Girls & Puberty

Girls don’t become women over night. Between girlhood and adulthood, girls go through a stage of growth called puberty. Boys experience puberty too but in different ways (more on that here).

Puberty is caused by chemicals called hormones, which send signals around the body. These chemicals can change a lot of things – the way someone looks, feels – even the way they think! This might sound like a really big deal but as long as you have understanding of what you’re in for, you’ll be totally fine.

So, when does it happen?

That depends. For some folks, puberty can start at 8 years old, and for others it might not happen until around 16 years of age. This wide variation is normal and nothing to worry about. If you or a mate is at all worried, visit your doctor or local sexual health clinic. They can answer any questions you have.

How do we know when puberty has started?

Even though your body has been preparing for puberty your whole life, the effects will only start to take place around 8-16 years of age. The first thing you’ll notice is body changes. This will happen gradually for around two years, then you will begin to have periods. Here’s a run down of the changes you can expect:

  • Breast Growth
    You might notice your breast start to develop. One boob might grow faster than another – don’t worry if this happens, it’s pretty normal. Read more about boobs & growth here.
  • Hair
    Hair will start to grow in different places, like in your armpits and pubic area (the space around your genitals). Darker hair may grow on arms and legs. Thinking about shaving? Read this first.
  • Wider hips
    Your hips will begin to widen during puberty. Women’s hips widen because it makes giving birth a lot safer. The amount your hips will widen depends on your family, and there’s no right or wrong amount of growth.
  • Discharge
    A white coloured discharge might start appearing on your underwear. This is ok! it just means your vagina is healthy and getting ready for menstruation.
  • Growing all over
    You might get taller and flesh out more during puberty, but most likely not as much as boys. This might happen in little spurts.
  • Pimples & body odour
    Hormones can alter your skin, making it oilier. This might cause pimples. If you have lots of trouble with acne (sore, infected spots) see your doctor.
  • Periods
    Your period happens for a few days every month, when you bleed from your vagina. This is part of a monthly cycle called the menstrual cycle. This cycle is the reason the female body is able to get pregnant. The human race would not exist without periods! Once your body is ready to start menstruating, having a regular monthly period is part of being healthy and strong.

Read more about periods here or check out this post on getting your period for the first time.

Stuff you should know:
  • Masturbation
    Masturbation (which means pleasuring yourself or exploring yourself sexually) is healthy behaviour and won’t send you blind – we promise! Knowing what feels good for you, is an important part of life and it can be really good for your health. Watch this clip for more info on getting to know your lady parts.
  • Mood Swings
    You may experience sudden changes mood or emotional at times. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but if it does happen, make sure to take care of yourself. Find some relaxation techniques that work for you. Check out this app Smiling Mind, it’ll help you to keep your cool. If your emotions feel like they’re becoming an issue, it might be a good idea to chat to a doctor, an adult you trust or a counsellor – read more here. If you need to speak to someone urgently, call Kids Help Line free (1800 55 1800), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
  • Eat well
    Puberty is a time of growth and in order to grow well, we need to fuel ourselves with the best food possible (yep, that means fruit and vegies!). Check out this page on healthy eating tips.
Need to know more?

Sexual Health & Family Planning Australia has links to sexual health clinics around the country, which is really useful! If you want to talk to someone face to face about puberty or sex or health stuff, we highly recommend a sexual health clinic.