Hesperian Health Guides

Changes in Your Body (Puberty)

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 5: Health Concerns of Girls > Changes in Your Body (Puberty)

All girls go through changes in their bodies, but the changes happen differently for each girl. So do not worry if your body does not look exactly like your sister’s or friend’s.

Growing. Your first change will probably be that you grow fast. You may be taller than all of the boys your age for a while. You will usually stop growing 1 to 3 years after your monthly bleeding starts.

Body changes. Besides growing fast, your body will begin to change. There are natural chemicals in the body called hormones that tell your body to grow and that make these changes happen.

More Information
understanding our bodies

Changes of puberty do not all happen at the same time or in the same order.

Inside your body. There are other changes that you cannot see. The womb (uterus), tubes, ovaries, and vagina grow and change position.

What you feel. As you go through these changes you become more aware of your body. You may also become more interested in boys, and in your friends. There may be times when your feelings are hard to control. In the days before monthly bleeding, it is even more common to have strong feelings of all kinds—joy, anger, and worry, for example.

Monthly bleeding (period, menstruation)

Monthly bleeding is a sign that your body can become pregnant. No girl can know exactly when she will get her first monthly bleeding. It usually happens after her breasts and the hair on her body start to grow. Several months before her first monthly bleeding, she may notice some wetness coming from the vagina. It may stain her underclothes. This is normal.

Some girls are happy when they have their first monthly bleeding, especially if they know what to expect. Girls who were never told about it often worry when the bleeding starts. It is something that happens to all women, and you can feel accepting and even proud of it. Do not let anyone make you think it is something dirty or shameful.

Caring for yourself during your monthly bleeding

Staying clean. Many girls prefer to make pads of folded cloth or wads of cotton to catch the blood as it leaves the vagina. They stay in place with a belt, pin, or underwear. The pads should be changed several times each day, and washed well with soap and water if they are to be used again.

a pad for catching blood during monthly bleeding
illustration of the below: a tampon with a string that hangs from it

Some women put something inside the vagina that they buy or make from cotton, cloth, or a sponge. These are called tampons. If you use tampons, be sure to change them at least 3 times each day. Leaving one in longer may cause a serious infection.

Wash your outside genitals with water each day to remove any blood that is left. Use a mild soap if you can.

Activities. You can continue all your regular activities.

two young women bathing with water from a basin and some soap

It is healthy to bathe during your monthly bleeding.
three girls playing with a ball; one sits in a wheelchair
Exercise can make the pain that some girls have with monthly bleeding feel better.

This page was updated:17 Apr 2019