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Changes In Your Body

From The National Women's Health Information Center

During adolescence, your body is going through many changes that are happening at a fast pace. While these changes might make you feel unsure of yourself at times, they can also be exciting. You are becoming a young woman! Learning about what is going on with your body will help you get through these changes.

This time in your life when your body is changing is called puberty. For girls, puberty usually starts between the ages of 9 and 16. Sometimes, it can start as early as 6 or 7. Puberty for boys usually starts between the ages of 13 and 15, but may start as early as age 9. For both girls and boys, puberty takes several years. Major body changes have taken place for most girls — but not all — by the time they are 14. For boys, these changes happen at age 15 or 16.

How do I know if I'm in puberty?

The first sign of puberty for most girls is growing breasts. Other changes include:

  • New body hair
  • Different body shape
  • Getting your menstrual period
Your Growth Spurt

During puberty, you will go through a growth spurt between ages 9 and 13. You will grow at a much faster pace than you had been growing. This growth process happens later for boys (between 10 and 16 years old), which is why you may find yourself taller than the boys in your class for a while.

Changes To Your Shape

During puberty, you will not only get taller, you will also see other changes in your body such as wider hips, bottom, and thighs. Your body, which has both muscle and fat, will also start to have more fat compared to muscle than it did before. This is normal and you should not be too concerned.

These changes in your body might make you uncomfortable because it is so different than what you are used to. You also might think you look strange, or feel shy about your body around other people. Many people feel self-conscious during this phase, but remember that everyone goes through it. It is really common to struggle with body image (how you feel about your body) — especially when there are many pictures of girls and women on television and in magazines with "perfect" bodies. Seeing these pictures may make you think there is something wrong with you if you are not as thin, but that is not true. Women and girls come in all shapes and sizes. The size of your body does not have anything to do with your value as a person. It's important to have a healthy weight by having good eating habits and exercising regularly.

Each young woman grows and changes at her own pace. Just remember that you are beautiful and that you are an individual.

Changes To Your Breasts

Having breasts is such a new thing for teen girls. When you start developing breasts, it is common to spend a lot of time thinking about how you look and how you compare to others. You may wish your breasts were bigger, or you may wish they were smaller. And there may even be times when you canít decide which you would prefer. The important thing to remember is that every woman is different in the shape and size of her breasts. Your breasts don't need to look like your friend's breasts or a magazine model's breasts.

It is also important to know that it is very common for your two breasts to be different sizes — especially as you first start developing. Other people can't tell that your breasts are different sizes. Also, exercises, vitamins, herbal teas and creams, will NOT change the size of one or both of your breasts.

Throughout puberty, you might see or feel lumps and other changes in your breasts. During your period, they may even feel a little tender or sore. Most of the changes your breasts will go through are normal. To get used to these normal changes, it is important to regularly do a breast self-examination (BSE). The best time to do it is about a week after your period starts. Let your doctor know if you find a lump or pain that you are not sure about. But keep in mind that harmless lumps are common in young women. Your doctor can show you exactly how to do a BSE.

Body Hair

Even before you get your first period, you will likely see new hair growing in your pubic area, under your arms and on your legs. It will start out light and sparse, and then grow darker, coarser, and thicker as you go through puberty. Although body hair is normal, some American women and girls remove the hair from their legs and underarms. There are a few ways to do this, such as shaving.

Changes in Your Mind

During puberty, there are also changes taking place in your mind.
  • You are able to understand more complex matters.
  • You are starting to make your own moral choices.
  • You know more about who you are, and what you like and dislike.

The teen years can seem like an emotional roller coaster, with worries about your changing body and the stress of school and social issues. But while you might feel alone on this ride, it's important to know that everyone struggles with the highs and lows of adolescence.

Last updated October 15, 2008