Puberty and the changes that come with it

August 07, 2023

Puberty and the changes that come with it

Do you feel that your body is changing? Do you get mixed emotions easily and quickly? Do you feel like you have butterflies in your stomach looking at a person you like? Also, have you started feeling attraction towards others romantically?

If yes, congratulations! You are becoming an adult!!! You are going through puberty!!!

Puberty is a phenomenon that occurs in every individual during the process of growing up. The process includes a series of physical, psychological, and emotional changes and can also be seen as a way your body is telling you that it is transitioning from childhood to its adult form. The broad categories of changes are:

1. Growth and development of the body (internally and externally)

2. Growth and development of sexual organs

3. Brain development

4. Social and emotional changes

Every individual may start going through puberty at a different age, and all the changes one experiences may not be identical. However, a general consensus has been developed around the subject matter. The signal comes from within the body via special chemicals called “hormones”. When the brain reaches a certain level of maturity, there is the release of these hormones that signals the beginning. Along with the brain, another system that starts releasing hormones are the reproductive organs, commonly referred to as the gonads, and ovaries in females, and testes in males. The development that occurs due to these sex hormones are known as secondary sexual characteristics. The typical age at which this starts is 10-11 years for girls and 11-12 years for boys. It is perfectly normal for the age of onset to be earlier i.e. from 8-9 years onwards. It takes anywhere from 18 months to 5 years for completion.

This paragraph will focus on the key physical changes that occur in an individual with female gonads i.e. ovaries. The first change is growth and development of breasts, which are masses of tissues present on the chest. It is perfectly normal for each breast (right and left) to develop at different rates, and a bit of tenderness i.e. pain to be experienced. Following this, there will be a growth spurt, i.e. different body parts like the head, face, hands along with the limbs and torso will grow at a fast rate. During this spurt, there is also a change in shape of the body, with hip widening being an important contributing factor. Following the growth spurt, there is growth thick, dark, curly hair, called pubic hair, under the arms and around the external sex organs. Females also start getting a clear or whitish vaginal discharge, which may be noticed first as a wetness in the underwear. Approximately 2-4 years after breast development, the female will experience her first period.

 In individuals with male gonads, i.e. testes, the predominant sex hormone is testosterone. Due to the release of large amount of this, there will be a similar but longer growth spurt. There is also minor breast development, which should be reassured as completely normal. This is followed by growth of pubic hair in the armpits, chest, lower abdomen and the testicles. There is also thickening of the hair on the arms and legs. The child will start having erections (penis becomes hard and lengthens) and ejaculating (release of semen after erection), which might even occur during sleep. This is also called “wet dreams”.  There is also a prominent growth on the neck, the Adam’s apple, and voice becomes deeper.

Other physical changes common to both sexes, is brain development which influences the overall behavior. Lung performance improves, bones become thicker and muscle mass increases. There is also an overall gain in weight, and there needs to be an intake of a nutritious and wholesome diet. There is appearance of acne and hair starts becoming oilier.

How does one deal with all these changes happening all at once?

1. The first thing to do is tell yourself that it’s completely normal, and that everyone has to go through it at one stage or another.

2. Talk about it with your parents, teachers, and older siblings. You will find that it helps to normalize things.

3. Eat a balanced diet and move those new muscles! You’ll find yourself feeling lighter and happier.

4. Visit a doctor if you feel anxious, develop cystic acne or smelly discharge. For the female sex, it is also important to visit the gynecologist if you do not get your period till you are 16 years of age.


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