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 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 tween 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 she may begin to experience menstrual cramps. 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 both pubic hair and 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 and the areola is flat against the chest.
  • Breast Stage 2: From 8- to 15-years-old. There is a small amount of breast tissue under the areola.
  • Breast Stage 3: From 10- to 15-years-old. Further enlargement of the breast tissue and areola. The areola is still flat against the chest.
  • Breast Stage 4: From 10- to 17-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: From 12.5- to 18-years-old. The areola flattens out again to the curve of the breast. The areola gets darker, the nipple begins to protrude, and the papillae start to develop.

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 pubic hairs at this time.
  • Pubic Hair Stage 2: From 8- to 15-years-old. There is long, soft, colorless hair near the labia majora (outer labia).
  • Pubic Hair Stage 3: From 10- to 15-years-old. More pubic hairs start to grow. Hairs become darker and start to curl.
  • Pubic Hair Stage 4: From 10- to 17-years-old. The pubic hairs become coarser, thicker, and curlier, though they are not as abundant as in an adult. Hair fills the entire triangle overlying the pubic region.
  • Pubic Hair Stage 5: From 12.5- to 18-years-old. Pubic hair extends beyond the groin area and spreads onto the inner thigh.

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

  1. Emmanuel M, Bokor BR. Tanner Stages. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019.

Additional Reading

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