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Girls Puberty in girls

Published:Wednesday | June 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM

 Our children sometimes grow up faster than we expect. We must be knowledgeable about the important transition of puberty when their bodies change from that of a child to that of an adult.

The time when puberty begins varies from one child to another. In girls, puberty usually begins at any time between eight and 13 years old. Girls generally start puberty before boys. In most girls, breast development is the first thing that is noticed. This usually starts as small tender lumps under one or both nipples. However, as the breasts get bigger, the tenderness usually goes away and they become less firm. Sometimes one breast may grow a little faster than the other. However, they usually end up being the same size.

Body shape

During puberty, hair starts to grow in the area between the legs, around the vagina and then under the arms. Changes in body shape are common as they become more 'shapely' and the body starts to build up fat around the hips, thighs and tummy. Some girls may feel quite uncomfortable with this weight gain and may try to lose it. A rapid increase in height (growth spurt) usually occurs and girls tend to experience this about two years before boys.

A few months before the first period, girls might notice a vaginal discharge. This may appear as a clear or milky, thin, odourless discharge. When dried, it may appear yellow. This is quite normal and is caused by an increase of a particular hormone or chemical in the body.

The last stage

The last stage of puberty is the first period or menstruation. This usually occurs about two years after they first noted growth of breast. In most women, the period occurs every 28 days but it can be as short as 21 days or as long as 35 days. It is not unusual for menstruation to be irregular or prolonged for the first few months.

As parents (daddies, too), we must be particularly mindful of the following:

1. If her period doesn't start before 15 years old or three years after the first signs of puberty.

2. Heavy or long periods (more than a week).

3. Very painful periods lasting more than three days.

These may be signs of an underlying problem so you should seek medical advice. Sometimes, hormone treatment (e.g., birth-control Pills) may be used to treat some of these symptoms.

We must also look out for the emotional changes such as:

1. Self-esteem issues.

2. Changes in relationship with peers and parents.

3. Mood swings.

Next time we will talk about puberty in boys and their 'wet dreams'.

Dr Lisa N.C. Franklin-Banton is president of the Paediatric Association of Jamaica; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.

Puberty in - A few tips -

1. Have open talks before puberty.

2. Have solutions for period pain (e.g., hot water bottle or medication).

3. Suggest using a panty liner for discharges.

4. Have an emergency kit for accidents.

5. Be prepared for the bra issue (some girls may think their breasts are bigger than they really are. Bralettes may be useful).