In the case of young girls, puberty can be an emotionally and physically challenging time, but understanding the stages of puberty can help them cope with it more effectively. In the 1860s, a British physician named James Tanner outlined five distinctive stages of puberty, known as the Tanner Scale or Tanner Stages.
These stages were developed by Tanner in order to help doctors and parents recognize which part of the process their child is currently undergoing.
First Stage of Puberty in Girls
For most girls, the first stage of puberty is not accompanied by any visible signs and symptoms. The work is done internally as hormones are produced and the ovaries begin to grow as a result of the hormone production. The hypothalamus, which is located in the forebrain region, begins to release gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) during this first stage of puberty.
The secretion of GnRH is then transported to the pituitary gland, which is responsible for releasing two hormones that are specifically related to puberty – follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). It has been reported that girls start to experience this stage of puberty as early as eight years of age, according to KidsHealth.
In spite of this, WebMD states that the average age of the children is 12 years old. In order to determine when your daughter will begin puberty, there are a number of different factors to take into account. There is a lot of disagreement among medical experts as to what the exact reasons are, but some of them suggest that:
- Aspects of genetics
- Dietary habits
- Ratios between body fat and lean mass
Girls’ Second Stage of Puberty
A girl will often see the first visible signs of puberty during the second stage of puberty, which occurs in the second half of puberty. There is a possibility that this stage can occur between the ages of 8 and 13.
There are a variety of factors that can influence the age at which someone reaches this stage. This stage can however be recognized by the following outward signs, according to the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom:
- The breast buds will form first, then the areola will grow bigger, and then the breast buds will form. During this stage, some girls will experience significant breast growth, but it won’t happen for most girls until a year or two later in the process.
- There is an increase in the growth of pubic hair on the outside edges of the vaginal canal
- There has been a weight gain or a fat gain (wider hips)
- It is typical for a child to grow two to four inches per year in a growth spurt
- Inflammation of the breasts
- A more emotional experience
Third Puberty Stage for Girls
When a girl reaches the third stage of puberty, her body continues to develop and grow. About Kids Health states that the third stage of puberty can occur at any time between the ages of 9 and 14.
However, the NHS states that it typically occurs after the age of 12. In Tanner Stage Three, there are a number of events that happen, such as:
- The growth of the breast continues outside the area of the areola
- It is common for pubic hair to spread across the front of the pubic area
- There is a formation of hair under the arms
- It is at this point that acne appears
- According to the National Health Service, the average growth rate during puberty is 3.2 inches per year.
Fourth Puberty Stage
Sometime between the third and fourth stage of puberty, a girl begins her period, also called menstruation. For the average girl, this happens around age 12. However, periods are often irregular at first. During her period, a girl can expect vaginal bleeding for around a week every month due to an egg being released and the uterus shedding unused tissue.
Girls may experience headaches, mild to severe cramps, mood swings, and other unpleasant symptoms during their periods. This stage is typically reached between 10 and 15 (About Kids Health). Other signs of stage four include:
- Additional spread of pubic and underarm hair; hair grows coarser/curlier
- Growth spurt slows down considerably with an average of 2.8 inches a year (NHS)
- A secondary mound is formed by the areola on top of the breast (this will disappear later)
Fifth Stage of Puberty for Girls
The final stage of puberty marks a girl’s graduation into womanhood. Her height and breast size have likely reached their permanent state, and she can focus on becoming comfortable and confident in her new body.
Most girls hit this stage of puberty between ages 15 and 18 and growth in height typically stops around age 16. Some other signs that you’ve entered the final stage of puberty:
- Periods are monthly and predictable
- Pubic hair spreads to the top of the inner thighs
- Areola swelling disappears and breasts look like adult-shaped breasts
Normal Puberty in Girls
Keep in mind that the stages above are estimates. Every girl is unique and may go through the stages a bit faster, slower or at a younger or older age. However, there are a few things to consult your physician about if they occur:
- Premature puberty – child begins to show signs of puberty before 8 or 9 years of age.
- Delayed puberty – no development by age 14 or a delay of five years or more between the initial signs of budding and further development
Puberty in Girls
A young girl going through puberty must deal with physical and hormonal changes to her body. On top of that, she now has to deal with acne, body odor and eventually menstruation.
A little education about the stages she’s going through and a bit of understanding from a caring parent or care giver can go a long way toward helping her through this difficult but exciting time in her life.