Medical News Today: What are the stages of puberty?

Two teenage girls laughing as they talk about the stages of puberty Share on Pinterest
People’s experience of puberty varies.

Females start puberty sooner than males. Puberty in females most often begins between the ages of 8 and 13 years. The process may continue until they are 14 years old, although this can be later.

The first stage of puberty includes prepuberty changes. These are changes that start to happen in the body but are not yet visible.

One of the first physical changes females will notice during puberty is their breasts starting to grow.

The initial stage of growth is breast buds. Slight swelling appears under the nipple, and the area of skin around the nipple, known as the areola, will start to get bigger.

The breasts will then slowly start to grow during puberty. Females may experience some tenderness or itchiness as the breasts begin to change. It is usual for each breast to grow at slightly different rates, which will often even out over time.

Females will also start to notice more hair growing in places such as their legs and arms. At around 12 years old, on average, females will begin to see hair growth under the arms.

Pubic hair will start growing along the labia and will gradually become thicker, curlier, and cover a larger area of the vulva. In the final stages of puberty, pubic hair may grow around the top of the thighs.

Females will usually begin their period roughly 2 years after their breasts have started to grow. They might get their first period anywhere between 10 and 16.5 years old. It is also normal for females to have white vaginal discharge.

Females will also grow taller in puberty, with a gradual height increase each year. In the first stages of puberty, females may grow 5–6 centimeters (cm) in a year. In the following stages of puberty, this can increase to 7–8 cm per year. Females will usually stop growing around 16 years of age.

Females may also increase in weight and have more body fat around the upper arms, thighs, and back. Hips tend to become wider, while the waist narrows.

At 17–18 years old, breasts are usually fully developed. Breasts can continue to grow up until the early 20s, though.

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