Different is Normal

“Puberty is the name for the time when your body begins to develop and change as you move from kid to adult. We’re talking about stuff like girls developing breasts and boys starting to look more like men. During puberty, your body will grow faster than at any other time in your life, except for when you were a baby.” – KidsHealth

What happens during puberty for young women?

There are a lot of major transitions and new beginnings happening for young women and their bodies. The body releases hormones to initiate puberty typically happening between the ages of 8 to 13. These changes happen both on the outside and on the inside. Below are some examples of the growth and development that will occur throughout puberty:

  • Growth spurt is when your body begins to grow and grows very quickly. Pants, shirts, sleeves will become shorter. Individuals might find themselves needing to shop in the “junior” section vs the “girls” section. This spurt can last 2 to 3 years. This “new” body might feel awkward at first, but it will eventually fall into place.
  • Girls’ bodies will be curvier. Hips and bum will widen. The body will gain weight.
  • Breasts will start to swell (also known as breast buds). One breast might grow more quickly than the other. Some women choose to wear a bra, if it helps make them feel more comfortable.
  • Vulva development. Labia minora (inner lips) will become more prominent, might change color. Hair will appear on the mons pubis. All vulvas look different, just like faces.
  • Hair growth on armpits, legs, and pubic area. Hair on the legs and under arms will get darker and thicker. Pubic hair will become longer, thicker, heavier, curlier, and darker. It is personal preference when an individual chooses to shave or wax this hair. However, that hair is there to protect your skin and body from bacteria and dirt.
  • Body Odor (B.O.) is the smell under the arms. Sweat glands are stimulated by hormones so when sweat and bacteria get on your skin it creates B.O. Cleaning your body and wearing clean clothes will help with the odor. Some people choose to wear deodorant or antiperspirant.
  • Pimples or acne are either caused by hormones or due to a buildup of oil and dirt. Washing the face with mild soap and water can help with outbreaks.
  • Vaginal discharge is the white or clear substance that leaves your vaginal opening during the start of puberty. This is a way your body cleans itself and acts as a lubricant.
  • Menstrual period happens usually 2 years after the first sign of breast development. It is the shredding of the unfertilized egg as well as the extra tissue in the uterine wall. It leaves the vaginal opening in the form of blood.
  • Emotions will become stronger and more intense. Women might find themselves feeling more sensitive or upset over situations and experiences than they have previously or feel new kinds of emotions.

These changes won’t all happen at once. Breast development is typically the first sign of puberty. Puberty may continue until age 20.

Why we talk with our young women about puberty:

Puberty can be a very emotional, vulnerable, confusing time for teens. It is important for them to be informed about their altering bodies so they know what to expect before the changes start to happen to help them feel less anxious about the changes they see and feel. It’s just as important that individuals know it’s okay and normal for this transformation to happen. The time that puberty starts is different for everyone so individuals might develop earlier or later than their peers. Also, the span of time puberty lasts is different for everyone as well as the experiences seen and felt. The theme of this unique transitional phase is – different is normal.

How you can talk about it to your young women:

Talk about it. Be open and honest. Don’t judge. Make yourself approachable by smiling, looking that person in the eyes, hold yourself tall and in an open/inviting stance. Be vulnerable yourself. Youth sometimes forget that adults have been through this too. You can keep boundaries with teens but also appropriately open up about your own challenges during that stage in your life. If you are nervous, try talking in the car or while shopping so you don’t have to make eye contact. The less taboo people can make this topic, the more likely people will be willing to be open and communicate about it.