You might already be seeing the first signs of puberty in girls – either in your own daughter or in the girls around her.
But you’re not alone if you feel that puberty has crept up on you, out of the blue. It happens to us all. Yesterday, they looked like little girls but today, you see them blossoming into womanhood.
You can read about the signs of puberty in boys here.
You’ll find more information about puberty in my Puberty 101 page.
So when should you expect to see the first signs of puberty in girls?
For girls, puberty usually begins around the age of 9 to 10. It can be as early as 8 (yes, that early) or as late as 15. Every girl is different and puberty will begin when her body is ready for it. You can’t rush it!
The timing of puberty is influenced by many things – diet, body weight and their environment. The chances are, that if you were an early or late bloomer, that your daughter will be as well.
So although the timing of puberty can be different for every girl, the sequence of changes are much more predictable. There is a usual pattern of changes that we can expect.
We can expect emotional and physical changes that will prewarn us that puberty is on it’s way.
If I had a dollar for every time a mother told me that her daughter was starting to get quite moody lately, I would be a rich woman! So a change in moods can be one of the signs of puberty in girls. And this happens thanks to the fact that the body is starting to produce hormones, and we all react differently to hormones. Some girls will have a stronger reaction which means that their mood swings will be much more dramatic! But for some girls, you may not notice a change in mood at all!
The physical signs of puberty in girls are a lot easier to spot! And possibly even easier to live with, once you get over the initial shock of realising that their childhood is being left behind. You’ll start to see physical changes anywhere between the ages of 8 to 14. And remember every girl is different – some girls will be earlier or later than their friends. And some may have changes in a slightly different order!
Usually, before anything else, you’ll notice that they have gone up a shoe size or two. So you can expect their feet and hands to have a growth spurt.
The next signs of puberty in girls, you’ll see will be the start of breast growth ie her breasts will begin to bud. This means that small lumps the size of a blueberry or marble will develop directly beneath your daughter’s areola and nipple. You will probably notice this under her clothing or when you see her naked. Most girls will start to become more self conscious as their body changes, so you might notice that that they are no longer parading around the house naked.
Her body shape will also begin to change with her hips, thighs and bottom becoming wider and more rounded. She will also start to gain weight as her body begins to grow. The amount of fat tissue in their body will increase by around 125%. This means that a quarter of her body weight will end up being fat. You may notice stretch marks, or little scars, where the skin is pulled from growing fast. Over time, these will usually fade.
At the same time, the first pubic hairs will appear. Pubic hair can sometimes start before breasts for some girls, so don’t be alarmed if this happens to your daughter. They will start off being fine, soft and straight. It isn’t until later that they become darker, curlier and thicker like the pubic hair that parents have. Their hair may also start to thicken on their lower legs.
Some girls may be aware of a change in regards to how their vagina feels. They may start to notice white or yellow patches of dried secretion on their underpants or feel the sensation of liquid dripping out of their vagina (deposit). This vaginal discharge is all normal, and due to the hormone oestrogen.
But don’t stress, you have a few years yet until her period starts. And there are a few more signs of puberty in girls that have yet to appear. There are still some changes that have yet to happen before her first period – she’ll have a growth spurt and be a lot taller and curvier, her breasts will have started to grow properly, she’ll have more adult-like pubic hair and some underarm hair, and more vaginal discharge.
There are many fantastic books that can help you to start having those first conversations with your daughter.
Hair in Funny Places is a great first book for talking about puberty. It is funny and an enjoyable story to read. It is one that you can start reading to your daughter from about the age of 5 or 6. This then helps to plant the seeds early about the fact that one day her body will begin to change, meaning that she won’t find it a big shock when puberty finally arrives.
When it comes to puberty books, there are 3 types.
The first type of books are the ones that are written for girls who are either curious or are starting to show early signs of puberty. These books just talk about puberty and avoid the topic of sex. You can find examples of these books here – just look out for the ones that say that sex isn’t included.
The second type of books are for girls who are a little bit older, and these books are beginning to talk about sex. You can find examples of these books here.
The third type of books are for older girls who are already showing signs of puberty, are teenagers and curious about sex. These books are almost sex manuals and they provide a lot of information about sex. You can find examples of these types of books here.
So, these are the signs of puberty in girls that you should be looking out for, the ones that you can expect to find before they have their first period. Once you begin to see these, you’ll know that puberty is well and truly, on it’s way. And hopefully, you’ll start talking before too many more changes have happened.
I'm Cath, a sex educator living in Australia with my husband and 2 kids. I help parents to talk about sex (with less cringe and more confidence) and to empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. You can join my online parent support group here and visit my shop for helpful resources.