All content within this page has been reviewed and endorsed by
Dr Julia Thomson, Consultant Paediatrician
Simply put, puberty is a time of physical and emotional change that happens as children grow and mature.
Another way of answering the question ‘what is puberty’ is that it’s when your organs develop so that your body can reproduce.
By the end of puberty, girls have started ovulating - or releasing an egg once a month from the ovaries - and boys have developed sperm. If an egg is fertilized by sperm, pregnancy will start.
Puberty is a time full of lots of exciting changes – both physical and emotional. However, while thrilling, it can also be a little baffling. After all, you’re experiencing a lot of new things you’ve never experienced before.
This can leave you with a lot of puberty questions. We’re here to help you find some answers.
Why does puberty start?
Puberty starts in your brain when the pituitary gland sends out a message to your ovaries to start producing more estrogen, the primary female sex hormone.
In boys, the pituitary gland tells the testicles to start producing more testosterone. These changes in your hormone levels cause your body, and emotions, to change.
When does puberty start?
Puberty can start in girls as early as 8 or as late as 14. When you start puberty has a lot to do with your genetics. There’s nothing good or bad about starting puberty earlier or later.
Everybody is a little different and will go through puberty at a different rate. Don’t worry if you are developing faster or slower than your friends. It’s part of what makes us all unique as human beings.
What are the physical signs of puberty?
Due to the hormonal changes that take place during puberty, lots of physical changes start to happen for both boys and girls.
Getting your period is one of the highlights of puberty. Your period should last from 2 to 7 days every month. During that time, you can protect your knickers by wearing a pad like Always Ultra or a tampon like Tampax Pearl Compak.
We’ve just seen that your hair and skin may become oilier. You’ll sweat more. Your body will develop its own odour. These facts of puberty can be a little less fun, but everyone experiences them – even all your friends. So, you’re in good company!
Puberty is a good time to develop your own personal hygiene routine that includes frequent showers and good skin care.
What are the emotional changes in puberty?
Puberty also changes the way you think and see the world. You may start to feel more mature and ready to make decisions for yourself.
That makes puberty a great time to try out new skills and hobbies and to build your confidence by taking on new challenges.
You may also experience more intense emotions during puberty. This can include new and exciting feelings towards your peers – and maybe even developing new crushes.
You may also notice you have mood swings. Be sure to take a deep breath and think through your emotions. It can help you work through them. Talking through your feelings with someone you trust is also a big help.
Where can I get more information?
For more puberty advice, consider talking to a trusted adult, a big sister, or a friend.
It can feel awkward to start the conversation, but everyone goes through it and talking can be a big help. Go ahead and ask all your puberty questions.