Parent's Guide to Puberty
Girls and Puberty
By Bonnie Schiedel
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Puberty begins when the body sends a signal from the pituitary gland in the brain to the ovaries. Breast growth is usually the first sign most girls experience, starting with breast buds, small tender lumps under the nipple. Soft pubic hair will begin to grow, followed by underarm and leg hair. Your daughter's body shape will change too, as the hips widen, waist narrows, and more body fat builds up on the tummy, behind and legs. Acne may develop as the skin becomes oilier and hormone levels are high. She will also perspire more. She will get taller and her hands, feet, arms and legs may grow faster than the rest of her, often leading to clumsiness. Vaginal discharge that resembles egg white generally starts about a year and a half after breast growth begins, followed by her periods beginning about a year after that.
How she might be feeling. Reactions to puberty are as individual as the girls themselves. She may feel weird that she's earlier or later than her friends, or relieved that she's similar to them. She may be excited about becoming a grownup or feel sad because she thinks her childhood is being left behind. Anxiety about menstruation is common-when will it happen, what will I do, how do you use tampons, what if I get my first period while I'm wearing white shorts at the school dance? (Yep, that last one happened to me.) And she may be annoyed at the prospect of dealing with acne, blood and body hair for years to come. Concerns about breast size, height, and odors from menstrual blood and sweat are also common. Hormones and a changing body can often trigger mood swings and frustration.