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When does puberty happen and what changes?

People Assigned Female at Birth

Most people with vaginas start to go through puberty sometime between the ages of 9 and 13. Puberty is the process that changes the body from that of a child to that of an adult.

On the outside of the body, “breast budding” is usually the first sign that a person has entered puberty. It can be scary and exciting all at the same time. People may notice slight changes in the size and shape of their breasts as they begin to grow. They might also notice acne, body odor, sweat and hair growing in the armpits and around the vulva. Hair on the legs will become more coarse and dark. People may also grow wider hips and larger breasts, although the size and shape of both of these body parts will be different on different people. All of these changes are the result of hormones—chemicals in the body.

Mood swings can also be a part of puberty. During puberty a person might feel happy one second, sad and angry the next—without being sure why they’re feeling that way. This can seem like a roller coaster ride because a person feels like they have no control. The good news is that these mood swings are part of the process, and people, regardless of their sex assigned at birth, go through them. If you know what to expect, sometimes it’s easier to deal with these mood swings and other changes when they happen.

Inside the body of a person with a vagina, the uterus, cervix and ovaries are growing and maturing too. Sometime in the middle of puberty, people with vaginas usually get their first menstrual period.

People Assigned Male at Birth

When a person with a penis starts going through puberty, the first thing that happens is growth of the testicles. All of the other changes happen as a result of the increased testosterone, a hormone produced by the testicles.

The first thing a person with a penis usually notices is hair growing under their arms, around their penis area (genitals) and on their faces. Hair on other parts of his body will often get thicker and darker too. Some people have more hair than others. Genetics play a part in this. That means if a person’s biological father, for example, has a lot of body hair, you might have a lot of body hair, too.

Also during puberty, a person with a penis’s voice box grows. That’s what causes a person’s voice to crack and squeak. It takes a little time for the cracking to stop, as the voice deepens and settles into its adult tone. The penis, testicles and scrotum also grow during puberty. The testicles will also start to produce sperm. Since your testicles are growing faster than your penis at first, it might seem like your penis is shrinking. It’s not. In time, it all evens out.

During puberty, it’s also common for people to have large growth spurts, times when they grow fast over a short period of time. This rapid growth can cause “growing pains,” when joints and muscles ache and get sore. Also, when a people with penises grows very fast, they don’t have time to get used to their larger limbs, so they can sometimes feel awkward and clumsy.

Another thing that can happen to people with penises during puberty is getting an erection out of nowhere. Erections that happen for no reason at all are called “spontaneous erections.” Teen with penises can get erections when they don’t even feel turned on. They can happen without warning and at embarrassing times. Spontaneous erections are common during puberty. They happen a lot less once a person finishes puberty, although adults with penises still get them every once in a while.

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