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Girls and puberty

As a girl gets older, she will begin to notice changes to her body that are a sign of puberty.

This includes being taller, having a rounder figure and having bigger breasts.

She will start noticing hair in places she's never had hair before and will begin preparing for the start of periods.

Puberty is nature's way of transforming a child into an adult, all for the sake of reproduction. While both girls and boys go through puberty, girls reach puberty and sexual maturity at earlier ages than boys do.

The changes are caused by hormones, for girls the female hormone oestrogen is the main one triggering all the changes in the body.

Increase in height and weight

Starting at around age nine, girls begin to gain about 17% to 18% of their adult height. If someone has commented that you are "all hands and feet," it's true! Your limbs grow first, then your trunk. Most girls reach their peak height growth about six months before they start their first period.

You'll probably gain weight in puberty - most girls do. You may notice more body fat along the upper arms, thighs, and upper back. Your hips will grow rounder and wider; your waist will become narrower.

If you are gaining weight too fast, you may need to increase your exercise and substitute fruit and vegetables for junk foods.

Puberty breast development

Breast development is an early sign of puberty in girls. This can happen before the age of nine in some girls, but later in others.

If you are self-conscious, you might want to start wearing a "training bra," which is a soft bra with no real support.

Talk to your mum, older sister, or an aunt about buying a training bra. They can take your bust measurement to make sure you have one that is comfortable and lets you feel confident in your clothes.

Increase in hair

While for most girls, breast development is the first sign of puberty, others might first notice pubic hair. An increase in hair on your arms and legs, in your armpits, and around your pubic area happens to girls early in puberty.

If you want to shave your legs and underarms, ask your mum or another woman you trust about selecting the safest razor. Someone who is experienced in shaving needs to show you how to shave safely, using a gentle shaving cream, water, and a razor. Or ask them about an epilator, a device which very quickly pulls out unwanted hair. 

Keep in mind that not all women shave their body hair. In some cultures, it is acceptable to leave the armpits and legs unshaven. You have to decide what is best for you and your family's customs.

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