Puberty & Body Changes

What is puberty?

Puberty is the name given to the changes your body goes through as you grow from a child into a young adult.

These changes might make you feel awkward and embarrassed but what’s happening to you is normal and everyone will go through the same experiences as part of growing up.

Everyone goes through puberty at different speeds, and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ age for your body to start changing and developing.

You will start noticing changes anywhere between the ages of 9 to 16.

Checkout this video about puberty. It’s relevant for both girls and boys and dispells some of the myths…

How to deal with puberty

  • Get clued up; knowing what to expect from puberty can make everything a little less difficult to deal with.
  • Try to keep your diet healthy and nutritious to support your body
  • Avoid crash dieting or weight-training until you have stopped growing.
  • Look after your personal hygiene as you will sweat more once you enter into puberty – take a look at our bad smells article for some helpful tips.

How will boys know when puberty has started?

For males, puberty will usually start between the ages of 10 and 16 and end between 14 and 18.

Some of the changes you will notice could include:

  • Hair beginning to grow on your face, pubic area, under your arms and on your legs
  • Getting taller and heavier; often in ‘spurts’
  • Your voice deepening and eventually breaking, when it will stay deeper permanently
  • Starting to produce sperm (which will mean you can get someone pregnant if you’re sexually active and do not use contraception)
  • ‘Wet dreams’, in which semen is released from your penis while you sleep, leaving a patch on your sheet slightly wet – this is perfectly normal
  • Sweating more and developing spots
  • More erections and your penis and testicles growing.

How will girls know when puberty has started?

For females, puberty usually begins between the ages of about 9 and 15, but this can vary quite a lot.

The age that puberty starts is influenced by a number of different factors such as your weight, race and genetic make-up.

It is common that if your mum was an early starter then you might find you are the same.

During puberty you are likely to notice the following changes:

  • Starting your period, which means you will bleed for a few days every month and are able to get pregnant if you’re sexually active and don’t use contraception.
  • Growing in weight and height and developing wider hips
    Your breasts and nipples beginning to grow, often feeling tender and possibly growing at different rates – don’t worry, it’s normal so give yourself time to ‘even out’ naturally
  • Hair around your genitals, on your legs and under your armpits and possibly some fine hair on your upper lip
  • Sweating more and getting spots
  • Off-white vaginal discharge which you might notice on your pants and which is totally normal, but you can wear thin panty liners if it makes you feel fresher
  • The lips of your vulva (the external female sex organs between your legs) growing and becoming more full.

If you are worried about any of the changes you are going through and want more advice, see the ‘Who Can Help’ section of this article for some useful links.

Who can help?

Talk to a parent, carer, older brother or sister or a teacher you can trust. They will all have experienced going through puberty and will be able to tell you what to expect and put your mind at ease.

The Being Girl website gives teenage girls lots of information on puberty. Visit www.beinggirl.co.uk/yourbody/whats.php.

The Likeitis site gives young people access to information about all aspects of sex education and teenage life. Topics on the site include periods, sex, peer pressure, sexuality and puberty. Read more at www.likeitis.org/puberty.html.

NHS Direct provides further information on what to expect during puberty.

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