Stages of Puberty in Girls

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Puberty is a time of change when girls become young women. Teenage girls will experience many physical and emotional changes, including breast development, pubic hair growth and their first menstruation periods.

Signs of Puberty to Watch for in Girls

Every girl will develop at a different rate than her peers. Typically, puberty can begin as early as age 8, some girls may develop earlier and some later. The changes can be quick or gradual.

You may begin to notice your pre-teen daughter grow taller or fill out in the hips while her waist gets thinner. It may soon be time to shop for a training bra, too. 

It will not be long before she gets her first period and experiences menstrual cramps for the first time. The hormone changes will also bring on mood swings.

Your little girl is growing up! She will have many questions as she notices these changes in herself. It is possible that she will not always feel comfortable talking to you about them, either.

Parents should try to remain aware of how their daughter is feeling and look for the right time to start a conversation about it. 

Body Image Issues

There is some natural weight gain that comes with puberty. This may begin to cause self-esteem issues about her body and it is best to start early to help make her feel good about herself.

Explain that this is natural and encourage her to develop healthy habits with food and exercise that will help her maintain a healthy weight.

Tanner Stages of Puberty in Girls

Teen girls go through many changes as they become young adults. As they go through puberty, their bodies change in a somewhat predictable way. These changes are sometimes called Tanner stages and can help your pediatrician know if your teen is developing appropriately.

For females, there are Tanner stages for pubic hair and Tanner stages for breast development. These two areas do not always develop at the same time.

Breast Development

  • Breast Stage 1. This is the stage before puberty starts. There is no breast tissue. The areola is flat against the chest.
  • Breast Stage 2. From 8 years old to 13 years old. A small amount of breast tissue is seen. The areola increases in size but still lays flat against the chest.
  • Breast Stage 3. From 9 years old to 14 years old. Breast tissue increases and is wider than the areola. Areola continues to grow and is still flat against the chest.
  • Breast Stage 4. From 10 years old to 15 years old. Breast tissue continues to grow and is distinct from the chest wall. The areola and papilla (small bumps of tissue around the nipple) are now raised up from the chest wall.
  • Breast Stage 5. The areola flattens out again to the curve of the breast. The papilla are raised up from the areola.

The breasts stop growing by the time a woman hits her early twenties.

Pubic Hair Development

  • Pubic Hair Stage 1. This is the stage before puberty starts. There are no sexual hairs at this time.
  • Pubic Hair Stage 2. From 9 years old to 13 years old. There are a few, lightly-colored, straight hairs that occur on the labia majora (outer labia).
  • Pubic Hair Stage 3. From 10 years old to 14 years old. More hairs start to appear. The hairs are becoming darker and are beginning to curl.
  • Pubic Hair Stage 4. From 10 years old to 15 years old. The pubic hairs become coarser, thicker and are curly. There are many hairs, but they do not spread to the thighs and are not as abundant as in an adult.
  • Pubic Hair Stage 5. Typical adult “triangle” of pubic hair, spreads to the inner thigh area.

Confusing? Don't worry. If you have questions or concerns about how your teen is experiencing puberty, talk to your teen's health care provider. Your provider can determine if your teen is growing and developing correctly.

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Article Sources

  • Behrman, RE, Kliegman, RM, and Jenson, HB. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 2004.
  • Neinstein, LS. Adolescent Health Care: A Practical Guide, 2002.