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Teen Puberty: What to Expect

"Teen puberty is one of the most significant rites of passage in a person’s life. It marks the transition from childhood to young adulthood. And it’s a time of change, upheaval, and discovery.

Teen puberty drives both mental and physical development in adolescence. Therefore, along with changes in their bodies, teens experience lots of emotional ups and downs while going through puberty.

That’s normal, although it’s not always easy for teenagers or their parents. But understanding the puberty stages can help. In addition, knowing how to recognize the difference between teen puberty signs and depression is key.

When Does Puberty Start?

The answer is a little different for everyone. Moreover, puberty usually begins earlier for girls than boys.

For girls, puberty begins around age 11. Therefore, girls become physically mature between 14 and 16. Puberty in boys starts between 10 and 14 years old. And boys are physically mature around age 15 or 16. But some amount of variation is normal.

In some children, puberty begins significantly earlier than average. Early puberty, also called precocious or premature puberty, occurs before age 6 in girls and before age 9 in boys. Furthermore, when there are no signs of puberty by age 14, this is known as delayed puberty.

Sometimes there is a medical reason for early or delayed puberty. Therefore, it’s a good idea to visit a family doctor or pediatrician if signs of teen puberty start early or haven’t begun by age 14. Moreover, when puberty changes don’t follow the usual pattern of development, that’s also a reason for a doctor visit.

The Hormones That Drive Teenage Puberty

Specific hormones control the stages of teenage puberty. At the beginning of puberty, the brain releases a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Next, GnRH triggers the pituitary gland. This gland controls the production of several important hormones. As a result, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are released into the bloodstream.

Subsequently, these teen hormones have different effects on males and females. In girls, FSH and LH instruct the ovaries to begin producing estrogen, one of the primary female sex hormones, and eggs.

In boys, the same teen hormones tell the testes to begin producing testosterone, the male sex hormone, and sperm. At the same time, teens will notice other significant changes.

Stages of Teen Puberty in Girls

Puberty is a process that goes on for several years. And various physical changes occur in each of the puberty stages.

In girls, breasts develop first. Furthermore, breasts may develop at different rates. Next, hair starts growing in the pubic area and the armpits.

Subsequently, about a year after puberty begins, girls have a growth spurt. By their mid- to late teens, girls usually reach their adult height. In addition, girls develop wider hips and fuller breasts.

Also, girls begin to have a white or yellow vaginal discharge. This is a normal sign that menstruation (the period) will begin soon. Menstruation is the final stage of puberty. Thus, it begins about two years after a girl starts puberty. Once a girl menstruates, she is physically mature and able to get pregnant.

Stages of Teen Puberty in Boys

In boys, the first sign of teen puberty is when the testicles and penis get larger. Furthermore, boys develop the ability to ejaculate (release sperm). As a result, they may have “wet dreams”—involuntary ejaculations of semen while they sleep.

Meanwhile, hair grows in the pubic area and the armpits. About six months after pubic hair develops, boys experience their peak growth spurt. Depending on when puberty starts, boys may not reach their adult height until the late teens or even early 20s. Also during this time, their muscles develop and their shoulders become fuller and broader.

In the final stages of teen puberty, boys’ voices may start cracking and subsequently become deeper. The larynx, or Adam’s apple, gets bigger. Finally, facial hair grows.

More Physical Changes in Teen Puberty

In addition, some physical signs of teen puberty occur in both girls and boys. These include the following.

  • Both boys and girls will grow taller and put on weight and muscle mass

  • Boys and girls will both develop body hair on the legs, under the arms, and over the sex organs

  • Teens of both genders will produce stronger body odors

  • They may also develop acne or other skin problems triggered by high hormone levels; during puberty, the oil glands are more active.

Moreover, both girls and boys experience mood changes during teen puberty."

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