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Puberty

As you get older your body goes through a number of changes, called puberty, and the speed of these changes is different for everyone.

You can find information about what will happen to your body during puberty below.

Girls and puberty

The bodies of girls and young women change a great deal between the ages of about 9 and 16 as they go through puberty.

Changes to your body will happen over time and the speed of change will be different for each person. It's normal for people to start developing at different times so try not to compare yourself to other people the whole time. You can expect the following to happen:

  • You will grow taller
  • Your nipples and breasts will start to swell and fill out
  • Your body shape may grow more rounded and curvy and your hips may become broader
  • Hair will grow under your arms, on your legs and genitals
  • You may get spots
  • The sweat glands under your arms and between your legs will become more active
  • Your hair may get more greasy
  • Your periods will start.*

(*Some people’s periods don’t start until they are 16 or 17. Some girls and young women don’t have periods at all, for example people who have Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome.)

It's normal to begin to have a slight clear or milky discharge from the vagina, which keeps the vagina healthy. The amount of discharge can vary from day to day. If your discharge changes colour or consistency, if it smells bad, if there’s an unusual amount of it, or if you get itching around your vagina or a stomach pain, this may be the result of an infection, and you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can. 

Boys and puberty

The bodies of boys and young men change a great deal between the ages of 10 and 18 as they go through puberty. Sexual development usually begins in boys when they are about 13 or 14.

Changes to your body will happen over time and the speed of change will be different for each person. It's normal for people to start developing at different times so try not to compare yourself to other people the whole time. You can expect the following to happen:

  • Your voice deepens
  • You grow taller
  • Your muscles develop and your chest gets broader
  • Your genitals (penis and testicles) grow larger
  • Your nipples can become sensitive for a short time and may have some swelling
  • Hair grows under your arms, on your legs, chest, genitals and face (upper lip and chin) - you may choose to start shaving
  • You may get spots
  • The sweat glands are more active under your arms and between your legs.

Your penis may seem to have a mind of its own! Erections happen when you are sexually excited and often even when you aren't. During an erection the penis grows stiff, longer and wider and sticks outwards and upwards.

You may also have 'wet dreams'. This is when you lose semen (which is wet and mixed with sperm) from your penis during sleep. They’re totally normal and pretty much all boys and young men have them.