Yes, we will be mentioning periods, hormones, breast tenderness and PMS, so if you're someone who knows it all, you don't really need to read any further, however, if you feel you need to learn some of the basics, I hope you read this and find it a useful guide.
So, as a good starting point, we'll begin with a very simple guide to the average woman's biological health time line:
*Born with upwards of 1 million eggs (eggs which in later life can be fertilised by sperm to make a baby). The number of eggs naturally reduces throughout a woman's life.
During puberty the number of eggs reduces to approximately 300,000 and there is an increase in the body's production of hormones.
In puberty, Periods begin and come approximately every four weeks. During this four week cycle, a woman is most likely to become pregnant only during a few days, somewhere near the middle of the cycle. This time is called Ovulation.
Women are at their most fertile in the 20-30 years age range.
During the 30's, fertility reduces, because of the reduction in the number of eggs.
Menopause is when the possibility of natural fertility (because the number of eggs which are good enough to be fertilised) has significantly reduced and hormone production (hormones send signals to other parts, to make them do things) significantly reduces too.
*All the above have been adapted from the nhs.uk website, "Stages of puberty".
So, let's skip straight to puberty, a tricky time for everyone I think. For me, I remember my voice breaking (and showing off about it a lot, especially since I've always tended towards having a gentle quiet voice), facial hair (very dodgy moustache!), pubic hair (where did that come from and where was it going!?), muscle growth (like many boys aged 14 in the gym, I made the classic mistake of mainly training my chest and arms) and all of this whilst feeling uncomfortable in myself, because I wasn't really a child anymore and I definitely wasn't an adult, was just an awkward teenager.
Like most teenagers (and now I realise most adults too) I was trying to figure out who I was. I was trying to find out where I belonged in the world. I also remember thinking that no matter what I said, or thought I had an opinion on, I always thought I was right! And I would always do what I could to win arguments, oh the arrogance of my youth! Sorry mum and dad! For me it was both a brilliant time of life and a roller coaster ride too. It was a challenging and often difficult time of life, I often made it more challenging and difficult for those around me too, so my sincerest apologies to anyone who knew me back then, if I was mean or unkind to you in any way I am very sorry, especially my parents.
So if puberty was like that for me, what would puberty be like for girls? Each girl will of course have a different personal experience, just like each boy. Each girl will have challenges growing up which are unique to them and their circumstances, each experience being significant and important to each individual.
As far as the biological processes of female puberty are concerned, below is an outline:
*Mood changes: unexplained mood changes, low self esteem, aggression and depression
Breast development; sometimes with aching and tenderness
Pubic hair growth: starting on the legs, arms and top lip. This starts slowly and over a few years the hair becomes coarser and curlier
A growth spurt: often becoming taller than a lot of boys the same age
Vaginal discharge: which is normally white, or clear in appearance (if healthy)
Periods: a monthly bleed which is timed according to the increase and decrease of hormones
*Adapted from the nhs.uk website. Stages of puberty.
That's a lot of physical change to contend with as you transition from being a child to a teenager. I can only imagine what it would feel like to be experiencing puberty today; navigating friendship groups, social media, a worldwide pandemic, the internet, schoolwork, family life and all whilst trying to find out who you are becoming in this world. Puberty can be an unforgiving time for some and for girls to cope with all of the biological changes happening as well as teenage life, sounds way more challenging than anything I had to go through when I was younger.