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Puberty

When you're going through puberty, your body changes in a number of ways. It can be a bit of a stressful time but knowing how your body will change can get rid of some of your worries.

What's puberty all about?

Puberty is basically the term used to describe all the changes your body goes through as you get closer to becoming an adult. It includes everything from growth spurts, periods and your voice breaking.

It happens to everyone at different times: some people start changing when they're only 10 years old, while other don't see any changes until they're 16. Changes can happen slowly and gradually, or over a relatively short space of time, but generally girls will start changing before boys.

Because your brain is releasing hormones to start these things, your emotions and feelings can also be affected during puberty. Your mood can go up and down, and you may start worrying about your body and the way you look.

Boys

Here are some signs of puberty that you may encounter.

Body changes

As well as getting taller, boys usually put on a little weight and their muscles begin to develop and get bigger. Your testicles and penis will also start to grow and you'll start to produce sperm.

Hair

When you're going through puberty, hair will start to grow under your armpits, on your legs and around your genitals. You'll also start to develop facial hair and you may want to start shaving. Some people also start to grow hair on their chest.

Voice breaking

Boys will also find that their voice will start to get deeper. You'll also find your Adam's apple in your throat will start to become more noticeable. When this happens, your voice has broken.

Sometimes your voice will break overnight, but usually it happens over a period of time. Your voice may sound croaky and it will go up and down in tone. Although it can be a bit embarrassing, it soon goes away.

Girls

Here's some of the changes that girls may notice.

Periods

Girls will start menstruating, or having their period, from around the age of 12. Menstruation begins when a girl's body has developed enough to have a baby. Once an egg is released from the ovaries, the womb grows a lining of tissue to protect it if it's fertilised by a sperm.

If the egg isn't fertilised, the egg and the womb lining will leave a girl's body through the vagina, which will cause bleeding that lasts for about three to eight days. This process is called the menstrual cycle and it happens on a monthly basis, but don't worry if it doesn't happen regularly straight away.

Periods can sometimes cause stomach pains. If the pain is always severe, make an appointment with your GP.

Body changes

Girls also grow taller during puberty and their breasts will start to develop.

Hair

Girls will also develop hair under their arms and around their vagina. They can also get fine hairs on their arms, legs and upper lip.

Other changes

With all the hormones going around your body, people of both sexes can develop other conditions while they're going through puberty.

These include:

  • oily skin, which can lead to outbreaks of spots or acne
  • increases in weight
  • an increase in the amount of sweat your body produces
  • changes in your sleeping pattern
  • confusing feelings towards people of the same sex

Puberty can be a confusing time and you may feel pressure if you're not developing as quickly as everyone else in your class. You may want to talk to an older brother, sister or cousin if you have any worries about changes you may be going through.

You may also want to talk to your doctor or go to a nearby clinic if you have any particular health worries.