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Puberty - what it looks like

puberty; growth; spurt; testis; testes; penis; gynecomastia; acne; sweat; breasts; periods; pain; peer; pressure; parents; relationships;

Contents


When does puberty start?

Puberty often begins at about 10 years of age, but you won’t see or feel the physical changes straight away. Puberty begins when special hormones start to be made in our bodies. At this stage you don't know anything is changing because nothing seems different on the outside. Boys usually begin to show the outward, physical changes of puberty between 13 and 16, while for girls it is usually between 11 and 14.

Everyone goes through puberty but you may notice that some of your friends grow and change earlier or faster than others – or you. This is normal. Everyone grows at their own rate. If you are feeling worried because you are much earlier or later than your friends, go and have a chat with your doctor just to put your mind at rest.

Boys – what will happen

  • You'll get taller and stronger and start to grow larger muscles.
  • Your testicles and penis size increase. It's common, and normal, for one testicle to be bigger than the other. Different young men often have different penis size. Size does not affect how it works.
  • Body hair begins to grow around the pubic area, on legs, under arms and on the face. The hair starts off fine and becomes coarser and darker over the years of puberty. Some men continue to grow a bit and develop more body hair right into their twenties.
  • Skin on the face, shoulders and back becomes oilier, often causing some acne. See our topic on Acne.
  • Hair can become oilier and you may need to wash it more often.
  • Sweat glands become more active and this can mean 'body odour'.
  • Your voice becomes deeper (sometimes called 'voice breaking').
  • `Wet dreams’ can happen in your sleep. These are an ejaculation of semen - not urine. These are normal, and they cannot be controlled or stopped.
  • Sometimes erections can happen because you're nervous or excited, or just for no reason at all, and can make you feel embarrassed. Other people usually don't notice them as much you do and they go away within minutes.
  • Some boys' breasts may grow slightly or feel tender. This is a reaction to hormones in the body and is not a health problem. It will go away. See our topic Gynecomastia (Male breasts).
  • You may start to think more about sex and get sexual urges. See the topic Sexuality.

Girls - what will happen

  • You'll grow taller, your hips widen and your body becomes curvier.
  • Breasts begin to grow. Often they are different sizes.
  • Hair begins to grow around the pubic area and underarms, and hair on the legs and arms darkens.
  • Skin on the face, shoulders and back becomes oilier, often causing some acne. See our topic on Acne.
  • Hair can become oilier and you may need to wash it more often.
  • Sweat glands become more active and make sweat which can mean 'body odour'. To reduce the smell wash daily and use a deodorant.
  • You may start to get a whitish discharge from the vagina. This is normal so long as there is no pain or itching around or in the vagina. If there is itching or pain, you could have an infection called vaginal thrush, but this is not common during puberty.
  • Menstrual periods start. Periods involve losing blood through the vagina and are part of a 'cycle' of hormone and body changes. Periods can start off irregular in how often they happen and how long they last. See our topics Periods - the facts and Periods - what to do for more information.
  • You may start to think more about sex and get sexual urges. See the topic Sexuality.

Resources

South Australia

  • Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19
  • Your family doctor
  • Your local community health centre

General

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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