Puberty can be a hard time for a lot of people. Your body will change and grow in new ways. Some of these changes might surprise or confuse you. They might make you feel worried, embarrassed, excited, or happy. Many people are going through the same changes and a lot of them feel the same way!
In this article, we talk about body parts and hormones instead of boys and girls. We wrote it this way because articles that just talk about boys and girls don’t include people who are transgender, two-spirit, non-binary, intersex, or many other identities.
For example, not all girls have the same body parts or hormones. But people who have the same hormones and parts can go through puberty in similar ways!
What is puberty?
Puberty is a time when someone’s body starts growing and working like an adult’s body. Your body grows faster during puberty than any other time in your life. Feet, hands, arms and everything else all get bigger!
Puberty starts when the body releases certain hormones. These are chemicals that tell the body how to act and grow. There are lots of different kinds of hormones in the body, but two of them are especially important for puberty: testosterone and estrogen. These can change people’s bodies in different ways. Everyone has some of both, but most people have more of one than the other.
Some transgender or non-binary people get testosterone or estrogen from a doctor to go through puberty in the way that feels right for them. Many people with vaginas also have ovaries. These can start making more estrogen during puberty. Many people with penises also have testicles. These can start making more testosterone during puberty.
Some intersex people can’t make estrogen or testosterone on their own. They can take medications to start puberty.
However you start puberty, it’s common and ok. It’s just part of growing up!
When will puberty happen to me?
Puberty usually starts when people are 8 – 15 years old. It can take from 1.5 – 6 years to fully finish.
Puberty usually starts between ages 8 and 13 for people with more estrogen. People with more testosterone usually start puberty when they’re 9 – 15 years old. A lot of people start puberty earlier or later than this, and that’s ok too! If your parents or other family members started puberty late or early, there’s a good chance you will too.
Medical issues can make puberty start later. Some disorders like diabetes mellitus, inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis and anemia can slow or stop puberty. Intense physical exercise or dieting can also change when it starts.
Some transgender or non-binary people get medications called blockers to stop or delay their puberty. Intersex people who can’t make estrogen or testosterone on their own can choose when to take medications that will start their puberty.
What’s going to happen to my body?
Everyone goes through some of the same changes during puberty:
- Growing: You’ll grow taller. Body parts like your hands and feet will grow too. This makes a lot of people hungry. You might start to eat a lot and gain more weight. But your body needs more food to grow!
- Hair: You’ll get hair under your arms and around your private parts down there. Many people also grow hair on their legs, face, chest, and body.
- Pimples: Lots of people get pimples and oily skin during puberty. This is called acne. You can have less acne by washing your face twice a day with mild soap and warm water. If that’s not enough, you can talk to a doctor about it. Luckily, acne usually gets better when you finish puberty!
- Body odour: Most people notice that they get more sweaty and smelly during puberty. Using deodorant or antiperspirant can help! You can also try showering and wearing fresh clothes more often.
What’s going to happen to my emotions?
People can feel a lot of emotions when they go through puberty. It can be hard to go through the changes! The new hormones in the body can also make emotions more intense.
It’s okay if you’re sad, angry, happy, excited, scared, or anything else. It can help to talk about your feelings with people you trust, like your friends, parents, a guidance counsellor, or a doctor. Many of them can understand because they’ve been there!
Estrogen and puberty
Many people who have a vagina have ovaries. These start making more estrogen during puberty. People who need it can also get estrogen from a doctor.
Estrogen can make your hips grow wider and look curvier. This can take time, and they might not grow evenly at first. But that passes!
Estrogen can also make your breasts grow more. They usually start with a little swelling under the nipples. Then the whole breast starts growing. One breast can grow more quickly than the other. But they usually even out! Some people start wearing bras when their nipples start swelling. Some never wear them. You can find what’s right for you!
People who have more estrogen and a vagina with a uterus above it can start getting periods. This means that blood will start coming out of their vagina every so often. Starting a few weeks before their first period, it’s also possible for them to get pregnant. This can only happen if semen gets in or on their vagina.
People who get periods can use things like pads, tampons, and menstrual cups to hold the blood. Periods can happen on random days at first, but they usually come every 21 – 35 days after a few years.
People with vaginas may also notice clear or white stuff in their underwear. This is called vaginal discharge. It’s just a sign that their body is growing and healthy!
Testosterone and puberty
The testicles under a penis, also known as balls, can start making more testosterone during puberty. People can also get testosterone from a doctor if they need it.
Testosterone can change your muscles, body shape and voice. It can make your shoulders and chest grow wider. Your muscles can also grow and you might feel stronger.
Testosterone also makes your voice deeper. While it’s changing, your voice could crack. This is when your voice squeaks every so often. It can be frustrating, but it stops when your voice is done changing.
Everyone gets more hair during puberty. Testosterone can make even more hair grow on people’s face and chest. It doesn’t for everyone and that’s ok too!
If someone has a penis and more testosterone, their penis and testicles can grow. Their testicles can get bigger and hang further down. Their penis can also get longer and wider.
They can also have more erections. This is when your penis gets hard and grows bigger. People can get erections when they’re sexually turned on or when they touch their penis in ways that feel good. Erections can also happen randomly when someone isn’t even thinking about sex. This can be awkward, but it happens less over time.
When someone touches their penis in ways that feel good, a white or yellowish liquid can shoot out. This is called ejaculation. During puberty, a lot of people also ejaculate while they sleep. This is called a wet dream or nocturnal emission. It can be embarrassing, but it’s a healthy part of growing. It also happens less and less near the end of puberty!