From girl to woman

It can be a bit confusing or weird when your body starts changing, but everyone goes through this, not just you. Between the ages of 10 and 18, all girls change into women and you will too.

So what is happening to you? Some of these changes you can see when you look in the mirror.

Your breasts
Usually, your breasts start growing bigger first. This is usually the first sign that puberty is starting. They may start off as slightly tender lumps under the nipples. Often, while they are growing, one will be bigger than the other, but they usually catch up. At some stage you will need to get a bra. Take someone you trust with you (Mom, perhaps?) to help you choose it.

Your body shape
Your body shape will start changing. Your hips will also get wider and your waist a little narrower. Puberty is a slow process and usually starts earlier for girls than for boys. You will also get taller and could suddenly find yourself not being able to get into last summer’s clothes. Your body will become more rounded in the stomach, buttocks and legs, giving you the shape and appearance of a woman. Sometimes your arms and legs grow a little faster than everything else, which might make you feel a little clumsy. Don’t worry, it won’t last long. And don't worry if your body starts to change a little while before or after those of your friends. By the time you're 15 or 16, just about everyone will have caught up.

Sexy feelings
It's quite normal to think about sex a lot during your puberty. Your body is producing a lot of sex hormones and it's pleasant for most people to play with their genitals. This can produce very pleasant feelings and you should not feel guilty about this. This is also not something that starts with puberty – all children play with their genitals – even babies! This is just something that should always happen in private.

Your skin
Your skin will get more oily and you will start to sweat more. Your glands are growing too. It's important to wash regularly and to use an anti-perspirant deodorant to continue smelling nice. You might also get acne, which all teenagers get at one time or another, because of high hormone levels. Few people, boys or girls, escape acne completely during their teens.

But if it's really bad, so that it makes you shy and stops you from going out and doing things with your friends, ask one of your parents to take you to the doctor. Much can be done to stop acne these days.

Your body hair
You'll notice hair growing in places where there was no hair before, like under your arms and around your vulva or pubic area. This is to absorb sweat and as you will now sweat more than before, you’ll need it.

These changes don't happen to everyone at the same age or time, so don't worry if you're a few months behind or ahead of your friends.

Your period
Other changes that are happening in your body are not so easy to see. Your internal sexual organs are also growing. The part of your body in which a baby can grow - the uterus - is also growing up like the rest of you. Your ovaries, the two organs that store eggs in a woman’s body, also start letting go of these eggs one by one.

When these eggs aren't fertilised, your period (or bleeding through your vagina) begins. You have two ovaries, each of which holds thousands of very tiny eggs. You were born with all of these. One of your two ovaries releases an egg about once every twenty-eight days.

Before this happens, your uterus builds up a lining in case the egg gets fertilised. The new baby will need this lining to survive. Once a month, when the egg moves down the fallopian tubes to the uterus, ovulation takes place. If you have sex with a boy, his sperm could fertilise the egg and the egg will attach itself to the lining of the uterus. This fertilised egg will develop into a baby.

If this doesn't happen, your body needs to get rid of this lining. It starts to flow out of your uterus, through the cervix and the vagina and out of your body. This is your period and usually lasts from three to about seven days. It usually starts round about age 13, but can sometimes be a year or two later or earlier. As you get older, it will happen regularly about once a month.

In the beginning you can sometimes skip a month, or even two, but later it settles down. Some girls experience pain and cramping during their periods. There are tablets that can help you to feel better. Ask your mom to take you to the doctor if your periods start disrupting your life.

These changes happen to every girl sooner or later and while they can be confusing and make you feel that you no longer know your own body, all of these changes are signs that you're healthy and that you're growing up.

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