Here’s how girls’ bodies change during puberty

Puberty is the period in which a person’s body undergoes changes and becomes sexually mature – capable of reproduction. This usually occurs between the ages of 8 to 17 years.  

Onset of puberty can vary from individual to individual. For some it may begin as early as 8 years of age or it won’t even start till the age of 13 years. The physical maturation too varies, for some it may take a year and a half while for some it may last as long as 6 years. 

Puberty can be a confusing time for a child especially since the body undergoes so many changes and the fact that lack of awareness among parents on how to talk about these changes leaves the child completely in surprise when they hit puberty and experience physical and emotional changes. Especially for young girls, it is important that they are gently talked through the process because breast development and menstruation particularly be stressful for the child. 


Some of the major changes that a girl’s body undergoes during puberty can be described as follows:

  • Growth Spurts and Weight Gain 

    Girls experience a sudden growth in their heights after hitting puberty and have growth spurts earlier than boys. Most girls attain 98 percent of their final height by the age of 16 years. Weight gain and increase in body fat is also normal during puberty.

  • Development of Breasts and genitalia

    Breast development is one of the first signs of puberty among girls and usually occurs between the ages of 8 to 13 years and happens in stages. Girls may experience some soreness when the breasts are developing. It is also a possibility that one of the breasts grows faster than the other however, by the time they are fully developed, any difference may be very minute. 

    Breast development is especially stressful. Some girls worry about their breasts not growing enough while others feel their breasts are becoming too big. Even the nipples change during puberty, their color can become pink or brown or they may turn inward or outwards. At times hair may also grow around them, but all of these changes are completely normal and part of growing up. 

    The genitals also develop during puberty and internally, the uterus and vagina grow bigger. The vulva increases in size and the outer lip starts having some hair growth around it called pubic hair. 

  • Menstruation
    Menstruation, commonly referred to as periods, is a natural phenomenon.  Once a female becomes sexually mature, every month, the lining of the uterus thickens with tissue and blood vessels to assist in the growth of a fertilized egg, this lining is called endometrium. When the egg is not fertilized i.e., pregnancy does not occur, the lining sheds, and this blood and tissue comes out of the vagina. This cycle is called the menstruation cycle.

    A year or two (and in some cases even longer) after your breasts start developing you will experience your first period. Menstruation usually lasts for anything between two days to eight days. One gets their period after every 25-32 days and while a 28 days cycle is normal, it takes time for your periods to become regular. 

  • Vaginal Discharge
    Girls may sometimes notice a white sticky liquid in their underpants. This liquid is usually odorless or with a slight odor. Bathing regularly can help in reducing the odor. This vaginal discharge is very normal and helps in keeping your vagina moist and clean. It may become a little thicker and stickier right before your period.

    However, it can be a matter of concern if your discharge becomes itchy or causes irritation or if it has a strong odor and is dark yellow or greenish in color. It could be an infection and it is advised to consult a gynecologist.

  • Widening of hips and body hair 
    During puberty, as your pelvis begins to grow, the hips begin to widen. This process is slow and one might not even notice the changes. Also, hair growth appears in new places like your underarms, genital area and your upper lip. The hair on the arms and legs too get darker. 

    Unusual hair growth on the chest or chin may be due to hormonal factors and it is advised to consult a registered medical practitioner. 

  • Increase in Sweat
    The sweat glands become bigger and more active during puberty which is why you may begin to experience a lot of sweating. However, when sweat combines with bacteria in some parts like the under arms, it can cause body odor. Showering regularly and wearing light, breathable clothes can help to control the odor.

  • Acne
    Due to the surge in hormones and increased oil production in the pores of your skin during puberty, you may experience pimples, blackheads and whiteheads. It is important to keep your skin clean, wash your face at least two times a day, use gentle cleansers and beauty products that are oil – free. However, if the acne doesn’t subside or reduce over time, it is advised to consult your dermatologist.

These are some of the major physical changes that take place during puberty in a girl’s body. They are all normal and part of growing up to become an adult. Along with the physical changes, a child also experiences emotional changes and mood swings during this time. Though puberty can be an uncomfortable time, awareness, sensitivity and open communication of parents with their child can help the child understand the changes to their body and make it a less stressful process. 


About the Author

WHL Staff

The WHL staff comprises a group of ladies out to give you exhaustive, practical health tips and resources.