Puberty in girls - Explaining the changes

Dr Nihara KrauseDr Nihara Krause

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Dr Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist

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Puberty in girls - Explaining the changesFist bump emoji

Everyone dreads awkward personal conversations, but this at-a-glance guide will help you find the right words so your daughter/the girl within your care knows you understand puberty in girls like her and the changes that come with it.

Knowing what you’re talking about will help you to relax and that will put your daughter at ease, too, helping her feel less self-conscious. For useful tips on how to share the facts on puberty in girls, see Period talk – a little less embarrassing.

What exactly is puberty?

  • Puberty is when a person starts to change from a child to an adult.
  • The obvious change during puberty in girls is the development of sexual characteristics – breasts, pubic hair and periods.
  • When puberty is complete, a girl is physically able to have a baby.

WHAT TO SAY: The physical changes and emotional development don't always happen together. It's possible that you could begin to mature emotionally before any physical changes happen, or the other way around. In other words, you may feel older but still look like a child, or still feel very young but look grown-up. At least if you’re more aware of what's happening, you’ll find it easier to deal with.

When does puberty happen?

  • Puberty can start anywhere between the ages of 8 and 16 (but most commonly around ages 11 to 13).
  • Generally, your first period tends to happen about two years after the first signs of breasts developing and within a year or so after the pubic hair starts to develop.
  • Before the first period, there will be some instances of vaginal discharge (whitish or clear fluid). WHAT TO SAY: It’s perfectly normal for girls who develop earlier than their friends to feel self-conscious and for those who start later to feel “left out”. The wide range of starting ages of puberty for girls is entirely normal – everyone develops at their own pace and it will happen sooner or later.

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