behind your nipple. Wearing a well-fitted bra should ease some of this discomfort, and can also stop any embarrassment caused by nipples showing through tops, or breasts moving around when walking.

Another major change is hair growth under your arms, around your genitals and on your arms and legs. If you are self-conscious about hair under your arms and on your legs, try a hair removal method from your local chemist, like a depilatory cream. Although make sure you speak to your mum, aunt or older sister about this first, and remember to always read the instructions.

Although you may not start your periods immediately you’ll probably get a white discharge, which is a sign your first period will arrive soon-ish. It’s also common to get symptoms like PMS and cramps at this stage. Your first period, when it comes, may well be light or just a little ‘spotting’. Make sure you have sanitary towels with you at all times so you’re prepared.

One of the most annoying physical changes during puberty is greasy skin and hair. The glands in your face and scalp start producing oil, and it can mean you get spots. This won’t last forever, but if your zits are out of control ask a pharmacist for the best medicated treatments. And choose a shampoo specifically for greasy hair. Not only so your hair looks good, but also to avoid transferring more grease to your face.

Your sweat glands also work harder during puberty, meaning you get sweatier and your sweat smells stronger. Wash thoroughly every day, use a deodorant and wear fresh clothes. The same goes for your genitals, especially once you get discharge and periods. Try and wash that area twice a day.

All these changes and the hormones that cause them can make you feel moody and self-conscious, especially if family and friends make comments. Calmly ask them to back off and they should get the message.

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