Prepared for Puberty: What Changes Should You Expect?
Ok, they’ve probably taught you about this in school, but in case you weren’t listening or were too worried about what your friends were saying to pay close attention, let’s talk about puberty. During your teenage years, your body begins to develop and change more than it will at any other time in your life – except when you were a baby – and this is known as puberty. The important thing to note here is that everyone goes through these changes, and it’s perfectly normal. Still, it’s a good idea to know what to expect, so you don’t get freaked out when these changes occur.
At a certain age during your adolescent years (between seven and 13 in girls and nine and 15 in guys), your brain releases a gonadotropin-releasing hormone, or GnRH, which starts the puberty process. The GnRH travels to a gland under your brain known as the pituitary gland, and this releases two more puberty hormones into your bloodstream; luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Although both guys and girls will have both of these hormones in their bodies, your sex will determine how these hormones go to work on different parts of the body. For guys, these hormones signal the production of testosterone and sperm, while FSH and LH stimulate girls’ ovaries to begin producing another hormone called oestrogen. Both of these processes prepare your body for reproduction.
Another change that happens during puberty is a growth spurt. For about two or three years, your body rapidly grows – even up to four or more inches in the space of a year. This will be the last time you grow in your life so once your growth spurt ends, this is your new adult height. Your body will also change in shape as well as size. Guys, your shoulders will widen and your body will become more muscular. You’ll also notice that your voice becomes deeper, your testes get bigger and your penis lengthens and widens. Some guys do experience a bit of breast development, but this often goes away by the end of puberty.
Girls, you’ll probably become curvier, gaining more weight on your hips and bigger breasts. This begins with a little swelling under your nipple, and you may find that one breast grows more quickly than the other. However, time will soon even things out. It’s perfectly normal to experience occasional soreness under the nipples as your breasts start to enlarge. It’s also completely healthy and common to notice an increase in body fat, so don’t try to go on a diet to go back to your pre-puberty weight – that was a kid’s weight, of course you’re not going to weigh the same! If you ever have questions or concerns about your weight, talk it over with your doctor. About two to three years after your breasts start growing, you’ll have your first period.
One change that both guys and girls go through is finding hair in new places. In the beginning, you’ll notice light and sparse hair growing under your arms and in your pubic area (on and around your genitals). As you go through puberty, this hair becomes longer, thicker, heavier, and darker. Eventually, guys also start to grow hair on their faces. Speaking of faces, you may also develop acne, due to the hormonal changes in your body. This normally disappears during adulthood, but until then you may have acne on your face, your upper back, or your upper chest. It helps to keep your skin clean, and your doctor will be able to offer some suggestions for clearing up acne.