OK, so it's a funny word . . . but what is puberty, anyway? 

Puberty is the name for when your body begins to develop and change as you become an adult.

You may have noticed things about yourself and your friends that are starting to change and during puberty you have as much growth and development as you did as a baby.

It's really good to know about the changes that come along with puberty before they happen, and it's really important to remember that everybody goes through it. No matter your gender, or whether you like rock or pop music, you will all experience the changes that happen during puberty. 

Signs of puberty include girls developing breasts and starting periods, and boys developing a larger penis and testicles, a deeper voice and a more muscular appearance. The average age for girls to start puberty is 11, while for boys the average age is 12.

It's perfectly normal for puberty to begin at any point between the ages of 8 and 13 in girls and 9 and 14 in boys. There's not usually any need to worry if puberty does not start around the average age, but it's a good idea to speak to your GP for advice if it has not started by around 14.

Your body will go through a lot of changes during puberty because you need to start developing into an adult. 

It might feel a bit strange when you start noticing changes in your body. Don’t worry; it’s all natural but if you are feeling worried, you could speak to an adult you trust at home or at school.  

There are different changes that can happen to the way your body looks. Boys and girls can experience a lot of the same physical changes to their bodies, including:

  • Sweating more

  • Oily skin

  • Getting spots or acne

  • Changes to body shape

  • Changes to weight

  • Growing taller

  • Developing body hair, including pubic and underarm hair. 

Body changes that can happen to male bodies include:

  • Developing a deeper voice

  • Developing broader shoulders

  • Growing facial hair

  • Growth of the penis and testicles

  • Getting erections and producing sperm cells. 

Changes that can happen to female bodies include: 

  • Having periods

  • Producing vaginal discharge

  • Developing breasts

  • Growing wider hips. 

Puberty is caused by chemicals in the brain called hormones. When you start puberty, this means that your hormones have sent messages to your body to start changing and developing into an adult.

Your hormones are also linked to your emotions, which is why you can go through changes in how you feel during puberty. For example, it’s possible to start feeling unhappy or angry, without even knowing why.

These emotional changes are known as mood swings and they’re a normal part of going through puberty and growing up.

If you find you’re always feeling upset or down and this is affecting your everyday life, then you should speak to an adult you trust about how you are feeling because they can help and support you. This could be parents or carers, teachers or your school nurse.