August 10, 2022

Puberty 101: Girls

An overview of puberty for parents and families with young daughters, ages 8-13


At MVP we usually start the puberty discussion with girls at the 9-year visit.  Often parents are surprised when we broach the topic, feeling it is on the early side.  However, caucasian girls can start puberty as early as nine and Black and Latinx girls at eight. We feel it is important that your children learn accurate and clear information about puberty from us and their parents before they start discussing these topics with friends.  Below we will discuss the basics of female puberty.

When does puberty start in girls: 

Girls usually start puberty a few years before boys do; anywhere from age 8 to 13. Usually, breast development is the first sign of puberty (thelarche.) Girls will notice some soreness around their nipples and small, hard tissue under their nipples. It is not uncommon for this to be asymmetric.  About 15% of will start with “pubarche” instead, i.e. development of pubic or underarm hair.  Girls usually menstruate about 2-2.5 years after breast buds show up.

Periods 101: 

Many girls will notice clear or milky vaginal discharge 6 months to a year before the onset of menstruation. Some girls will experience a first period that resembles a regular period, others will just have some spotting of darker brown blood.  Both are normal. Periods are often irregular for the first two years, however, some will start to menstruate monthly from the start.  The length of the menstrual cycle can vary from 21 days to 35 days once periods are regular.

Find your daughter having a tough time with period cramps? Refer to our dosing chart for Ibuprofen based on weight for mild pain management. You can also try a heating pad.

Other appearance changes: 

  • Height growth and weight gain are both normal parts of puberty.
  • Girls will do the majority of their growth between the time when they develop breast buds and when they get their period.
  • Girls can grow another 1-1.5 inches after they get their period.
  • Girls should expect their hips to widen during puberty as well. 
  • Girls will also notice increased oil production in their skin, sometimes resulting in acne as well as increased perspiration leading to more sweating and body odor.  


Emotions 101: 

Pubertal changes are not entirely physical, you will also notice emotional changes in your daughters.  Often emotions become stronger and more intense, changing quickly.  They may start to develop “crushes” and have more interest in romantic relationships. Often children start to search for their “identity,” redefining themselves and developing more intense connections with friends.

*For older teens, if you’re seeing an increase in emotions or other emotions, check out our blog on Teen Mental Wellness & additional resources.


Talk with your daughter: 

It is important that the puberty discussion is ongoing with your daughter. If you are having a hard time discussing it we are happy to work with you, initiating the conversation at the nine or ten-year check-up.  Please feel free to contact us if you have questions about normal puberty in girls or how to talk to your child about puberty.

We have found the following books helpful for discussing puberty with our daughters:

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