Puberty is a huge turning point in the lives of young women—it is a time of great changes and growth. Changes they experience include their skin, hair, breasts, mood swings, and of course their first menstrual period. Girls usually start experiencing these changes between the ages of 8-13, but some may begin earlier or later. These changes don’t immediately happen all at once, and can take several months to several years. Puberty is the phase when a person starts to shift from child to adult, and for the girls at this point, their bodies develop the ability to have a baby.
Experiencing your first menstrual period is a significant part of puberty. It means that the female body can now make a baby, and that a lot of other changes are happening throughout the month.
Girls usually experience their first period between the ages 12 and 14, but some may have it years before or after that. The thought of getting their period may be exciting for some, while others may feel uncomfortable about it. A lot of women consider their periods as a good indication that their bodies are healthy and working properly.
During your monthly period, a bloody fluid composed of blood and tissue comes out of your vagina. This fluid is made of the built up lining in the uterus that grows as the body prepares for a pregnancy. If a woman does not get pregnant, this lining sheds, and comes out as menstrual period.
Periods are induced by hormones (chemicals that your body naturally produces), which signal the ovaries to release one egg cell every month. During sexual intercourse, the egg cell can be fertilized by a male’s sperm cell, attach to the lining of the uterus (endometrium), and develop into a baby. If the egg cell was not fertilized, it will be shed out during your period along with the built up lining of the uterus—this is part of your menstrual cycle, and this cycle is what makes it possible for a woman to have a baby.
Periods can be light, heavy, or in between. The menstrual blood can also have different shades of red, ranging from light to dark, and sometimes containing dark clumps—all of these are normal. Periods usually last between three to five days, and may be heavy on the first or second day, then decrease on the later days. Having periods that last shorter or last up to seven days is normal, as well as having varying lengths every month, especially during the first years.
At first, your periods may not yet be regular. One month can have two periods, or none at all. Sometimes it can also last for just a couple of days, or as long as a week. Your periods will eventually be regular, too.
Changes To The Body
Your ovaries get bigger as you enter puberty, and your body starts to produce two hormones—oestrogen and progesterone.
During puberty, you will also notice that your breasts are growing, your height is increasing, and your body starts to form curves. Oestrogen is responsible for all these changes, and it also helps your vagina, fallopian tubes, and uterus to develop.
You’ll get taller, heavier, and stronger, and more prone to sweating. Your skin will also be more oily, and hair will start growing on your genitals, underarms, legs, and arms. Hips will be more rounded, and your waist will be more defined. Your vulva, vagina, and nipples increase in size, and your breasts start to develop. Your breasts may be uneven, and that’s completely normal. You may also notice vaginal discharge on your underwear.
Changes To The Mind
Puberty also encompasses changes to young teens’ minds, not just their bodies. Some of the changes to your mind will be caused by physical changes of this age, such as fluctuating hormones and a developing brain along with your body. Other changes will be linked to social pressures—the demands of school, pressure to fit in, and worries about how you look.
Emotions may be stronger and reach extremes in a minute—a person may feel on top of the world now, then down in the dumps all of a sudden. Feeling miserable can be difficult, and talking with parents or other adults you trust can be helpful for getting support and encouragement.
Having more sexual thoughts and urges may also be part of puberty. It’s likely that girls and boys begin feeling sexually or romantically attracted to the opposite sex, the same sex, or to both. Some teens may also feel turned on (horny) often. These feelings probably won’t be as strong as they approach adulthood. Some teens masturbate to release their sexual feelings, while others just wait for the feelings to pass. Masturbating in private is normal for both girls and boys—this is also a great way to understand their bodies better before they enter into sexual relationships later in their lives.
Puberty can be very confusing, and coping with all the changes can be complicated. Always remember that changing moods and seemingly uncontrollable emotions are all part of growing up. Puberty is experienced by everyone, and talking to a trusted adult can help sort out feelings.
This major stage in your life can be stressful, but it’s also a great time to figure out who you are, what you care about, and how to value and respect who you are.