Puberty

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Puberty

As a teenager, you're worried about a lot of things. Homework, acne, your profile pic. One thing you shouldn't be worried about is whether your breast, penis or vulva are normal. No two bodies are alike, and being different is normal. Teenagers also go through puberty, when your body starts to change as you move from being a kid to an adult. Some people go through puberty before the rest of their friends. Others grow later and have to wait and watch their classmates change. Either way, it’s important to remember that everyone goes through it.

In addition to physical changes during puberty, many teenagers start to see the world in different ways, to have more sexual thoughts, and be attracted to guys, girls, or maybe both. It’s also normal to feel things more intensely: one minute on top of the world and the next down in the dumps.

Here are more specifics about what girls and boys can each expect during puberty.

Girls

When do girls start puberty?

Girls usually start puberty between the ages of 9 and 11 years old, although some start a little sooner and others a little later. Girls often start puberty before boys.

What happens to a girl's body during puberty?

There are many different changes that happen when girls go through puberty. For example, breasts start to change in size and shape, hips start to widen, and pubic hair begins to grow on your private parts and under your arms. Also your clitoris will grow a little too, and the inner lips of your vulva will become more prominent. (For more information on these body parts check out some anatomy.)

During puberty, this area becomes more sensitive. The vulva can swell when a girl or woman is sexually excited through sexual thoughts, touching themselves, or through sexual activity with another person.

What's a period?

At some point during puberty, girls begin to menstruate. This is part of a monthly cycle that most healthy women's bodies go through, and it’s often called “getting your period.” During a 3-5 day period, blood and other fluids come out of the vagina. Some women get cramps before or during their periods. Ask a health care provider about how to alleviate this pain if you find this very uncomfortable.

What is discharge?

Discharge is liquid that comes out of the vagina. It can be clear, white, yellow, or greenish, and it can leave a stain on your underwear. Normal discharge is the result of our uterus cleaning itself. Noticing discharge during puberty is perfectly normal. Girls shouldn't worry about it unless the vulva becomes itchy or irritated. If that happens, girls should see a health care provider.

Boys

When do boys start puberty?

Boys usually start puberty when they're around 10 or 12 years old, although some start a little sooner and others a little later. Boys usually start puberty later than girls.

What happens to a boy's body during puberty?

There are many different changes that happen as boys go through puberty. For example, voices get deeper, and many boys start to get pimples and grow hair and sweat more under their arms. Also the testicles and penis get bigger, and pubic hair grows on the testicles and above the penis. These changes happen because our bodies release different growth hormones, and all of these changes are normal.

What's an ejaculation?

Boys and men become sexually excited by sexual thoughts, dreams, touching themselves, and sexual activity with another person. When boys/men are sexually excited, their penises fill with blood and get hard. This is called an erection. Ejaculation (or "coming") is when a sticky liquid spurts out of an erect penis. This liquid is called semen or "cum.” It's made up of sperm and a thick liquid that can help the sperm survive outside of the body.

What's a “wet dream”?

At some time during puberty you may start having sexual dreams. While you are asleep, your penis will get hard, and you'll ejaculate. Although it can be embarrassing, it’s completely normal; most boys occasionally have wet dreams.

Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was adapted from PlannedParenthood.org, a website that provides education about reproductive and sexual health. 

Many articles in this section were adapted from WeRNative.org, a website for Native Youth by Native Youth