OK, so we’ve all heard that word.  Yeah, you know the one, that one word that made you shudder and silently freak out.  That’s right, I’m talking about puberty.

So what exactly is puberty?  Well, to put it simply, it’s a time during which your body develops and changes into an adult’s body.  It also happens to be a time when your body will transform faster than any other time besides when you were an infant.  All these chemicals in your body start being produced and they cause your body to mature, while also stimulating adult levels of hormones.  Puberty usually occurs during your early highschool years, so it’s good to know about what to expect so you’re not caught by surprise.  It’s also a really good idea to keep in mind that EVERYONE GOES THROUGH IT.

How does your body know it’s time?

Once your body reaches a particular age, your brain begins releasing a hormone that facilitates the many changes you will soon come across.  This hormone (known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone, or GnRH for short) triggers the release of two other hormones known as luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), once it reaches the pituitary gland.  

In a guy, these hormones will travel to the testes and act as a signal to start the production of testosterone and sperm.  Testosterone will cause many of the changes in a guy’s body.  The sperm cells are produced for reproductive reasons.  This usually happens around the ages of 9 - 15.  

In a girl, eggs in the ovaries are targeted by the FSH and LH.  This causes another hormone known as estrogen to be produced.  Combined, these three hormones develop the girl’s body and prepare her for pregnancy.  This tends to occur a bit more early in girls, from the ages of 7 - 13 normally.

Since every person’s body is different, puberty starts and ends during slightly varying times, and that’s totally normal :) It just means that your body is following its own personal schedule.  It also probably explains why some of your friends look super young while others look so adultish at similar ages.  When you begin puberty, your body experiences a growth spurt and it lasts for two to three years.  It describes a time in your life when your body decides to grow, and really fast too.  When I first had my growth spurt, my mom had to buy me so many new pants and tops because literally nothing fit me.  If you really want a new wardrobe, now is the time to do it!!

But aren’t you supposed to grow and completely transform physically?  Like Transformers or something?

As with every major event in your life, there is always more.  This is the part that usually catches guys and girls off guard just because of how rapidly it occurs.  On top of growing taller, your body will also put on weight and its overall shape will differ quite a bit.  

In Guys…

Your shoulders will become wider and you will become more muscular (a.k.a. You become superman!). Your voices will “crack” and eventually deepen and depending on the guy, the breasts might grow a bit. For most guys the growth will go away once puberty finishes.  You will also notice other expected changes, such as your penis getting longer and wider and your testes becoming enlarged.

In Girls…

You will gain weight in your hip area and your breasts will grow (a.k.a. You develop some seriously sexy curves ;) ).  The breast development often starts with a bit of swelling in that your chest area, eventually evening out as they grow.  Gaining weight is a completely normal during this time of puberty and you will notice a bit of soreness as you breasts enlarge.  After about two to two and a half years of this, you will probably experience your first menstrual period!  Girls have two ovaries which hold thousands of eggs.  During your menstrual cycle, one of these eggs will come out of the ovary, take a short trip along your fallopian tube, and end up in your uterus (or womb).  Your uterus builds up a thick lining of blood and tissue to surround the egg in case it becomes fertilized by a sperm cell.  Majority of the time though, this doesn’t happen and so the lining is no longer needed and leaves the body through your vagina, causing your period.  It usually spans from about 5 - 7 days and happens every month, but depending on your body it may be a bit shorter or longer.

Why do I suddenly have forests of hair on me? Where are all these pimples coming from? WHY DO I SMELL???

Growing pubic hair, pimples caused by acne, and a not so great body odour are added bonuses of puberty.  Girls and guys will start to grow hair in their pubic areas.  It starts off quite light, but will become heavier, thicker, darker, and longer throughout puberty.  Guys, within time you will start growing it on your face too!  Speaking of the face, you will most likely see at least a few pimples which have been triggered by hormone caused acne.  How much of it you get also depends on your body.  The good news is it usually clears up or at least gets better by the end of puberty!  As for the smell, well, that’s caused because your skin glands make chemicals that just happen to smell bad.  Keeping your skin clean through showers and face washes really helps lessen the body odours and the occurrence of pimples :)  Deodorant is also something you might want to keep on hand just in case!

All this change feels kind of strange… It it meant to be this weird?

Your body will be physically and mentally adjusting to the new levels of hormones.  This obviously takes time, so it’s totally okay to feel weird and sort of lost!  You may find that you’re becoming overly-sensitive and it can be difficult to deal with your emotions during puberty.  During puberty I lost my temper a lot, especially with my parents and friends.  It helped a lot to understand that it was probably just my brain trying to deal with all the sudden changes and that it would eventually become easier.  Sharing these feelings with close peers also helped me realise that everyone goes through it at some point.  Along with these emotions, your curiosity about sex may grow.  If you have questions, get them answered by a trusted adult who you feel comfortable with talking to!

High school can be pretty daunting, especially because everyone becomes so much more aware of everyone around them and puberty doesn’t exactly make things easier.  Maybe you’re the guy who has to shave when none of the other guys have to, or you’re the girl who doesn’t have curves yet while all the other girls do.  Maybe you long for a manly, deep voice and you think yours is still high, or you think you’re the shortest/tallest and feel out of place.  Regardless of these things, no two bodies are in the same stage of puberty at the same time and your body will take its own time.  Now that you’ve read this massive article, hopefully you can ease up a bit and appreciate the changes that come your way!  The differences between you and your peers make each of you unique so flaunt it and embrace it <3

Written by Mathy.