As caring parents you know that the changes that your daughter is going through are part of her journey towards womanhood. Whilst you see her as a child, her body is making changes inside her body and out. Everyone goes through these changes at different ages and at different rates. The average age is about 13, but some girls can begin puberty as young as 8 or as old as 16 and this is quite normal.
The start of puberty is usually noticed when your daughter suddenly begins to grow taller. The arms and legs grow quicker than her body, so she will seem to be a bit more awkward or clumsy than before. This growth spurt is a sign that her periods will start in about 6 months to a year’s time.
Her breasts will also gradually start to develop. First they grow as small bumps, called breast buds, then continue to develop gradually over the next 2 to 3 years. It is normal for one breast to grow quicker than the other, so your daughter may need to be reassured that this is normal. You may want to start to look at training bras for your daughter, especially if she plays lots of sport. It is important to make sure that she gets a correct fitting bra for both comfort and self-confidence. When your daughter’s period begins, it is very important to show your daughter how to check her breasts each month. This is good practice for life so that she learns what is normal for her.
6 months after her growth spurt beginning, she will start to go through a stage where she cannot get enough to eat and will start to put on weight, which is normal. 50% of ideal adult body weight is gained in puberty. In girls, the proportion of body weight in fat increases from about 16% to almost 27%. This gain in body fat will make her appear curvier around her hips. This is also a time when she will need to make sure that she gets plenty of calcium for her developing bones and muscles.
During puberty, special hormones from the brain cause the ovaries to release an egg, which is called an ovum. The ovaries then produce other special hormones called oestrogen and progesterone that cause the eggs in the ovaries to develop so that they are ready to be released.
Each month, one egg leaves one of the ovaries travelling down one of the fallopian tubes on its way to the uterus. Meanwhile, the uterus, also called the womb, starts to get prepared for the egg by building up a thicker lining of special tissue that is called the endometrium. If the egg arrives at the uterus as a fertilised egg, one that has been met by sperm from the male, it attaches itself to this cushion-like wall, and goes on to use the extra blood and tissue to nourish itself as it slowly develops over 9 months into a baby.
Usually, the egg just passes right through without being fertilised and just dissolves. Since the uterus no longer needs the thicker lining, it sheds this extra blood and tissue through the vagina. This loss of tissue is called menstruation or the period. This cycle will happen nearly every month until the ovaries stop releasing eggs, usually between the ages of 45 and 55.
Becoming a Woman
The menstrual cycle is actually a very special and very complicated process that happens because many parts of the body are working together. The brain, ovaries and other hormone producing glands in the body, all have to work together properly to make this cycle of producing an egg, making the uterus ready for it, and then shedding the special lining work. Not to mention the extra-complicated work that happens if the egg does get fertilised and develops into a baby. Females are truly amazing!
Click through to SISTERS and Natalie’s Diary to see what happens on the inside and outside. Here you and your daughter can go through the many changes that happen in the body during the 28 plus days of the menstrual cycle. It is very important to make sure that your daughter learns how to examine her breasts. Each month, after her period ends, she should check her breasts carefully for any unusual changes.
For younger girls and those with special needs, check out our guide on growing up, Bits & Boobs, which helps to explain the changes that occur during puberty.
It is important to make the correct choice of products for each period and Natracare has developed a natural range to meet these needs.