What Causes Puberty to Start?Hormones are the reason that the physical and emotional changes of puberty begin. For girls, the hormone that starts puberty is estrogen; the production of the hormone testosterone begins puberty in boys. Estrogen is the female hormone, while testosterone is the male hormone. However, the fact is that women produce a small amount of testosterone and boys produce some estrogen. Another hormone that plays an important role in female reproductive health is progesterone. You may also hear these hormones called sex hormones. These are the key reproductive hormones; however, the body produces many other hormones that work together with other parts of the body, such as the thyroid, to keep us healthy.
What Happens During Puberty?When puberty begins, one of the first things that happen is that your monthly menstrual cycle starts. The start of your periods means that youre a woman now and pregnancy can occur at anytime that you decide that youre ready to have sexual intercourse. Think carefully before you decide that having sex is worth the risk of becoming pregnant.
Dont think that because its your first time having sex that you wont get pregnant. That is simply not true. There is no safe time to have sex without getting pregnant. If youre thinking about having sex, talk to your doctor about how you can protect yourself from an unplanned pregnancy, as well as from sexually transmitted diseases or STDs.
Other changes that occur during puberty include:
- Breast changes. During puberty, your breasts will begin to grow larger. You may feel a small, sometimes painful, lump just below your nipple when your breasts start to develop. This is perfectly normal occurrence in girls.
- Body hair. This is the time when youll start to notice soft hair beginning to grow in your pubic area; overtime this hair begins to grow thicker and youll notice hair growing under your arms and on your legs. If you decide you want to shave this new body hair, make sure to use clean water and a new razor. Never use anyone elses razor. Sharing razors may cause other infections to develop.
- Body size and shape. The size and shape of your body also changes during puberty. Your hips widen, while your waist gets smaller. Youll also develop extra fat in your stomach and buttocks. Dont worry, youre not getting fat; youre body is developing the curves that grown up womens bodies have.
Another change to your body is the lengthening of your arms, legs, and the growth of hands and feet. Often, these changes occur more rapidly than the changes in the rest of your body. Sometimes girls feel uncomfortable at this stage of development. Fortunately, these are temporary changes and you wont even notice them when the rest of your developing body catches up.
- Emotional changes. You might think youre going crazy sometimes during puberty. Youre not. Many girls and women experience these feelings around the time their period comes each month. These types of emotional ups, downs, irritability are most often due to the fluctuating hormone levels that happen during the menstrual cycle. You might notice that sometimes you feel great, and before you know what happened, you may suddenly feel horrible emotionally and physically.
If your emotions become too intense, talk to your doctor. You might be experiencing premenstrual syndrome or PMS or another condition. Your doctor may be able to prescribe some medicine or lifestyle changes that may help improve your mood swings. Regular exercise and dietary changes are often effective ways to treat PMS or other emotional changes during puberty and throughout your life.
Talk to your mom, an older sister, or another woman you feel comfortable talking to about how the physical and emotional changes of puberty make you feel. Its often easier to deal with these changes when you have someone that you can talk to about your feelings.
Reference: Puberty Information for Boys and Girls, American Academy of Pediatrics / AAP, accessed 09/12/06