What is Puberty?
Puberty is the sequence of physical, sexual, physiological and psychological changes that take place at adolescence which brings one to adulthood.
Most of the time it is the sexual maturity which takes the forefront but all the changes need due attention because this is the time when one moves from parental control to personal control.
What happens when one enters puberty?
Puberty heralds sequential changes in the body. Different organs concerned with sexual maturity develop at different times.
In girls, the first sign is the development of breast which is called as thelarche in medical parlance.
In the boys, the testes enlarge first. From here onwards there is an orderly fashion of development in which the breast size progressively increases in girls while the testes and the penis increase in boys.
This march is regulated by the interplay between the hormones produced by the thalamus, pituitary and ovaries/testes.
They are called as GnRH, FSH & LH and estrogen/testosterone respectively. In both the sexes the hair in the armpit and around the pubis increases in thickness and darkens in colour.
The doctors can determine the stage of puberty by noticing the growth of the breast or testes and amount of hair in the armpit and around the pubis.
Another important change that is noticed is a sudden increase in the height of both boys and girls. This is called pubertal growth spurt.
What is the normal age at which puberty commences?
Puberty commences at 9-12 years in a female and 10 to 14 years in a male.
What should be expected in girls?
- Breasts grow bigger – 1st sign (Thelarche)
- Pubic hair /underarm hair appear
- Start of menstruation (periods) within 2 years of breast development- Menarche. This may not be regularly occurring i.e. may skip a month or two, in the first 2-3 years of menarche.
- Feel bloated and mood swings
- White, clear discharge may occur in some girls.
What should be expected in boys?
- Testes grow bigger and the penis becomes longer – one of the initial signs of puberty
- Pubic/underarm/facial hair appears
- Voice changes
- Wet dreams- some amount of semen can wet the undergarments seen early morning
- Breasts get bigger (reassure)
Other (common to both boys and girls)
- Excessive Sweating/body odour
- Eyesight issues
- Mood swings