Puberty can be an exciting but difficult time for many kids. During puberty, your body transforms into that of an adult. These changes can happen slowly or quickly. It’s normal for some people to go through puberty sooner than others.
Puberty usually starts anywhere between the ages of 9 and 15 in boys and 8 and 13 in girls. The wide range of time during which puberty normally hits is why some of your friends may look older than others.
Puberty is part of the natural growing process. During puberty, your body will grow faster than at any other time in your life, except when you were a baby. Puberty won’t begin until hormones released by the pituitary gland in your brain tell your body that its time.
You may sometimes wish that you could start puberty faster. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to control the timing of puberty. But if you haven’t started puberty yet, you have more time left to grow. Once all the signs of puberty are there, you’re usually close to your adult height.
It helps to remember that pretty much everyone goes through puberty eventually. It’s perfectly normal to feel confused or frustrated.
When does puberty start in boys? | In boys
In boys, puberty typically begins anywhere between the ages of 9 and 15. Puberty in boys begins when the pituitary gland sends a signal to the testicles that it’s time to start making testosterone. Testosterone is the male hormone that changes your body during puberty.
The first signs of puberty in boys is that your testicles (balls) begin to get bigger. After that, you may notice your penis becoming larger or wider and hair growing in your groin.
Your doctor can easily check for signs of puberty during your physical exam. They can tell you if there’s anything to worry about.
Other signs of puberty in boys include:
- getting taller quickly
- feet getting bigger
- deepening voice
- hair growing in new places
- new muscles or body shape
- frequent erections
- ejaculating while you’re sleeping (wet dreams)
In 95 percent of boys, puberty begins by age 14, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics. If puberty hasn’t started by age 14, doctors consider it delayed. Most boys with delayed puberty have a condition called constitutional delayed puberty. This simply means that you’re developing more slowly than other kids your age.
Just like eye color, this condition can be passed down in families. But don’t worry — you’ll catch up to your friends in a few years.
Although it’s rare, some boys aren’t able to produce certain hormones. When boys can’t produce normal levels of puberty hormones, it’s called isolated gonadotropin deficiency (IGP). IGP is a condition that you’re born with and will have for your whole life. There are treatments available to manage it.
In girls, puberty usually begins sometime between the ages of 8 and 13. Puberty in girls begins when the pituitary gland tells the ovaries that it’s time to start producing a hormone called estrogen. Estrogen changes your body during puberty and makes you capable of becoming pregnant.
The first signs of puberty in girls is usually growing breasts. You may notice that your breasts are becoming bigger or taking on a different shape. Most girls don’t get their periods until about two years after the breasts begin to grow.
Other signs of puberty in girls include:
- getting taller quickly
- changing body shape (wider hips, curves)
- wider hips
- weight gain
- hair in the armpits and groin
If your breasts haven’t begun developing by age 13, doctors would consider your puberty delayed. Most girls with delayed puberty inherit this condition from their parents. They usually catch up with their friends within a few years.
A low percentage of body fat can delay puberty in some girls. This is common in girls who are very athletic. Other causes of delayed puberty include hormonal disorders and a history of medical problems, like cancer.
Puberty will happen as soon as your body is ready for it. But waiting for puberty can be hard. You may feel embarrassed, anxious, and depressed about delayed puberty. Here are a few things that might help:
- Speak up. If you’re worried about your development, don’t keep it to yourself. Share your worries with your parents or friends. Talking about this stuff will make you feel less alone.
- Get a checkup. Your doctor has seen tons of kids go through puberty. During a physical exam, your doctor can check on the development of your body and tell you if everything is normal. If necessary, your doctor can also perform tests to check your hormone levels.
- Ask your doctor about treatment. If your doctor makes a diagnosis of delayed puberty, they may recommend treatment. Your doctor can give you a prescription for hormone medications that will trigger the start of puberty.
- Educate yourself. The more you know about puberty, the more comfortable you will feel with your body. Learning about puberty can also make it easier to talk about.
- Connect with other kids like you. Just because your friends aren’t talking about delayed puberty doesn’t mean you’re alone. Talk with a parent or trusted adult. They can help you find online communities of kids dealing with delayed puberty. You might be amazed how good it feels to swap stories.
- Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet is very important for your growing body. Eating a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins will give your body the fuel it needs to grow.
- Get active. An active lifestyle is also important to your overall health. Consider joining a sports team or going for a run with your parent.
- Don’t overdo it. While both healthy eating and physical activity are important for your overall health, excessive dieting or exercise can contribute to delayed puberty. Talk to your parents and doctor if you have questions about how much to eat or exercise.
- Be patient. It can be tough to look different from your friends, but most kids will catch up naturally. Once your puberty finally arrives, you’ll develop into a healthy adult.
Puberty is a difficult time for many people. You may be struggling with body image issues or feel isolated from your friends and family. The important thing to remember is that puberty is a natural process that’s different for everyone. You’ll develop at your own pace before you know it.