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Dealing with Early Puberty

What to know if you're the first of your friends to start puberty.
WebMD Feature

Puberty isn't easy -- especially when you go through it before any of your friends.

"It's a huge amount of change in a very short period of time," says Pamela Murray, MD, MPH. "Change is always tough." Murray is a pediatrics professor at West Virginia University.

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Your body is going to go through a lot in just one to two years:

  • Growth spurt: Before you start your period, you can grow up to 4 inches in just one year.
  • New curves: You'll gain weight, especially in your hips, and your breasts will grow.
  • More hair: You'll get hair under your arms, in your pubic area, and on your legs.
  • Period starts: You'll get your first menstrual period.

You may also smell different (hello, body odor), feel more moody than you used to, and get pimples. On top of that, boys -- and sometimes, men -- may look at you more.

Here's how to deal with being the first in your crowd to reach puberty.

Puberty: When?

Many girls start puberty at about age 11 but some can start even sooner, such as age 8 or 9.  But it doesn't happen all at once.

Usually, you'll have a growth spurt first. Then your breasts grow. Body hair and pimples will pop up. Finally, at around age 12, you get your first period.

That's the average. But every girl is different. That's why you could be wearing a bra while all your friends are still flat as a board.

Some girls start puberty really early, such as second or third grade. So even if none of your friends have gotten breasts or their period, you can be sure that other girls your age definitely have.

Tricky Time

If you look a lot older than you are, that can be a problem.

"It's a tricky situation because although your body is fully developed, you're still 10 or 11 on the inside, which makes you very vulnerable," says gynecologist Crystin Megan Tirone, MD.

At 10 or 11, you may feel mature, but you're not old enough to understand the consequences of your actions. That can lead to taking risks -- with drugs, alcohol, and boys.

Vanessa Topp, an Atlanta teen, remembers how embarrassing those body changes were. She got her period, and breasts, when she was 10 -- two years before all her friends.

Topp looked much older than she was -- and boys noticed.

"I remember one time we were at a dinner party at my parents' friends' house. Their son was 17, and I had just turned 12. He was going out with a bunch of his friends and he asked his mom if he could take me along because he thought I was cute," she says. "I felt really awkward in those situations." 

Boys are just one part of the awkwardness of puberty. You also have to deal with periods -- and with a body that's changing in lots of ways.

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