Puberty in females

Introduction

There is a time in every girl’s life when mirror becomes their best friend. You want to be the prettiest and most beautiful lady in the world. Dream of a prince charming coming on a white horse is not a fairy tale any longer rather a fantasy that every girl nurtures. This is the time in a girl’s life when little princesses keep their first step towards becoming pretty diva. This time in a girl’s life is puberty.

What is puberty?

Puberty in girls is the period of biological, morphological and psychological changes which leads to full sexual maturity and eventually fertility. There is no fixed age when you will enter puberty. It depends a lot on the social, environmental and nutritional factors. Girls who live in an environment that is more open towards the sexuality have an early puberty as compared to girls who grow in a naïve environment. Your race and your nutritional status also determine when you will enter puberty. Usually girls enter puberty between 9-11 years of age. This is the time when you will observe lot of physical changes in your body. Because of growth spurt you eventually become taller, your breasts start getting bigger and you start getting your periods. There is an emotional turmoil that is going inside you most of the time. So, this is the time when you have stepped into puberty.

Physical changes in puberty

Puberty is the time when lot of physical changes are taking place in the body. These physical changes often keep you confused and sometimes these changes make you feel embarrassed. There is nothing to worry about and nothing to feel embarrassed about. It is just a metamorphoses stage which makes a butterfly out of a caterpillar. It is just a transitional and temporary phase that will ultimately make you a lovely diva. The physical or morphological changes that occur in puberty in females are as follows:

  1. Growth in height
  2. Weight gain
  3. Increase in pubic hair
  4. Increase in axillary hair
  5. Breast development
  6. Menstruation
Growth in height

Puberty is the time when there is a sudden increase in height. This increase in height is due to growth spurt.

  • Girls begin to gain height around 8-9 years of age as this is the growth spurt that occurs earlier in girls.
  • Growth in height is mainly due to hormones like Growth hormones (GH), oestrogen and insulin like growth factors.
  • Most girls grow speedily a few days before their menarche (first period).
Weight Gain

Just with the beginning of growth spurt as the individual gains height, there is also an increase of weight.

  • Girls usually gain weight during puberty.
  • Most of the body fat is located along upper arms, thighs and upper back. Hips get rounder and wider and waist gets narrower.
Increase in pubic hair

Girls’ thing that may be the first sign of puberty in you will be the growth of pubic hair. Don’t get surprised and don’t panic. There are many ways to remove it. You can either shave it, remove it with hair removal creams or can get it waxed.

  • In some girls pubic hair development may be the first sign of puberty.
  • Firstly you may find sparse, long hair on either side of labia.
  • With time darker, curled hair are seen over pubic region.
  • And finally adult hair with inverse triangle distribution over pubic region including medial side (inner side) of thighs is observed.
Increase in axillary hair

At the same time when pubic hair growth is seen, growth of axillary hair also occurs.

  • An increase in hair growth in arm pits happens early in puberty.
  • First hairs are sparse and thin and with time become dark and curled.
  • Increase in hair on arms and legs are also observed.
Breast development

The physical change that makes you most uncomfortable is development of breasts. It is a nature’s gift and you are bound to experience some discomfort. Don’t be shy and embarrassed every female goes through it. Your mother, elder sister, school nurse or your teacher can guide you on when you should start wearing a bra. You can start with the sports bra which is more comfortable and the right garment to start with.

  • For most of the girls breast development is the first sign of puberty.
  • It usually starts between 8-11 years of age but can occur earlier or later in some females according to their biological milestones.
  • The first sign of breast development is when your nipples and the areola (surrounding darker skin) start getting larger and more dark. The area becomes little tender and may even ache.
  • After this stage fat deposition around nipples and areola region starts taking place and start taking shape of tiny breasts.
  • This is the time when most of the girls have menarche (first period).
  • Size of the breast is determined by body weight, heredity and hormonal changes. And since whole of your body is asymmetrical your one breast may appear smaller as compared to other. Don’t worry as this is perfectly normal.
Menarche (First period/ Menstruation)

The major change that prepares you for sexual activity and the eternal duty of taking humanity forward by giving a child birth is the onset of menstrual cycle. Hey girl don’t worry you will get used to it in some time.

  • The first period or the first menstrual cycle is known as menarche. It usually occurs between 9-16 years of age. When you will get your periods depends upon a lot on race, diet, weight and heredity.
  • Your first period usually starts after your breasts have begun to develop and there is also growth of pubic hair.
  • There’s nothing to worry if your periods haven’t started till late teenage. But if there is neither development of breasts or pubic hair and periods also haven’t started till 16 or 17. You should consult your gynaecologist.
  • Your first period may last from two to ten days.
  • After that your periods are considered normal if they are two to eight days from starting to stopping of bleeding.
  • It is a cyclical event and occurs every month except in some diseases or pregnancy.
  • Length of cycle usually varies from 21 to 40 days, average being 28 days.

Emotional and behavioural changes

There is a whole array of physical changes that take place in puberty and have been described above. Apart from all these changes there are also a lot of emotional changes that are taking place. Girls usually become more introvert and shy. They may become more emotional and may cry over trivial matters. Infatuation and attraction towards opposite sex is common. There might be a lot of peer pressure pertaining to first kiss and having a boyfriend. But don’t get swayed about what your friends’ say, do what your mind says because at the end of the day you have to face yourself and nobody else.

References


  1. Nelson textbook of paediatrics, 19th edition, Kliegman, Stanton, St. Geme, Schor, Behrman. Elsevier publication. ISBN: 978-1-4377-0755-7. Chapter-12& 104.
  2. Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th edition, Frederic et al, ISBN-13: 978-0-7216-0549-4. Chapter-6
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