What's the deal with puberty?

  • During puberty, the body starts to develop and change. This is because it has started to produce certain hormones called oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones can also affect our moods and the way we feel.
  • For girls, puberty means the development of breasts and growth of armpit and pubic hair. Body shape may change e.g. hips may get wider, stomach, bottom and legs may get bigger and waist may begin to slim down. Later, periods will start and usually occur every month. Once a girl starts having periods it's possible for her to get pregnant during sex.
  • For boys, puberty starts with a growth spurt in height anywhere between nine and 15 years. Later, the testicles and penis begin to grow. Sperm production begins and once sperm are produced they can be released from the body through ejaculation. Public and underarm hair also starts to grow, and body hair will become more prominent.
  • The age puberty starts depends on lots of different things, such as ethnic origin, weight and the genes we inherit from our parents. Everyone goes through it, but different people's bodies change at different rates - some people start early and develop quickly, whereas others start late and develop slowly. This is nothing to worry about - whatever rate your body changes at is normal for you.
  • You will probably notice that you and your friends grow in different ways. Bodies don't develop in any set order and everyone is different.

When breasts first appear

  • Girls' breasts will usually start to develop around age 9 to 11, but it's quite normal for them to start earlier or later than this. Breasts are usually fully developed by about the age of 17.
  • Everyone's breasts develop at different rates, so don't worry if your friends' breasts are bigger or smaller than yours.
  • If your breasts start to develop at a younger age, this doesn't mean that you'll have bigger breasts than someone who starts to develop later - nor the other way round.
  • Breasts can start to develop before or after you get your first period - either way round, it's quite normal.
  • Your breasts will change at different times of your life: when you have your period, if you have a baby, and when you get older and your periods stop.
  • Boys have breast tissue too.

How breasts develop

  • When the breasts start to develop a small bump, called a breast bud, grows under the areola and the nipple. As your breast buds grow, you may notice tingling, aching or itching in your chest and your nipples may swell or become tender. This is all quite normal.
  • The breasts get bigger and rounder as the fatty tissue and milk-producing glands inside the breasts continue to grow. The areola also gets bigger and darker and the nipples may stick out.
  • Some breasts may develop asymmetrically (unevenly). This normally sorts itself out over time so don't panic.