The puberty of a girl

This time has come – the process of the puberty of a girl has begun. How should parents behave in this period of their daughter's life?

Natalia Silina

How and when the puberty of a girl happens

On average, puberty in a modern girl begins at the age of 8-9. However, there is a global trend towards a decrease in this age limit.

By this age, a mother should tell her daughter in an accessible and understandable way how her body and emotional state will change. Because out of ignorance, a child may be afraid of what will happen to her.

I always recommend the mother to remember herself. How she went through puberty. What were the changes in her body and emotional state starting from the age of 8, and how was her adolescence going.

A mother, immersed in those memories, better understands what her daughter is going through.

What is puberty?

Puberty is the period when children (whether boys or girls) turn into adults. A child is not a reduced copy of an adult, but a separate organism with its own processes: hormonal and metabolic.

And now adolescence, the period of puberty, is the time when the body needs to quickly come from the state of childhood to the state of an adult. The child’s reproductive, nervous and cardiovascular systems are being intensively rebuilt, and all metabolic processes are being “reconfigured”.

Modern girls live under a lot of stress, which actively affects their adrenal glands: beauty standards imposed by social media, eating and sleeping disorders. All of this can stimulate premature puberty (body hair or odor).

дозрівання дівчинки созревание девочки the puberty of a girl
Natalia Silina, gynecologist-endocrinologist, UNICEF and UNFPA expert on sexuality education, at the “Growing Up Together” training

The puberty of a girl: stages

How the breasts grow

During growth, the mammary glands go through several stages of growth. At the beginning, the nipples swell, they increase slightly.

Then the formation of the mammary gland starts. This process may be accompanied by some discomfort:

  • Slight itching
  • Burning
  • Swelling
  • Puffiness

A mother should discuss with her daughter what symptoms will accompany breast growth: what is considered normal and what is a sign to visit a pediatric gynecologist. And teach the girl that breast care is an important part of every woman’s life.

When to see a doctor:

  • Pain in the breast;
  • Nipple discharge;
  • Wounds or rubbing;
  • You can feel a lump in the chest;
  • The discomfort is disturbing and affects the quality of life.

During this period, girls should not wear bras. It is better to wear not too tight tank tops with wide straps that will not press and leave marks on the shoulders or under the bodice.

Breasts can be of different sizes

Explain to your daughters that everyone has different mammary glands. Breasts can be asymmetrical, nipples can be large or small, areolas can be dark or light. This is all normal and beautiful.

I often see in my office how adult women are very timid because of negative experiences in adolescence: thinking their nipples are not in the right size or color.

It is crucial to convey to your daughter that the size, shape, and symmetry of her mammary glands does not characterize her as a person. Just like it doesn’t characterize her sexuality, ability to make friends, be funny and bright, or implement interesting projects. These are the exact phrases that should be used to explain this to her.

Social networks and media, unfortunately, set standards for what breasts and vulva should look like, and what a woman should look like, how she should dress. Only a mother and her close circle of women may overcome these stereotypes and help a girl form a correct perception of herself and her body.

When to see a doctor:

If one breast starts growing rapidly, I would recommend visiting a gynecologist-endocrinologist. This is necessary to exclude hormonal disorders. You should also visit a doctor if breast enlargement began before the age of 8.

Lumps in the breast

Any lump in the breast requires seeking medical care (from a family doctor or gynecologist), an ultrasound examination, a full comprehensive examination of the thyroid gland and the hormone prolactin.

These are mostly temporary hormonal changes that accompany adolescence. Nevertheless, we are obliged to monitor all breast lumps.

And there is no need to be afraid to go to the doctor.  In today’s world, we can cure many diseases, but only if we seek timely medical care.

The body hair and the puberty of a girl

Hair growth in the intimate area and underarms can occur in different ways in different people.

It is important to tell the girl that hair growth is normal. A woman’s pubic area and labia should be covered with hairs – this is a defense mechanism.

Moms often ask about the age at which girls can have laser hair removal. I don’t recommend it until the age of 16. Until this period, the hair in the bikini area should be cut short, and the armpits might be shaved.

When to visit a doctor:

If hair growth starts before the age of 8 in the armpit or groin area.

The puberty of a girl and vaginal discharge

Before puberty, the vaginal mucosa is thin, not saturated with female hormones, and the glands are not yet functioning. With the onset of puberty, everything changes, and gradually a vaginal secretion begins to appear.

It is a light discharge with a specific odor. Someone has more of it, and someone has less. In any case, vaginal discharge is a normal process.

Some mothers are confused when they notice yellow discharge on their girls’ panties during laundry. The fact is that in the evening, the discharge can turn yellow, and this is also normal. If we see no signs of inflammation (the vulva is pink), there is no need to panic and medicate the child.

дозрівання дівчинки созревание девочки the puberty of a girl
Natalia Silina, gynecologist-endocrinologist, UNICEF and UNFPA expert on sexuality education, at the “Growing Up Together” training

When to see a doctor:

If the discharge has an unpleasant or fishy odor, it causes discomfort, burning feelings, and severe redness of the vulva.

It is important to understand that the condition of the vaginal mucosa in a girl is directly related to the condition of the mucosa in the nasal cavity. If a girl has chronic tonsillitis, adenoids or permanent green snot, she will have inflammatory processes and the same green discharge. Therefore, these two processes need to be treated at the same time.

Menstruation and the puberty of a girl

The menstrual cycle is the main criterion of a woman’s health in her reproductive age, an indicator of whether you are okay.

A girl’s first menstruation is called “menarche“. It may start at the age of 8-9, which is why it is vital that the girl already knows about this phenomenon. On average, this is the age of 11–12 years.

How long do periods last?

Once the cycle is established, it normally lasts 21–35 days. Blood discharge from the genital tract lasts 3–7 days.

If the girl’s cycle is regular, then a lag for a couple of days is considered normal.

But if a mother sees that her daughter menstruates in 25-25-25 days, and then 28 days, in another month – 30 days, then 32 days, and the cycle is lengthening, this is a reason to see a gynecologist.

How much blood does a girl normally lose during periods?

Menstrual flow is an important indicator of hormonal disorders in the girl’s body, and in the mother’s body too.

Menstrual blood is not a tap water. Every drop of menstrual blood that a girl loses exceeding the normal amount leads to thyroid disorders, disrupts the quality of life, and reduces the ability to study well and live a full life.

The criteria for menstrual flow are how many pads are used per day. The one “normal” pad (four drops) should be enough for 3–4 hours. If a girl changes large pads every 2–3 hours, this is a heavy menstrual bleeding. It’s quite a reason to visit a gynecologist for adolescents.

Tampons or pads?

I am against tampons and menstrual cups in adolescence. Only pads.

The pad should be changed every 3–4 hours, even if it is not full. And this is not about the risk of “injuring” the hymen. It’s about preventing inflammation of the uterus and vagina. A menstrual cup and tampon filled with blood is an excellent breeding ground for conditionally bad bacteria.

Pain during menstruation: what to do?

Menstruation should not disrupt your normal lifestyle.

During menstruation, there may be a slight discomfort, pulling in the lower abdomen due to uterine contractions.

However, if a girl has a semi-fainting state, if she feels so bad that she calls an ambulance, if she has to avoid physical activity or take painkillers because of the ache, this is a call to see a doctor.

This condition can be one of the earliest symptoms of uterine endometriosis, especially when combined with heavy periods. In the future, this can lead to infertility and sexual and reproductive health disorders.

When to see a doctor:

  • Weight gain;
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding;
  • Painful periods;
  • Irregular menstrual cycle;
  • First menstruation was before 8 yo;
  • Breast pain;
  • Periods last less than 3 days or more than 7 days;
  • Menstruation disrupts the usual lifestyle (weakness, dizziness).

Menstruation and daily routine

The hypothalamic-pituitary system, which regulates the menstrual cycle, works properly only if the child has a properly organized daily routine, rest and nutrition.

If a girl goes to bed after midnight because of homework, if she stays up late at night with her smartphone or watches movies, her cycle will never get back on track.

At my seminar, one mother asked a question: how can her daughter go to bed before 11 pm if she has to study?

It’s about prioritizing. What do you choose: 12 points in math or the absence of polycystic ovary syndrome?

Natalia Silina, gynecologist-endocrinologist, UNICEF and UNFPA expert on sexuality education, at the “Growing Up Together” training

Menstruation and stereotypes

Remember, a doctor does not cure a patient. He gives recommendations, explains in plain language why they are needed, and the patient takes responsibility for their implementation. And the younger the child, the more responsibility lies with the parents.

And one more request to mothers: do not call menstruation “critical days”, “red guests have arrived” and other words that convey the message that menstruation is bad, shameful or disrupts the quality of life. Dear moms, do not support these stereotypes. Since then, it will be complicated for a girl to accept herself as a woman. Menstruation is normal, it is an indicator of women’s health, and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

The puberty of a girl: acne

Adolescence is inextricably linked to increased activity of the adrenal glands, and therefore increased activity of the sebaceous glands and hair follicle glands.

The fat produced by the glands is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. They grow with great vigor and provoke inflammatory processes in the skin. That is why teenagers’ scalp becomes oily faster, and they are prone to acne (pimples).

Also, proper nutrition is essential for the functioning of the sebaceous glands, which will not stimulate excessive insulin production.

This leads to two main recommendations on how to deal with acne in a teenage girl:

  • You should eliminate white flour, white sugar, coffee, and caffeinated beverages from your girl’s diet. You should also limit her carbohydrates (including fruits and berries) in the afternoon.
  • The girl should have a good night’s sleep, starting at 10 p.m., in a quiet, darkened room without blue light from gadget screens to avoid stimulating the adrenal glands.

Without the right daily routine, no cosmetics or medications can help to get rid of acne.

Weight gain during the puberty of a girl

Girls’ weight fluctuates since the thyroid gland works harder during adolescence than before.

Plus, all teens are prone to increased concentrations of the hormone insulin, which leads to increased appetite.

To form the right eating behavior, it is essential to organize a girl’s diet:

  • White meat
  • White fish
  • Plenty of greens
  • Plenty of veggies
  • Sufficient healthy fats
  • Dinner no later than 8 o’clock
  • Carbohydrates – no later than lunchtime
  • 3 meals a day

These simple rules will help a girl keep her weight under control not only in adolescence but also in adulthood.

When to see a doctor:

If you see that a girl is gaining weight, visit your family doctor. He or she will find out what the parents and grandparents were ill with and make a health plan. Based on the risk factors, the specialist will make individual recommendations.

For example, if a mother or grandmother has polycystic ovary syndrome and is overweight, we try to keep the girl away from the upper limits of the weight norm. Then there is a high probability that she will develop polycystic ovary syndrome.

Mood swings and the puberty of a girl

The main criterion for women’s health is their menstrual cycle, which does not change their usual standard of living. If there are mild mood swings that do not disrupt it, this may be a variant of the norm.

Natalia Silina, gynecologist-endocrinologist, UNICEF and UNFPA expert on sexuality education, at the “Growing Up Together” training

Although, you need to teach yourself and your child relaxation techniques. If a teenage girl or woman does not do breathing exercises, does not learn to relax her muscles, and does not rest, all these emotional swings can end in premenstrual syndrome, which in most countries is treated with antidepressants. If you don’t want this outcome, it’s better to look for medical and psychological causes of your conditions in a timely manner and work on them.

Modern research shows that a happy teenager is much more likely to become a healthy adult.

What a father with a growing daughter needs to know:

It is normal for her to express her sexuality.

Tell her: What a beauty you have become, how lucky the guy you fall in love with will be. Say that she is beautiful and sexy, and show it in a cultural and polite way.

For a girl, a father is an example of how a man should take care of a woman, how he should show his sympathy for a woman. The father should mention that if he and his mother are in a relationship, he should be attentive and respectful to his woman.

Parents should properly express their sexuality within acceptable limits. Seeing this, the girl forms the right standard of male-female relationships. Not a codependent relationship, not a victim syndrome, not considering a girl as a tool for pleasure in the hands of a man, but partner relationships.

You can learn more about all the processes that take place with a teenage daughter and the whole family in my course Growing Up Together – A Girl Becomes a Woman.

I’m eager to file all of these courses in English, just send me a request to dr.silinaeducation@gmail.com

You can always choose your doctor at the Lior Medical Center.

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