Growing Up is Hard to Do
by Patsy Sadler
Here on the Girls Editorial Board, we have a lot of questions about growing up. You probably do, too! We got Patsy Sadler, M.D., to help us understand what’s happening.
Why am I so moody?
If you’re out-of-control happy one minute, totally depressed the next minute, and furious the next, you’re completely normal! It’s part of growing up. But mood swings can also be frightening and confusing. When we go through puberty, a part of our pituitary gland, in our brain, becomes active or “alive.” This gland sends chemical messengers to our ovaries; our ovaries then become hormone factories. Our mood swings are related to the changing levels of those hormones.
If you can’t control your responses to the mood swings, talk with a trusted adult. It’ll help to get plenty of rest and exercise and to eat a healthy diet. These keep your mood more stable.
I’m suddenly gaining weight. Should I diet?
Gaining weight during puberty is normal and healthy. In fact fifty percent of our ideal body weight is gained during puberty. When you begin developing breasts (around the ages of 9 to 13), you can expect to grow a foot taller over the next 4 years. This height spurt is followed by a weight spurt, when girls are really hungry and it’s hard to get enough to eat. During this time, our body fat and lean body mass (bones and muscles) all increase.
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If you and your doctor agree you need to lose weight, focus on being healthy, not thin.
I don’t have breasts yet, but I have these little lumps. What’s that about?
I’m assuming you’re talking about fairly hard little lumps right under one or both nipples. These are called breast buds and are usually the first sign that puberty is starting. Your breasts might become tender and sore. Wearing a light, cotton sports bra is usually helpful.
What can I do about PMS?
Some girls get PMS or “premenstrual syndrome” symptoms 3 to 10 days before their period. These symptoms end with the start of your period.
Emotional symptoms may include extra worrying, crankiness, tiredness, sadness, trouble concentrating, squirminess or restlessness, forgetfulness, getting mad easily, feeling uptight, being too sensitive, experiencing crying spells, or feeling ugly, insecure, or moody. Fun, huh?
Physical symptoms can include weight gain or bloating, zits, food cravings, klutziness, constipation, a racing heart, nausea, joint pain, muscle twitches, changes in sleep, and more thirst than usual.
Since these symptoms can be signs of other illnesses, keep a journal. Write down your symptoms; then write down when your period starts. If your symptoms occurred 3 to 10 days before your period and ended when you got your period, then you’re probably dealing with PMS. If you’re unsure, talk with your doctor.
What can you do about PMS? Cut down on red meat and high-fat foods, which make you feel bloated. Reduce salt to cut down swelling. Reduce sugar to calm your moods. Eat more whole grains (like whole wheat breads and cereal), fruits, and vegetables and don’t use caffeine. Exercise helps a lot. Good sleep is important, too. Avoid stress by identifying and handling your feelings. If these tips don’t help, talk with a parent, doctor, school nurse, or guidance counselor.
Can girls get vaginal infections?
Yes. Some causes of vaginal infection in girls include allergic reactions, changing hormone levels, certain medications, and wearing a wet bathing suit too long.
It’s normal to have vaginal discharge, but a vaginal discharge that’s different from your normal discharge could be a sign of an infection. Abnormal discharge is discolored or has an unusual odor. Vaginal itching, soreness, or burning are other signs. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.
Can girls use tampons?
It’s OK to use tampons after starting your period if you want to. Remember to change tampons every 4 hours, and never leave one in for more than 8 hours at night.
They’re pretty easy to use with just a little practice. The instructions in the tampon box are very helpful. Remember to wash your hands before and after inserting a tampon. You can use a little petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or lubrication jelly to help with insertion. Don’t worry, you can’t push it in too far or lose the tampon in your vagina or belly.
When using a tampon for the first time, I would use the “teen” or “slender” versions. Also, using a minipad with a tampon can provide extra protection against leaks.
Remember: nothing lasts forever, and that includes puberty!
© 2004 New Moon® Publishing, New Moon®: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, Duluth MN.
Content last reviewed May 15, 2008
Page last updated October 31, 2013