What happens during puberty?

Puberty is when your body develops into the body of an adult. While it may sometimes feel weird, awkward or scary, puberty is a totally normal and healthy part of being a preteen and teen. Curious about what to expect? Here are answers to frequently asked questions about puberty.

When will I go through puberty?

Most young people start puberty between ages 8 and 14, though some start earlier and others later. You’ll begin puberty at the time that’s right for your body.

What should I expect during puberty?

During puberty, you’ll experience both physical and emotional changes. Most occur gradually over time and don’t happen all at once. These changes include:

  • Growing hair around your genitals, under your arms and on your legs
  • Getting aches and pains in your arms and legs (also known as “growing pains”)
  • Sweating more and having body odor
  • Possibly getting pimples

If you were born with male reproductive organs, you may experience:

  • A deeper voice
  • Growth in your penis and testicles
  • Hair growth on your back, chest and face
  • Broader chest and shoulders
  • Possible nipple swelling for a few months or years
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If you were born with female reproductive organs, you may experience:

  • Your breasts developing and getting bigger
  • Starting your period
  • Your labia getting bigger and/or changing color
  • Your hips getting wider and your body becoming curvier

These changes may affect your body image and self-esteem But remember, while you may feel different, the whole process of puberty is completely natural.

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For someone that is intersex (variation in chromosomes and reproductive anatomy), you may experience puberty a little differently, you are not alone. Check out more information on puberty for intersex people and other resources.

For someone that is transgender, puberty can be even more worrisome and confusing. Check out this video from Amaze and express your concerns to a trusted adult and/or medical professional.

I hear a lot about hormones during puberty. What are they?

Hormones are chemicals in the brain that play a role in human reproduction and sexual growth. They also have other functions. During puberty, hormones cause physical, emotional, and sexual changes in the body. It’s normal to experience sexual feelings for the first time during puberty.

Everyone feels, expresses, and responds to sexual feelings differently. Some people may experience these feelings later in life or not at all. Learn more about gender, sexuality and expression.

What emotional changes should I expect during puberty?

While young people go through different physical changes during puberty depending on their reproductive organs, everyone experiences some of the same emotional changes. You may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, confused and sometimes even depressed.

The best thing to do when you experience these feelings is to remind yourself that this is a normal part of puberty caused by an increase of new hormones in your body. It is important to understand that just because it is normal to experience these feelings, it doesn’t mean that you have to go through this time alone. Never be afraid to reach out to a trusted adult  when you feel sad, depressed, or lonely.

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What do I do once I start my period?

People who experience periods have many options to manage their menstruation every month, including:

  • Pads
  • Tampons
  • Period underwear
  • Menstrual cups

Finding the best option for you depends on your comfort with each product. It’s essential to read the directions for each method to make sure you use it correctly, safely and comfortably. You can also ask an adult you trust for advice.

What is PMS and what does it have to do with the period?

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a condition that a person with a uterus may experience one to two weeks before their period. Periods are a normal part of the menstrual cycle, and there are physical and emotional symptoms. Learn more about why periods occur, what to expect and how to manage symptoms of PMS .

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What about genital hygiene during puberty?

As your body changes, you may want to practice new genital hygiene habits.

Hygiene tips if you have a vagina:

  • DO NOT douche or use other scented “feminine hygiene” products. These products market cleaner, healthier vaginas, but they can cause vaginal irritation and/or infections.
  • DO wash the vulva with plain, unscented soap and water. You DO NOT need to clean the inside of your vagina—it already cleans itself.
  • DO wipe from front to back (vulva to anus) to help prevent the spread of germs.
  • DO wear cotton underwear and loose, breathable clothing.

Hygiene tips if you have a penis:

A person with a penis can clean their penis and testicles with regular soap while bathing. Some people may have a circumcised penis, which means the foreskin of their penis has been surgically removed. Others may have an uncircumcised penis, which means the foreskin of their penis is still intact. Both are normal.

A person with an uncircumcised penis should very gently pull the foreskin away from the tip of the penis, wash the tip of the penis as well as the inside of the foreskin with regular soap and water, and gently return the foreskin back over the penis.

Get more tips on how to maintain hygiene during puberty and beyond.

Puberty involves a lot of physical and emotional changes, but you’re not alone. Your friends and classmates likely have similar feelings, concerns and questions. Talk to an adult you trust about what you’re going through. They were in your shoes once and may have some helpful hints about how to navigate your teen years.  

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

Resources: Puberty: Is This Normal? Puberty

Planned Parenthood: Puberty

Planned Parenthood: Puberty: Genital Hygiene

Planned Parenthood: Puberty: Intersex


Amaze: Puberty and Transgender Youth

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