Girls during puberty: a time of transformation

Girls undergo major changes during puberty: mood swings, their first period, weight gain and other physical changes. Read all there is to know about girls during puberty and what you, as a parents, can do to help.

20.12.2023 Nina Merli 4 minutes

How long does puberty last in girls?

With girls, puberty usually starts between the ages of 8 and 13, and at the age of 10 or 11 on average. The end of puberty – in physical respects – is generally regarded as being anywhere between 16 and 17, but emotional changes can continue for a few years after that.

Puberty is a life stage full of change. It can be a challenging time for teenagers, parents and siblings too. Find out what happens to adolescents during this phase and how you can support your child.

Emotional changes during puberty

Symptoms of puberty in girls

Puberty is a period of real metamorphosis for girls. This complex phase involves not only physical changes, but emotional changes too. Puberty is a challenging stage in a girl's life and requires a great deal of patience and empathy on the part of parents. How do girls’ bodies change during puberty?

Physical changes

The first thing that becomes apparent is the physical changes. The first signs of puberty in girls manifest themselves in breast development, the growth of pubic hair and a general growth in physique. Sometimes, puberty is associated with circulatory problems, musculoskeletal pain, hair loss, hot flushes or iron deficiencies – but these are not changes, just some of the potential consequences of the changes girls undergo during puberty and, as such, do not occur in all girls.

There’s a lot going on in the body during puberty – in both boys and girls. Find out what changes teenagers can expect during puberty.

Physical changes during puberty


Periods or menstruation start between the ages of 11 and 15. The first period, referred to as menarche, signals the beginning of sexual maturity. Periods usually occur once a month and can still be very irregular in the beginning. On average, a cycle lasts 28 days, with cycles of anywhere from 24 to 36 days classed as normal. This cycle is divided into four phases:

  1. Menstruation
  2. Follicular phase
  3. Ovulation phase
  4. Luteal phase

Do you want to know exactly what happens during a period? Read our article about the menstrual cycle.

Menstruation is more than blood and pain


Growing breasts is one of the first signs in puberty in girls. So-called breast buds are formed before the breasts actually begin to grow. As a result, the breasts often develop at varying rates, as opposed to simultaneously. This change can often feel like lumps in the breast, but this is completely normal. Girls are often concerned with the many changes going on in their bodies. Address their concerns and talk to them about it. Not only does the volume of the breasts change, but so do the nipples and areola.


Unfortunately, puberty is often accompanied by spots. The increase in sexual hormones causes the increased production of sebum, which can lead to acne. To prevent this, it's important to follow a proper skincare routine. What can girls do to help prevent spots during puberty?

  • Make sure to cleanse the face regularly and gently. Opt for milder cleansers over more aggressive ones, otherwise this will add to stress on the skin.
  • Do not squeeze the spots, as this can injure the skin and allow bacteria to penetrate. The areas of the skin will become inflamed and unsightly pustules will appear.
  • Make sure you moisturise. Choose a light facial care product that does not clog the pores.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet.

For severe acne, seeking the advice of a dermatologist is advisable. During puberty, girls feel very insecure at the best of times, and a poor complexion can further intensify these feelings.

What causes acne? Why do you get spots during puberty and how do you treat them? Read all you need to know about acne.

Acne: causes and treatment


Most girls experience a growth spurt between the ages of nine and 16. During this time, their height can increase by anywhere from 5 to 20 centimetres. This can lead to significant pain in the arms, legs, joints and muscles. Light stretches or massages can alleviate the pain to some extent. In case of any doubt, you should consult a doctor.

Emotional change

Physical change brings with it great uncertainty for girls. For parents, it is primarily the mood swings that girls experience during puberty that pose a challenge. Hormonal changes have a significant impact on the behaviour of girls. The brain changes too, or, more specifically, the frontal lobe. Researchers have discovered that teenage moods such as unpredictability, indecisiveness, forgetfulness and even learning difficulties are sometimes attributable to changes in the brain. Parents should be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster during this time and arm themselves with a good dose of understanding and patience.

Depression in girls during puberty

Despondency or sadness are common side effects of puberty in girls. These are attributable in part to hormonal changes, but also societal pressures – not least from social media. For instance, the increase in oestrogen and progesterone can influence neurotransmitters and trigger depression. In addition, unrealistic beauty ideals can fuel an already strong degree of insecurity about their appearance. Parents should talk openly with their children about the physical and general changes in this phase of life, make sure to keep statements positive and listen carefully if the child shares their worries or sensitivities.

If you notice persistent despondency in your child over a prolonged period, accompanied by weight loss, diffuse anxiety and noticeable listlessness, these could be symptoms of depression. In this case it is important to seek professional help.

Is your child acting out because of puberty? Or are their symptoms actually a sign of depression?

Find out more about depression in young people

Young girls face many challenges: physical changes, mood swings, aggressive behaviour and social conflict – all of these are par for the course for girls during puberty. These changes are also felt by parents. Despite all the difficulties and disagreements, now is an important time to empathise with your children, give them space to develop and support them on their way to adulthood.

Helsana’s health consultation

Helsana’s health consultation service provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article. Our health advisors can provide you with answers to all of your health-related questions quickly and easily, whether you’d like advice on nutrition and exercise, on coping with a diagnosis or on a recommended course of treatment. 

Read more

Physical changes during puberty
Physical changes during puberty are normal. Find out what happens to the body during puberty and why it's no cause for concern.
December 19, 2023 6 minutes

Boys during puberty: from boys to men
Voice change, aggressive behaviour, tiredness – all symptoms of puberty in boys. How should parents handle this, what can you do?
December 20, 2023 4 minutes



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