Puberty: The Changes Girls Experience

Health Topics

As girls transitions to adolescence, there are several physical and emotional changes that occur. As a parent or caregiver of an adolescent girl, you should be prepared to have conversations about the changes occurring in her body and what’s causing those changes.

Nurse practitioner Amanda Fox, CNP, explains what happens during puberty and how parents can be supportive. 

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Puberty in females is driven by hormones, including estrogen, and begins between ages 8 and 14. Most girls will finish puberty by 16, but some may not stop developing until 18.

Changes that girls can expect during puberty include:

  • Ovaries get larger and production of hormones begins.
  • Girls will also start ovulating and menstruating (most often called ‘having a period’).
  • Cramping, headaches, dizziness or diarrhea when menstruating.
  • Breasts begin to bud and can be become tender.
  • Nipples will become more pronounced and raised.
  • Increase in height and weight.
  • Glands make more sweat and oil, causing body odor and acne.
  • Hair growth near the pubic area and underarms.
  • Mood changes stemming from hormone changes.

Adolescent girls will likely have many questions surrounding the changes they are experiencing. They may not understand what their menstrual period is and why it’s happening, so conversations about the normal experience of having a period can help ease the uncertainty. Talking about the changes and what can be done to help ease the effects will be helpful, including offering direction on personal hygiene and how to use sanitary napkins and tampons. It is important to remind adolescent girls that pregnancy is possible once a girl has started ovulating and menstruating.

It is also important for adolescent girls to be aware of the changes they can expect with their body. Girls need to be able to ask questions and share their experiences to have a healthy transition to womanhood. So, family members or other adults should be available to help young women as they navigate their journey.