Puberty is the time when a girl becomes physically able to have babies. Puberty generally happens earlier in a girl than it does in a boy, commonly between 9 and 13 years of age. This is the reason why girls may be taller and may act more mature than boys for a few years until the boys catch up. The following changes take place in the body:
Breasts: The breasts start to develop, and small, tender lumps appear under one or both nipples that get bigger over the next few years. It is common for one breast to be larger than the other initially. Later they even out as they reach their final size and shape. Girls, therefore, need to wear a bra, an experience that may be exciting as well as embarrassing in the beginning.
Hair: Soft, curly hair grow in the pubic area, the area between the legs. Hair also appear under the arms and on the legs.
Body shape: Hips become wider and the body begins to deposit fat on the stomach, buttocks, and the legs. This gives the woman's body a more curvaceous shape.
Skin: The skin may get more oily and sweats more. Pimples may appear and are called acne.
Menstruation: Menstrual "periods" begin in most girls between 9 and 16 years of age. During the menstrual period a blood-like fluid flows out of the vagina. This is a monthly discharge and requires a girl to wear some kind of sanitary pad or tampon to absorb this fluid and keep it from soiling the clothes. Pads have adhesive strips and are worn inside the panties. Tampons are placed inside the vagina.
In the beginning the periods are irregular and scanty or heavy. Later they become regular. Most periods last from 3 to 7 days. After the period, there may be a day or two of light bleeding, called spotting. This is normal.
If bleeding occurs regularly between periods, the doctor must be consulted. Menstrual periods do not necessarily limit ones activities like swimming, sports, riding, or gym classes. Exercises help get rid of other discomforts that may be present during the periods. These include:
soreness or swelling in the breasts
sudden mood changes or irritability