What Physical Changes Should I Expect For My Teenage Girl?

Puberty for girls

Have you begun to notice some mood changes in your teenage girl?

Or perhaps she’s still a tween, about to embark on her exciting journey through adolescence and into adulthood!

Then you might find this a useful information tool to help you understand what physical changes you should expect for your teenage girl.

Those precious childhood years do fly by very quickly and before you know it, you have a young woman standing before you, who doesn’t need hand-holding in the same way as that cheeky eight year old.

She no longer wants you to spend hours brushing her hair or reading her fairy stories!

Your girl is changing and soon, hopefully she’ll become your very best female friend.

Every Teenage Girl Is Different

Do remember, all girls are different. In fact, we are all unique human beings, males and females alike. Some girls start their journey to womanhood much earlier than others.

A girl as young as the tender age of just nine years old girl can start to show signs of physical changes.  However, most girls begin those changes around the age of 11 yet others don’t show any visible signs until they are in their early teens.

Genetics play a part in this and actually, both parents play a role.  It’s safe to say that many girls will follow the pattern of their parents, so if you are a mother reading this and didn’t start developing a teen girl’s body until you were thirteen years old or 14, your daughter will likely follow suit.

Always Be Reassuring

While it may come as a relief to you to still have your baby-faced little girl, puberty can be stressful for your child. It is very important to remember this and to reassure your daughter that she is completely normal.

Unfortunately, girls may be the recipient of peer pressure, especially if she’s the last girl in her class to wear a teen bra.

Remember again that puberty stages vary from teen to teen which means that  physical development in girls does vary, starting from age 8 and in some girls later.

So What’s Happening?

There’s lots happening in your daughter’s body and even as young as age 8 you may have noticed changes!

This part of puberty is called pre-puberty. It’s definitely worth touching on. Body odor is one of those changes so if you get a whiff of something unpleasant at the age of 8, 9 or 10 – it’s a sign that there are some changes occurring.

You might even dismiss it as something you’ve imagined but you more than likely didn’t imagine it!  This starts a few years before your daughter begins menstruating and is a transitional stage when hormones are stepping up a gear preparing for reproduction.

Hormonal Changes

Now, while this piece is about physical changes, in order for those physical changes to take place, hormones come into play so it’s important to touch on this area of puberty in girls.

The brain sends a message to the pituitary gland to tell it to start to release the estrogen hormone.

You know how that extra sensitive 8 or 9 year old of yours makes you giggle that she’s behaving like a teenage kid? Well actually, those messages are already travelling through her body and those hormones are starting to kick up quite a merry dance inside her!

The hormone that’s released is called Gonadotropin or GnRH.  This travels to the pituitary gland which lives just underneath the brain.

Then, there are two other puberty hormones that are released, Luteinizing (LH) and Follicle-Stimulating (FSH).  These are present in both boys and girls but depending on gender, they work on different parts of the body.

The Ovaries

In girls, these hormones start with the ovaries.  The ovaries contain millions of eggs that have been stored there since birth.  The ovaries are stimulated by these two hormones to start producing estrogen and it’s the combination of these three hormones that start the reproductive system off.

As well as physical changes you must be prepared for significant emotional changes too.

She will become moody for no apparent reason and have mood swings.  Remember, these hormones are really flourishing and they are what are responsible for irritability and sensitivity.

Be patient – no doubt you experienced the same mood swings when you were going through puberty!

Weight Changes

There are other biological changes too. What you might notice is your daughter starting to change her weight.

She will gain weight – this is entirely normal and it’s part of the changing shape of a woman.  Your daughter will become curvier, developing hips, a waist and breast shape will start to change.

The weight gain may only be slight to begin with but it might also gain momentum.  It’s all part and parcel of genetic make-up and will determine your daughter’s final shape later on.

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So it’s entirely normal and good that your daughter is gaining weight.  Be gentle with her – don’t make remarks that might make her self-conscious especially in the age of ultra-skinny supermodels.

She must not diet as this could halt her reproductive growth, although obviously she should still eat healthily. It is normal and healthy for a pre-teen and girl of teenage age to gain a little weight and it’s in preparation for reproduction.

Breasts also add to the weight gain especially as they get larger because they carry extra weight!  Remember this when she’s standing on the scales.

Breast Changes

Girls do develop breasts differently.  It generally starts with swelling under the nipples and it’s possible that one breast may start developing before the other.  Don’t be alarmed and reassure your daughter that it is normal – the other breast will catch up!

On the subject of breasts, many girls start developing in this area around the age of 9 or 10 but as I said before, it might be earlier and it may be later.  In fact, studies show Caucasian girls can start as early as 7 and Afro American girls before age 6!

The normal is to start with a little swelling behind each nipple which sometimes forms a hard lump.  This is the start of budding.

Nipples are usually the first area to change, often shape changes and they begin to protrude and enlarge.  It will probably feel uncomfortable to your daughter because they can get a little lumpy and sore.

This is entirely normal and you should again, reassure your daughter that there’s nothing wrong.   Don’t mistake these lumps for a cyst or a tumor it is most unlikely that this is what the lump is – it is puberty.

To Bra or Not To Bra

You may or may not want your daughter to start wearing a bra and really, it’s not necessary unless she feels very uncomfortable.  Bras should only be bought when your daughter reaches a proper bra size (28 AA), so training bras aren’t necessary.

However, if your daughter is later in developing than her peers and all of her friends are wearing bras, she may want to wear one too in which case don’t discourage her – puberty is difficult enough and she won’t want to stand out as different to her friends!

A final word on breasts.  Your daughter may have fully grown breasts at the age of twelve and a half and you may worry they are large but they will even out amongst the rest of her friends.

Some girls don’t have fully grown breasts until the adolescent age of 16.  This is normal, while it may be distressing to your daughter to have large breasts or not to have any breasts at all; it’s one of nature’s phenomenons.  Everyone is unique so everyone’s body changes at a different pace.

Pubic Hair

The next stage is development of pubic hair although some girls start growing hair earlier than breast development (around 10 to 15%).  This is also completely normal.  There is no “exact” pattern as to what develops first so don’t worry if your daughter starts getting pubic hair before breast buds.

Hair will start to develop on the lower abdomen and it starts off very fine, sparse and soft.

As time goes on, it darkens and becomes coarse and curly.  Around two years after the onset of pubic hair in the vaginal area it will start to grow underarms.

Your daughter will need an antiperspirant as hair increases sweat.  As mentioned before, you may have noticed that your daughter has the beginnings of body odor earlier than hair growth – a deodorant is important for her not to feel self-conscious.

Pubic hair also leads to increased body hair, on legs and arms especially. Your daughter might notice thicker hair on her legs and arms.

The best way to combat this is look for a gentle epilation technique, such as cream or if you want to, take her to a beauty salon for strip waxing which will help to keep her hair free for a few weeks.  It is entirely normal for your daughter to develop more hair on her legs and arms so reassure her if she is feeling self-conscious.

Menstruation

Around two or three years after the start of breast development, menstruation starts.  It’s a good idea to prepare your daughter for her periods because otherwise, it can be traumatic to suddenly bleed without explanation!  This Mavis Jukes book is a recommended resource.

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Your daughter will notice a white, milky discharge starts to appear from her vagina a few months before menstruation starts.  This is the body’s way of gearing up for periods and is entirely normal. Once a period starts, your daughter’s body is fully ready for reproduction and if you haven’t discussed sex yet, it is very important that you sit your daughter down and explain everything or you could risk teenage pregnancy.

Once a period starts, your daughter’s body is fully ready for reproduction and if you haven’t discussed sex yet, it is very important that you sit your daughter down and explain everything or you could risk teenage pregnancy.

Behind the Scenes

Menstruation means that your daughter’s ovaries have released their first egg.  This is called ovulation.  The egg travels down one of the fallopian tubes towards the uterus.  Prior to this, the womb has built up its lining with blood (and tissue).  It does this to prepare for pregnancy.  When an egg isn’t fertilised, the womb sheds its lining through the vagina and this is your daughter’s period.

Period Regularity

It is very common for your daughter’s periods to be extremely irregular to begin with.  She might not get another period for a few months and may have a period three weeks later.  It takes a few months to settle into a pattern.

Most girls have a 28 day cycle whereas some have a 24 day cycle, a 30 day cycle or even a 40 day cycle!  It will eventually even out so don’t worry if your daughter’s periods are not regular to begin with.

Expect a period to last anything from 2 days to 7 days (maybe even 8).  To begin with, periods are light and scanty but they can get very heavy with your daughter needing to change pads every couple of hours.

This is also normal.

You should only seek medical advice if she is bleeding through a thick pad every hour.  You should also seek medical advice for intermittent bleeding during the month between periods, although this is usually nothing to worry about!

Your daughter may feel discomfort in her lower abdomen and stomach in the days leading up to her period and during her period.  Again, while this is sore, it is normal.  Nurofen or paracetamol will help to reduce pain.  Unfortunately, period pain is part and parcel of being a woman.  If it is exceptionally painful, perhaps speak to your doctor.

The Pimply Truth

Of course, along with the onset of periods and puberty come pimples!  Your daughter may be lucky and never get a zit on her face but it is normal to have a few and to experience regular breakouts once a month.  Some girls are spottier than others – this is a fact of life.

It’s a good idea to get your daughter into a skincare routine as soon as possible because keeping skin clean will help to keep spots at bay.

Use a gentle cleanser, toner and light moisturiser too.

Contrary to popular belief, a light oil-free moisturiser won’t encourage zits.  If skin is very bad you might want to try a medicated face wash or seek medical advice.  There are various topical lotions that your doctor can prescribe that will help.

Timeline Female Puberty:

Breast Budding – 8 to 13 years

Pubic Hair Growth – 8 to 14 years

Growth spurt – 9.5 to 14.5 years (peak)

Menstruation – 9 to 16 years

Body hair increase – 10.5 to 16.5 years

Body shape changes – 10 to 15.5 years

Adult breasts – 12.5 to 16.5 years

Seeking Independence

During these turbulent years, your daughter will be gaining her independence.  She might tell you everything and she may be extra-secretive.  Try your best to be supportive of her at all times, unless there is anything that may be putting her in danger.

Obviously, there will be peer pressure when she’s out socialising so encourage positive friendships and keep a close eye on what she’s doing and with whom.

Finally

As a final word, be prepared for your teenage girl to have plenty of crushes – these are years when hormones go crazy and she might well feel that she’s fallen in love more than once!

She will be sensitive and needs lots of praise and encouragement because she wants to feel beautiful.

You are integral in making her feel good about herself, so teach her to love herself as much as you do.  This will go a long way in helping her to become a confident, assured adult.

This is a very useful YouTube video that will help your daughter to understand the changes going on in her body.

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Emma Crossick is a writer, mum of two, wife of one living in London. Emma spent 13 years working at Head Office for a very well-known high street retailer, three of those years were spent working for the food side of the business and subsequently, she worked for a food supplier where her passion for all things edible further developed.