Puberty is a time of change. Changes in bodies, feelings, and thoughts. It’s where we grow from being a kid into a teen and eventually an adult. Everyone goes through puberty; it’s a part of growing up! Some people may use special medications to pause or change how puberty happens for them, but eventually, it happens for everyone. Because puberty is such a big time of change, many cultures have ceremonies to mark this transition. Connect with your family, Elders, and knowledge keepers to learn more about what traditions you might have.
Let’s explore these changes more!
- Age of Puberty
- Puberty can start at different ages. Usually, it starts between the ages of 8 and 16 years old. Some people start a little earlier, some a little later, and that is ok. By the time people are 18 to 20, they have usually finished the physical changes of puberty. Our mind sometimes takes a couple more years before it’s done and of course, our body will go through other changes throughout our life. Whatever your body’s doing, that’s what’s normal for you, and it’s okay if that’s different than what’s normal for other people around you.
- What Causes Puberty?
- Puberty starts with something called the pituitary gland. This is a gland inside the brain. When it’s time for somebody to start going through puberty, this gland will send out chemical messages called hormones that tell the other glands and organs to start changing. These hormones create the changes that take bodies from being a child to a teenager and eventually an adult. These hormones also change how we feel and think about things.
Some people may use special medications to change their body’s hormones or to delay puberty using something called hormone blockers, but everyone goes through puberty eventually. Some of the folks who use these medications identify as Trans, Non-binary, or gender diverse. If you want to learn more about accessing hormone blockers or medications and are under the age of 17, connect with the GDAAY clinic by calling 204-787-7435. If you are 17 or older, check out Trans Health Klinic. Rainbow Resource Centre can be another great place for gender identity support.
- Physical Changes
- One of the biggest changes that happens in puberty is with bodies. They grow taller, get wider or bigger in some spots, and have changes happen in the genital area. A lot of these changes have to do with getting the body ready to be able to reproduce. Reproduction means making or carrying a pregnancy. Just because someone’s body can make or carry pregnancy doesn’t mean they ever have to do that if they don’t want to. Pregnancy is a personal choice. But preparation for the possibility of reproduction explains a lot of the physical changes that happen during puberty.
Changes include growing taller, hips or shoulders getting wider, growth in the chest, new body smells, new body hair, pimples, voice changes, and changes around the genitals. Most of these changes happen to all bodies, but some changes are more noticeable for a body with a vagina, while other changes are more noticeable for a body with a penis. We’ve made a game that goes over these changes. Can you guess which body they happen to?
- Genital Anatomy
- One of the areas with a lot of changes during puberty is the genitals. We’ve made a video that explains these changes and the different body part names. We also go into way more detail about bodies on a different area of this website.
Changes not mentioned in this video include growing taller, hips or shoulders getting wider, growth in the chest, new body smells, new body hair, and voice changes. Most of these changes happen to all bodies, but some changes are more noticeable for a body with a vagina, while other changes are more noticeable for a body with a penis. We’ve made a game that goes over these changes. Can you guess which body they happen to?
- Menstruation, also known as moon time or periods, is the cycle bodies with a vagina usually begin during puberty. This cycle follows a path where the ovaries release an egg (ovulation) into the fallopian tubes. The egg lasts for about 24 hours waiting for sperm. If sperm enters this body and connects with the egg it becomes a fertilized egg. The fertilized egg then journeys from the fallopian tubes into the uterus. The uterus has a bloody, nutrient-rich lining. If the fertilized egg attaches to this lining a pregnancy occurs. If the fertilized egg cannot attach, or the egg is never fertilized than the uterine lining sheds from the body. This shed lining is what period blood is. Periods can last from around 3 to 7 days. The body then begins a new cycle including growing a fresh new lining in prep for the possibility of a pregnancy. Cycles can last anywhere from 25 to 36 days depending on the person and they often vary a lot from month to month in the teen years.
Pads, period underwear, tampons and menstrual cups protect clothing and sheets from period blood. Many stores including corner stores, grocery stores and pharmacies sell pads and tampons. Department stores and some pharmacies sell menstrual cups and period underwear.
Everyone has different needs and preferences. You may want to try a few different products to figure out what fits with your culture and your body. It is also common to use different products throughout one’s period based on what you are doing. Some people may choose to use tampons or menstrual cups for activities like exercising or swimming, or for everyday use. For heavy flows, someone may pair a tampon with a pad. Which type of product(s) to use up to you!
This video reviews some details about pads, tampons, and menstrual cups
- Emotional and Mental Changes
- Another part of puberty is changes in our feelings and our thoughts. People start to have more complex thoughts, new ideas, and new feelings. During this time, many people start to feel sexual and romantic attraction to others. They might get crushes on people or start to be interested in dating someone. Not everyone develops sexual or romantic feelings. Someone who does not have these feelings may use words like Asexual or Aromantic to describe themselves. Some people find that their moods might start to change. It is common for emotions to change quickly during puberty even from moment to moment. This is because our emotions are tied to hormones. Since we have more active hormones during puberty it makes our emotions more active too.
Some folks find they have new and more complex thoughts during puberty. It’s part of the transition of thinking like a kid to thinking like an adult. It is common in Canadian culture to start to gain more independence as part growing up. It can sometimes be a time of conflict with parents and caregivers as we try to figure out who we are now, who we are becoming and who we want to be. Learning and practicing assertive communication can help in getting our needs met and to navigate challenging conversations.
Puberty can be a time of lots of excitement, but also a nervous, uncomfortable, or scary time. For most people it’s a bit of both! It’s also a time when some people struggle with their mental health. If you are struggling or just feel off, talking to a trusted adult can help. You can also check out a Teen Clinic, your local health centre, or talk with your school counsellor. The Kids Help Phone is available 24/7 to help too. They offer free phone, text, and online support around any issue. Call them at 1-800-668-6868, txt them the word CONNECT to 68 68 68, use Facebook to connect, or visit their website for online chat and more info.
Questions About Puberty
- How will I know when puberty starts?
- While there are a number of changes that start to happen as someone enters puberty, we generally officially consider it starting for bodies with a vagina when their first period happens. For bodies with a penis, it is usually considered started when your first ejaculation happens. Other signs of puberty may have started already such as growing taller really fast or having your voice start to change.
- Do girls have erections, ejaculate or wet dreams?
- Yes, all bodies can have erections, ejaculate, or have wet dreams. They just look and feel different for a body with a vagina vs a body with a penis. For bodies with a penis erections happen from blood flowing into the penis making it harder. Because the penis is outside of the body it is a little more obvious when it is happening. Ejaculation comes out of the penis too. Wet dreams are ejaculation that happens while someone is sleeping, usually from sexy dreams. Not everyone has wet dreams.
For bodies with a vagina, they also have erections, can ejaculate, and have wet dreams but because a lot of these things happen inside the body it may not be as obvious. Erections for a body with a vagina happen in the clitoris. Like a penis, blood flows into the area making the clitoris harder. Only some of the clitoris is outside the body, most of it is inside. Some bodies with a vagina ejaculate as part of sexy touching, but not all bodies. Same thing with wet dreams. If someone has a sexy dream they may have a wet dream too.
- Do boys get periods?
- Periods happen for most bodies with a vagina once puberty starts. For bodies with a penis there is no period. Periods, also known as menstrual blood or moon time, are part of the menstrual cycle.
This cycle follows a path where the ovaries release an egg (ovulation) into the fallopian tubes. The egg lasts for about 24 hours waiting for sperm. If sperm enters this body and connects with the egg it becomes a fertilized egg. The fertilized egg then journeys from the fallopian tubes into the uterus. The uterus has a rich bloody nutrient lining. If the fertilized egg attaches to this lining a pregnancy occurs. If the fertilized egg cannot attach, or the egg is never fertilized than the uterine lining sheds from the body. This shed lining is what period blood is. Periods can last from around 3 to 7 days. The body then begins a new cycle including growing a fresh new lining in prep for the possibility of a pregnancy. Cycles can last anywhere from 25 to 36 days depending on the person and they often vary a lot from month to month in the teen years.
- Do people get periods for their whole lives?
- No, people who have periods do not continue to have them their whole life. Periods usually begin sometime in the teen years and will continue for several decades. How long varies from person to person, but generally periods stop sometime in someone’s 40s or 50s. This is when the body begins what is called menopause. Menopause is another time of changes in the body related to hormones. One of the biggest changes is that people’s menstrual cycles stops and their bodies are no longer capable of creating a pregnancy.
- Does it hurt to put a tampon in/take a tampon out?
- It should not hurt to put a tampon in or take it out. Pain is a warning sign that the tampon is not in correctly. If pain happens, take it out and try to insert a new one. You may need to adjust how you are sitting or standing while inserting the tampon. If you are new to using tampons, you may need to practice a little bit before you are comfortable with inserting it correctly. Remember to always change your tampon every 4-6 hours or when it is saturated with blood. Do not leave a tampon in overnight. Leaving a tampon in too long can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a treatable bacterial infection caused by leaving a tampon in the body for too long.
This video shows more about how tampons work and how to insert them correctly.
- What is vaginal discharge?
- Every vagina makes its own fluid. This fluid is sometimes called vaginal discharge. Sometimes there is more of it, sometimes less of it. This depends on the person, where they are in the menstrual cycle, and how sexually aroused they are feeling. Sometimes a little bit of this fluid comes out of the vagina (creating discharge). This is totally natural. Because this fluid is a little bit acidic it can sometimes bleach the inside of underwear which is okay.
The job of this fluid is to keep the inside of the vagina healthy, fresh, and clean. It’s really good at its job! Because of this fluid, vaginas are self-cleaning. Do not rinse the inside of your vagina. This can throw off the natural PH balance of the vagina and increase the risk of infections. Let the vaginal discharge do its job, it’s why it’s there.
- How much comes out when a person ejaculates?
- It can be a little bit different for each person or even each time a person comes. It’s usually around 1 teaspoon or less.