PUBERTY IN FEMALES

Puberty is a very critical phase in the life of a child. It leads to physical, emotional, mental and sexual growth. The body starts preparing for reproduction. In girls, the onset of puberty occurs at an average age of 8 years. Since a lot of changes are happening in the body simultaneously, it creates a lot of confusion amongst teenagers. They feel depressed and socially awkward most of the times. Understanding this phase can prepare the child to deal with the changes better. 

Changes in girls during puberty

Hormones involved in Female Puberty

There are four major hormones at play in the female body:

  • FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone)

  • LH (Luteinising Hormone)

  • Estrogen (or Oestrogen)

  • Progesterone 

FSH and LH

  • GnRH is the primary puberty hormone. It's released from hypothalamus of brain.

  • GnRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinising Hormone) hormones 

  • FSH and LH levels in females increase between the ages of 9 to 12, preparing the body for puberty

  • The onset of first period, called menarche, is observed between the ages of 11 to 15. Culturally, this confirms the start of female puberty

  • This is followed by monthly episodes of bleeding, known as menstruation cycle

Level of hormones FSH, LH and estradio over the menstrual cycle/menstruation/periods

Estrogen and Progesterone

  • Estrogen and progesterone are secreted from the ovaries.

  • FSH and LH regulate the production of estrogen and progesterone by stimulating the ovaries

  • Progesterone is released from corpus luteum, after ovulation. 

  • Progesterone plays a vital role in the pregnancy. It controls thickening of uterus lining and contractions to allow easier implantation of fertilised eggs.

  • Progesterone also prevents any more eggs from maturing in the ovaries during current pregnancy. It allows the female body to nurture the foetus as well as ensures smooth delivery of the baby

  • If the women doesn't get pregnant, corpus luteum disappears

  • Estrogen also regulates menstruation cycle by managing contractions of uterus

  • Estrogen contributes to healthy bone growth, breast development, growth of reproductive organs and distribution of fat on hips, legs and breasts

  • Secondary sexual characteristics in females, such growth spurt and pubic hair growth, are due to Estrogen and progesterone

Stages of Puberty in Females

There are multiple changes occurring in a female's body throughout puberty. Let's understand what to expect at different ages:

Stages of puberty in females

Physical Changes due to Puberty
 

Primary Changes Development of Sexual Organs

  • Endometrial lining tissues start growing on the walls of the uterus each month

  • This lining supports the foetus, if the girl gets pregnant

  • If pregnancy is not achieved, the lining is shed every month. This process is called as menstruation cycle. The first episode of bleeding in a woman is known as menarche

Menstruation is one of the most critical changes during puberty. (It's covered in complete details under the Menstruation header of Know your body)

Secondary Changes

Secondary changes in females due to puberty

Behavioural Changes During Puberty

  • Exhibition of sexual behaviour

    • Increased frequency of masturbation

    • Sexual arousal caused due to smell or sight of a potential sexual partner

    • Dreams/fantasies resulting in sexual stimulation and nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) (yes, women have wet dreams too)

  • Increased desire to be sexually appealing, arising from intense competitiveness among peers

  • Frequent crushes and infatuations on potential partners

  • Unexplained mood swings

  • Low self-esteem and depression arising from a perceived inability to be sexually attractive

  • Aggressive and rebellious behaviour as kids experience the need for greater freedom from the cocoon of their home

Sexual Stimulation in Females

Females need to be stimulated both mentally and physically for them to participate in the sexual act. 

  • Sexual desire is correlated with the level of sex hormones in the body. Estrogen is the main hormone responsible for sexual desires

  • Sexual stimulation leads to increased secretions from Bartholin’s gland, situated beneath the labia minora. This increases mucus secretion

  • Mucus lubricates the vagina, contributing to the massaging sensation experienced by females during intercourse

  • Lubrication is vital to prevent friction between the erect penis and the vagina, which can cause irritation of the region and tissue damage

  • Upon continuing with intercourse at desired rhythms, clitoris or g-spot is massaged, which then sends the signal to nervous system. The climax of sexual stimulation is achieved. This is known as the female orgasm.

  • After the attainment of female orgasm, a characteristic sense of satisfaction and peacefulness is achieved which is termed as “resolution”