Mar 012012
 

So let’s talk a little about puberty. This is where and when a young girl will begin to sexually mature. Her body will go through a series of changes completely out of her control. Numerous bodily systems will be affected and she will emerge on the other side as a sexually mature young woman. This journey begins somewhere around the age of 9 with the initial growth spurt and reaches completion around the age of 15 when she reaches her adult height. Another sign that she has completed puberty is the initiation of the menstrual cycle. It’s an amazing process of transformation that begins in its own time and progress at its own rate. While we know much about the events that occur during puberty, each individual’s experience of puberty is unique and will unfold without a set or defined pattern. While one young woman may be completing puberty at age 15 another may be just beginning her own journey.

Different degrees of sexual maturation at the same age, these girls are all 12.75 years old. © Human Reproductive Biology

The series of events and bodily changes such as growth spurts, breast development, and when she will get her first period happen whenever they are good and ready and without a set order. Everyone has experienced the flood of raging hormones as the body of a child transforms into a young maiden. The same happens for guys too. Hormones too come in their own ebbs and flows, and the symptoms experienced can vary tremendously between young women. Physiological changes in sweat and sebaceous glands can cause distressing changes in body odor and skin complexion including problems like acne and body odor. Pubic hair begins to grow and the internal reproductive structures complete their development. It’s important to realize that there’s a wide variety of normal when it comes to transitioning through puberty. Each girl’s body goes at its own pace.

Menarche is a young woman’s very first period and marks her entrance into womanhood. Many cultures celebrate this joyous coming of age event. In the United States, menstruation is often viewed as a taboo or shameful, something that should be hidden and not discussed. Frequently a girl’s entrance into womanhood is an unmarked event. For the majority of young women this is a hush-hush event. It’s whispered about rather than celebrated. She is initiated with shame and secrecy. Some girls think they are bleeding to death when they get their first period, it is a terrifying experience. Some girls have received their education from TV and have heard stories about “The Curse”. It’s hard to have a positive image of something that happens every month to your body when you’re spoon fed this type of information.  It doesn’t have to be this way. The inner workings of the female body are amazing and wondrous!! I’m excited to explore and expose the mysteries of the female body here on this website!

So let’s talk a little more about menarche, which is the word for a young woman’s very first period. Its origins are Greek, men- means month, and arche  means beginning. Generally speaking, in order to have a period one must ovulate first. Science has documented a set chain of hormonal events leading up to and triggering ovulation leading to menstruation approximately two weeks later.

When a girl begins menstruating, her body is still maturing and there’s some debate in regards to how regularly she may ovulate. There is belief that many of a young girl’s menstrual periods are anovulatory, which means that she didn’t ovulate that cycle and may be repeated for many cycles, just a few or perhaps just occasionally. Again, we can safely say that this is going to vary between individuals and every cycle should be considered fertile. Personally, I believe that ovulation is occurring more often than not when a young woman receives her period. Unfortunately there are documented reports of young girls who are being sexually abused becoming pregnant without ever having a period. This happens because ovulation occurs prior to having a menstrual period. We’ll get into more of this later. It is possible for anovulatory cycles to produce spotting or bleeding similar to a period which can be difficult to identify. More often, when ovulation does not occur, menstruation does not occur or may occur irregularly.

 

References & Resources:

Human Reproductive Biology 3rd Edition. 2006

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