You are currently viewing Where has my little girl gone?

Where has my little girl gone?

Every parent shudders a little when they think about their daughter going through puberty. Mothers will be anxious about how their little girl will cope with the many physical changes that puberty brings. Fathers will worry that this means their daughter will start wearing make-up and going out with boys.

If these are the thoughts going through your mind right now, don’t worry! Puberty is something that is completely natural and wonderful, and heralds a young girl’s first step into womanhood.

Puberty usually begins between the age of eight and 13. Every girl goes through the same changes, although the time when these changes happen is different for every girl.

What’s going on?!

All of a sudden, your daughter’s body shape is going to change, she will start shooting up and she will experience different feelings provoked by her changing hormone levels. How strange and scary it must be for your daughter right now!

You can reassure her by telling her that her brain is actually in control of these pubertal changes. When the time is right for her, her body will send a signal from the pituitary gland in her brain to her ovaries.

This signal is a green light for the ovaries to begin producing hormones like oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone (yes, even girls have them too!), which, in turn, incurs the physical changes that she is about to experience

Changing bodies, changing lives

Breast development.

Diagrams below show the 5 stages of breast development

Growing breasts can be both embarrassing and exciting. Your daughter’s breasts will start as breast “buds,” small mounds beneath the nipple and areola. One breast may start budding before the other, sometimes even six months earlier. In the beginning, they may hurt sometimes and be tender when they are touched, but this will go away soon. The nipple and areola also darken. Many girls have breasts that develop unevenly; one breast may be bigger than the other. This is perfectly normal and the size difference will eventually decrease as the breasts develop further. Now is the time for a mother-daughter shopping trip to choose her very first bra!

Pubic and underarm hair.

Diagrams below show the 5 stages of pubic hair development:

This is the part that may be even more embarrassing for your daughter. She will start to grow hair around her vagina and under her arms. This may occur before or after she starts developing breasts. At first, she will probably just have a few fine hairs in her pubic area and under her arms. Later on, she may be alarmed to find these hairs becoming thicker and curlier, but reassure her that this is perfectly normal. As with many girls, she may want to know if she can shave her underarm hair; mothers should talk to their daughters about this.

Growth spurt and body shape change. Your daughter will experience a growth spurt about a year before she gets her first menstrual period. Her feet and hands are likely to grow first, followed by the rest of her body, making her feel a little awkward and lanky initially. After her first period, she will grow more slowly. Puberty will bring a curvier, more womanly shape to her body: her hips will get wider and her waist smaller. If your daughter is not growing and changing by age 13, talk to your family doctor or paediatrician.

Vaginal discharge. Your daughter may start producing some discharge, which appears as a yellow or white stain in the crotch of their underpants, about a year before she gets her first period. She may be too shy to tell you this, so you may have to look out for it when doing her laundry. Explain to her that it isn’t dirty, simply a normal fluid that helps to clean and moisten her vagina. However, if she experiences itching, an unpleasant odour or irritation around the vagina, she should alert you as it could be an infection.

Skin. Ack! Every girl despairs of pimples and acne. However, this is to be expected because more hormones and oil glands become more active during puberty, causing the skin to get oilier. Teach your daughter to practise good skin cleansing and hygiene. If she has serious acne, she should see a doctor or a skin specialist.

Sweat/Perspiration. There’s a reason teenagers are more sweaty – their sweat glands become more active during puberty! This usually isn’t a problem, but can cause body odour sometimes. Again, good body hygiene is very important and perhaps another shopping trip – this time for deodorant!

Menstruation. Last, but not least, your daughter will start getting her monthly menstrual period. Most girls start getting their menstrual periods about two-and-a-half years after they first start developing breasts. Your daughter may be worried if she gets her period earlier or later than her other friends, but that is normal. Some girls start as early as the age of nine, and others as late as 15 or 16. Generally, most girls start between the ages of 12 and 13.

Of course, raising an adolescent daughter won’t be a smooth ride. But it will be incredibly exciting and fulfilling as you catch a glimpse of the woman that your daughter will become one day.  Isn’t that something to look forward to?

The Star Newspaper, June 27, 2007
By Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar