GROWING UP Have you heard about

Have you
heard about
Puberty is an important time in your life! At
puberty, you experience a lot of changes that take
you from being a child to an adult. Many of these
changes affect your body, but they also affect your
thoughts and feelings.
Puberty usually begins between the ages of
eight and sixteen and lasts from two to six years.
Sometimes puberty starts earlier for females than
for males. There is nothing you can do to speed
it up or slow it down. Every person is unique and
changes happen when your body is ready.
How does puberty start?
Puberty starts when your body releases hormones
which are chemical messages that travel through
the bloodstream. The pituitary gland, at the base of
the brain, releases these hormones. When the time is
right for you, these hormonal messages travel to the
reproductive organs, or gonads: the ovaries in a female
and the testicles in a male.
The ovaries are two small organs on either side
of the uterus containing thousands of tiny
egg cells called ova. When the ovaries receive
the hormone, they start to make their own
hormones called estrogen and progesterone.
Females also produce some testosterone which
is another hormone.
The testicles are two small organs in the
scrotum, which is the loose bag of skin that
hangs behind the penis. The testicles are
where sperm are made. When the testicles
Female Internal Anatomy
Male Internal Anatomy
receive the hormone, they start to make their own
hormone called testosterone. Males also produce
some estrogen and progesterone.
When the ovaries and testicles start to produce their
own hormones, many other changes start to happen.
How much will you change
during puberty?
You will go through many changes
during puberty! Your body will
grow larger — sometimes very
quickly. Arms and legs get longer,
but so do all the parts of your
body. Once puberty starts, your
body will show major changes
over the next two or three years.
Some people may grow up to 10cm
(four inches) in one year during
a “growth spurt”. As your body
grows taller, it will change in other ways too; you will
gain weight, and your overall shape will change.
How does
my body
know what
changes to
Estrogen, progesterone and
testosterone cause many different
changes. Estrogen and progesterone
cause hips to widen and breasts to
develop. They also make the ovaries,
uterus and vulva grow and mature.
About a year or two after the breasts start to develop, a girl will have her first menstrual period.
Testosterone causes shoulders to widen, voices to
deepen, bodies to become more muscular, and facial
and possibly chest hair to grow. It also causes the penis,
scrotum, and testicles to grow and mature.
Everyone has different amounts of these hormones, the changes will depend on your hormone levels and
your genes (the characteristics that get passed on from your birth parents).
Are the changes the same for boys and for girls?
Yes... and no. Most of the changes are the same for boys
and girls. It depends on the type of hormone and the
amount that your body will produce.
Both boys and girls grow taller and become heavier.
The voice becomes deeper for everyone, but especially
in boys. You start to sweat more, especially under the
arms; the sweat will have an odour.
Another change that happens
to everyone at puberty is hair
growth. The body hair on
your arms, legs and face may
become darker and thicker.
New hair begins to grow under
the arms and in the pubic area
around the genitals (penis
and vulva). The skin on the
face and the hair follicles
start to produce more oil.
When pores get blocked with oil and dirt, you may get
blackheads and pimples.
I’m happy
one minute
Hormones also affect the brain.
and the next
Your mood may change very
minute I think
quickly. You may feel happy one
I’m going to
minute and sad the next. You
may feel confused, get angry
quickly, and fight with your friends and family. If you feel
down or depressed for more than two weeks talk with a
caring adult.
What changes are caused by testosterone?
Changes that occur from the hormone testosterone
mainly affect boys.
Testosterone makes the larynx (also known as the vocal
cords or Adam’s apple) grow, and this deepens the
voice. As the larynx gets bigger, it may stick out a bit
in the front of the throat, and sometimes a voice makes
squeaky sounds until the larynx is finished growing.
In boys, testosterone makes the penis get thicker and
longer. Penises come in all shapes and sizes. All boys are
born with skin that covers the head of the penis, called
foreskin. Some penises are circumcised, which means
the foreskin has been surgically removed.
Sometimes the penis gets stiff and sticks out from the
body. This is called an erection and
happens to all penises from the time a
boy is born. During puberty, boys will
probably notice that they are getting
erections more frequently. This
can happen when a boy is thinking
about someone he is attracted to or
sometimes for no reason at all. All
boys have erections during sleep.
Beginning at puberty, when a boy
wakes up, he may find some white
sticky stuff on his pyjamas or
sheets. When this happens,
he has had a wet dream. The
fluid that comes out of the penis while sleeping is called
semen. Having wet dreams means a boy has started to
produce sperm, the male reproductive cell. Sperm cells
are too small to be seen, but they are in the semen.
The sperm travel from the testicles, pick up fluid from
glands along the way, and then come out through the
penis. Any time that this fluid comes out it is called
Starting at puberty, people may also start to have
sexual feelings. Masturbation, or self pleasuring, is
when someone touches or rubs their genitals to get a
pleasurable feeling. Sometimes during masturbation, an
intense, pleasurable feeling (called orgasm) occurs, and
a boy may ejaculate semen from
his penis.
Wow! This
puberty stuff
is full of so
many new
What changes are caused by estrogen
and progesterone?
Physical changes caused by estrogen and progesterone
mainly affect girls.
When breasts begin to grow, estrogen makes them
feel sensitive. First, there is a little bump behind the
nipple, then some swelling and growth under
each breast until they reach their final size and
shape. Breasts develop in all shapes and sizes.
Breast development can also happen in males
at puberty but it is usually only temporary.
In puberty, the vulva grows and becomes more
sensitive, especially the organ at the top of
the vulva called the clitoris. Masturbation
or self-pleasuring, when a person rubs or
touches their genitals in a way that feels
good, can cause a strong pleasurable feeling
called an orgasm.
Girls may start to notice a slippery substance coming
from the vagina that leaves a little white or yellow stain
on the underwear. This is called vaginal discharge or
mucus. It’s one of the signs that she will probably get
her first period within a year.
How often
During puberty, an ovary will
my period
release one of the thousands
of tiny eggs a female is born
with into the fallopian tube.
This is called ovulation. The
egg lives for about 24 hours
and then dissolves. Hormones send messages to the
uterus to build up a lining of blood and tissue so that if
an egg is fertilized by sperm, the growing cells will be
able to attach themselves to this lining. This is called
pregnancy. If the egg isn’t fertilized, it dissolves and
two weeks later the lining will flow out of the vagina.
This flow of fluid and blood is called menstruation, or a
period. Ovulation usually happens once a month. Two
weeks after ovulation, the period starts. Periods happen
usually once every 21-42 days. Sometimes when puberty
first begins, periods happen irregularly, but eventually
they start to become more predictable. Some girls mark
the first day of the period on a calendar, to learn about
the body and to help predict the next period.
When a girl gets her period, she will need
to use something to absorb the fluid from
the vagina so it doesn’t stain her clothes.
Some girls use pads that attach to the
underwear; some use tampons or other
menstrual products that catch the
fluid before it leaves the body.
The vagina, like noses and eyes, keeps
itself moist and clean and there is no need
to wash inside. The vulva (the outside part)
can be cleaned by bathing or showering
daily with mild soap and water.
What about making babies?
At puberty, your body is maturing so that you may be
able to reproduce (or “make a baby”) one day — although
not everyone wants to or can make a baby.
When adults want to make a baby, one egg has to join
with one sperm. One way is that a sperm can fertilize
an egg during sexual intercourse between a man and a
woman. This is also called “making love” or
“having sex”.
People have sexual intercourse
for all kinds of reasons, not just to
make a baby. Babies can also be
made by having the egg and sperm
join together with the help of a
doctor in a clinic.
When two adults want to make a
baby through sexual intercourse, their bodies get ready.
The penis gets erect and the vagina becomes slippery
inside. When they are both ready, the erect penis slides
into the vagina or the vagina slides around the penis.
One person or both will have an intense, pleasurable
feeling called orgasm. During
orgasm, semen is ejaculated into
One of the
the vagina. The semen contains
reasons for puberty
is so that someday
millions of tiny sperm cells. If it is
your body may be
near to the time when the female
able to make
ovulates (releases an egg), the
a baby!
sperm may meet with the egg in
the fallopian tube. Only one out of
the millions of sperm can fertilize
the egg. When this happens, the cells of the egg divide
and grow, and travel down the fallopian tube into the
uterus. If this group of cells attaches to the lining of the
uterus, then a pregnancy happens.
Are all of the changes at puberty physical?
No, there are also emotional changes during puberty.
It’s common to be moody, to get upset, or to cry for no
reason. You may fight with friends or start changing
Why are my
feet suddenly
so big?
friends as your interests change.
You may feel awkward, because
some parts of your body, like
your feet, grow more quickly
than others.
You may also have a crush on
someone or romantic feelings
for a person. It may be someone
you know or someone you don’t know (like a celebrity),
someone the same age as you or a different age from
you, someone of the opposite sex or the same sex as
you. You may start to have sexual feelings, thoughts,
or fantasies.
Puberty is a time when you are trying to figure
out who you are: your values, feelings, who you are
attracted to, and how to be attractive in return. You may
have problems with friends or family or worry about
school. It’s important to find someone to talk to when
you are worried. Friends, family, or other caring adults
can help you. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with
someone you know, you can call the
Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868
More questions?
Sometimes sexual feelings or touches can be confusing
or unwanted. When touching or attention makes you
uncomfortable, it is important to talk about it with a
trusted adult. Remember, your body belongs to you!
Talking to people who understand what you’re going
through can help make the changes of puberty less
stressful. If you have questions, speak to someone you
feel comfortable going to for help: maybe a parent, an
older brother or sister, a relative, or someone else
whom you trust.
What can you do to feel
good during puberty?
• Remember that it’s normal to put on
weight during puberty. You’re growing
and your body shape is changing.
• Regular baths or showers will wash away
sweat and bacteria. Using deodorant can
help reduce body odour.
• Washing your face every day with mild
soap and warm water can help reduce
pimples and blackheads.
• To look good and feel well, eat healthy
food, be active, and get involved in
activities at school and in
your neighbourhood.
Kids Help Phone
AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine