Anatomy, Puberty & Periods
What is puberty?
Puberty is a period of time when young people’s bodies go through physical, emotional, and social changes to become adults. It is a moment in life that starts between being 8 and 14 years old. Everyone’s body is different, so each person’s experiences of puberty will be different.
How does puberty work?
Brains are pretty awesome. They decide when puberty should start and send chemical messages called hormones that tell different parts of the body to start doing what they need to do to keep on developing.
What changes happen during puberty?
Some of the changes in puberty only happen to people with certain body parts. Each person’s experience with the changes that happen to their body is impacted by their context – their family, their school, their socio-cultural background.
● Brains grow and change to help with making decisions and understanding the world in different ways
● More sweat which might have body odor
● Hair growth in armpits, around genitals, and on arms and legs
● Might get pimples and acne
● Grow taller and bigger, with maybe some pain in arms and legs as they grow
● Mood swings
● Sexual thoughts or feelings, attraction to someone
● Voice gets deeper or sounds different
● Want to spend more time with friends and be more independent
Changes for people with a vagina:
● Developing breasts
● Menstruation, or getting periods
● Hips grow wider, some bodies become curvier
● Labia might change color or get bigger
Changes for people with a penis:
● Penis and testicle grow larger
● Might start growing hair on the face, chest, and back
● Might have swelling on the chest around the nipples for a while
● Chest and shoulders grow broader
● Penis gets hard and stands up, this is called having an erection
● Fluid comes out of the penis often at night, sometimes called wet dreams
What is “normal”?
Puberty can be tough because it can feel like everyone else is normal except you – but that's not true! Most of what happens during puberty happen to other people in their unique way. So in other words, “normal” is looking different – celebrate that you are you!
In some cases, finding support from a medical provider or trusted adult is key:
If someone is being hurt or not respected, suffering physical and emotional abuse.
When identifying bumps on genitals or a burning feeling when peeing – this could be an STI.
If the changes happening to someone's body don’t match their gender identity.
If someone wonders if they might be gay or are trying to figure out how to come out.
Anytime you feel worried about what is going on with you.
How can I better enjoy my puberty?
Puberty can cause stress, anxiety, and changes in our relationships. We have to learn new ways to take care of ourselves like showering more, wearing a bra, or thinking about what we need in a healthy relationship.
Taking care of our mental health is also important. No one has to just “suck it up” – remember that knowledge is power! Talk with people you trust. Who’s in your support system? An older sibling, parent, or cousin? A coach or faith leader? Someone at school? Talk with them. Ask questions. Listen. Take a walk and reflect.
Sports, performing arts, mindful breathing exercises, and creative projects are great ways to find balance. What's your favorite one?