3 Puberty Questions Your Daughter Wants to Know but is Afraid to Ask
Puberty is an exciting time in a young girl’s life. It is a signal that their bodies are healthy and are changing from that of a girl’s to a woman’s. Yet it is also a very confusing time, filled with many questions and concerns. Here are the three most common and important questions on puberty your daughter needs answered, so please share this with them.
What are Breast Buds?
The first visible sign of puberty in adolescents is the development of breast buds. Breast buds typically appear around age nine or ten. At first, the areola (pigmented area around the nipple) becomes darker in color and enlarges. It rises to become a mound that is a hard and knot-like bump. This is the breast bud. It is perfectly normal for breast buds to first appear in just one breast. The other side will catch up, but this can take several months, so it is important to be patient. Once breast buds appear, menstruation usually begins in about two years. Before this happens, however, more body changes occur. For most girls, breasts will continue to develop until around 17 or 18 years of age.
Ick! What is that white stuff in my underwear? (AKA: Vaginal Discharge)
About a year after breast buds appear girls will notice a white, cream colored or yellow substance on their underwear. This substance is called vaginal discharge and most often appears six months to one year before menstruation begins.
Vaginal discharge has the important job of keeping the vagina clean. Discharge provides a home to the good bacteria in the body that fights other, not so good germs. It does not stain underwear, however, some girls prefer to wear a mini pad to absorb the discharge.
Once menstruation begins, discharge will continue to be a part of life throughout adulthood. The consistency of the discharge, however, will change throughout each cycle (see below) based on hormonal changes occurring in the body. Nothing needs to be done for discharge unless pain, itching or a foul odor is noted, in which case a quick visit to the doctor may be in order.
What is Menstruation?
Menstruation is an important stage in puberty as it signifies the transition of a girl to a woman, in the sense that she can now become pregnant. Menstruation, also called having a period, is a woman’s monthly bleeding. In the U.S., this typically begins around 12 years of age, but can occur anywhere between the age of 8 and 15. Menstruation continues until around age 50.
The menstrual cycle is a biological calendar within the body that goes from the start of one period to the next. It is controlled by the increase and decrease in hormones throughout the month. Day 1 is the first day of a period and continues until the next period begins. This usually occurs within a 28-day cycle, however, menstrual cycles can range in length from 21 – 45 days in length in young teens. Menstrual cycles become more regular with time. Every girl (and woman) should maintain a menstrual calendar to keep track of her periods. Pediatricians and other physicians will ask for this information.
While the culmination of puberty leads to the start of menstruation, bodily changes continue until around 17 or 18 years of age. Puberty is a time filled with many questions for young girls. It is important that parents provide their daughters with quality information to help them prepare for the changes that will come with maturity.
Girls should also be prepared for menstruation by having pads and mini-tampons on hand for when it begins. They must understand how to use both products properly. A small and discreet bag containing some of these items plus an extra pair of panties will increase a girls’ confidence about being prepared. This bag can be taken to school and other activities so they are ready for when it happens.
If you have questions about puberty, menstruation or have any other pediatric development concerns, please contact Rainbow Pediatrics at 910.486.5437 or visit us online. Our highly experienced pediatric providers are here to support you.