PUBERTY IN GIRLS: WHAT TO EXPECT, Michael Silverstein, MD (Digital)

By on July 30, 2019

Puberty is a difficult time for a lot of reasons, but it’s also an important time for the body. Puberty is when some significant changes begin to happen, so it can often be helpful to know what to expect for your pre-teen. Here’s what to know about puberty, its timeline, and how it affects the body.

What is puberty?

Puberty is when the body begins to develop its reproductive and sexual characteristics. In girls, it’s usually triggered by hormonal activity to stimulate estrogen production and the release of eggs in the ovaries. The brain initiates puberty around age 9 or 10, and the estrogen produced results in secondary sex characteristics. These are characteristics that are not a direct part of the reproductive system and can include things like breast development, body hair, and overall changes to the body.

When does puberty start?

Generally, girls begin puberty at around 8 to 13 years old. This is different for each girl, though. The three requirements for a girl to begin going through puberty are a “happy hypothalamus” (absence of excess exercise, malnutrition, excess stress, anorexia), a source of estrogen (the ovaries), and a normal anatomy (uterus connected to cervix and vagina). If these three things are in place, then the brain will usually begin initiating the puberty process.

What kind of timeline does puberty have?

Although we usually think of puberty as taking place during the early teenage years, some developments can continue for years after this period. The first anatomic change during puberty is the beginning of breast development. Initially, the nipple elevates off the chest, and 3-5 years later the fully developed breast is present. Approximately a year later, hair growth develops over the pubic and axillary (underarm) areas. This also takes 3-5 years to reach completion. For around 2-3 years after this, overall growth is accelerated. After this, the first period occurs. Early cycles are often chaotic and unpredictable, but they usually become regular after 1-3 years.

When should young girls see a gynecologist?

Seeing a gynecologist regularly during puberty can be a huge benefit in making sure everything is developing as it should. Additionally, any absence of secondary sex characteristics (breast growth, pubic & axillary hair, growth acceleration) by age 14 or absence of menses by age 16 should be brought to the attention of a pediatrician or gynecologist.

Schedule an Appointment

Our team of women’s health experts can meet with you and your pre-teen to discuss any concerns and make sure your questions are answered. To schedule an appointment with our gynecologists, contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.

Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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