Sexuality - What happens to girls?

Sexuality What Happens To Girls 2477
Photo by: Dron

Girls usually start and finish puberty before boys. However, since their bodies are changing, too, girls have a lot of the same concerns as boys. Many girls are confused and scared of the changes they are experiencing emotionally, as well as physically. Girls often wonder if their friends and classmates are developing faster than they are. Some might be concerned because they are developing breasts faster or slower than their peers. Still others might feel uncomfortable because they are the tallest in their class. All of these feelings and changes are normal for pubescent females.

Girls usually start and finish puberty before boys. The girl pictured here is less than a year older than the boy, yet she looks much more mature. (Photograph by Robert J. Huffman. Field Mark Publications. Reproduced by permission.)
Girls usually start and finish puberty before boys. The girl pictured here is less than a year older than the boy, yet she looks much more mature. (Photograph by
Robert J. Huffman. Field Mark Publications
. Reproduced by permission.)


The hymen, a fold of membrane at the vaginal opening, is not always visible, nor is it the main determinant of virginity (being a virgin, or one that has not had sexual intercourse). The hymen can break when girls play sports, or sometimes even with use of tampons. If the hymen is broken but one still hasn't had sexual intercourse, one is still a virgin. And some girls who have had sex may have hymens that are still intact.

Female Anatomy

The vulva is the proper word for the entire area between a girl or woman's legs. (A common misconception is that this area is called the vagina. The vagina is actually just one part of the vulva.) There are two sets of vaginal lips. The first is the labia majora, or "big lips." This area is covered with hair in the more advanced stages of development. The outer lips protect the rest of the vagina. Under-neath the labia majora are the labia minora, or "small lips" (although they aren't always small). The labia minora can vary distinctly in color, size and shape. They may be pink or brown, wrinkled or smooth. The labia minora don't have fat or padding. Instead they have blood vessels, oil glands, and scent glands. At the point where the labia minora connect lies the clitoris. The clitoris is very small but quite sensitive. It is a very important part of the experience of sexual arousal in girls and women but it may be hard to find because it is hooded with skin. Below the clitoris is the urethra (the urinary opening). Below that is the vaginal opening. The hymen, a fold of membrane at the vaginal opening, may cover it.

The vaginal opening connects the inner and outer genitalia. It is possible to feel inside the long, moist canal beyond the vaginal opening. This is the actual vagina. It is even possible to feel all the way to the back of the vagina to touch the cervix. The cervix is dimple-shaped and might feel like the tip of one's nose. Beyond this dimple is the opening of the cervix, called the os. During menstruation, the flow passes through the uterus and out of the os into the vaginal canal and then out the vaginal opening.

The uterus is small and shaped like a pear. It is comprised mostly of muscle tissue, and can expand tremendously during pregnancy. Right above the uterus are the fallopian tubes. They are passages from the uterus to the ovaries, where egg cells are found. During every cycle (about a month), an egg cell is released from one of the two ovaries. This is called ovulation. During ovulation, it is possible to become pregnant if one of the eggs is fertilized by a sperm cell. This is called conception. The window for ovulation is twenty-four to seventy-two hours. This is a female's most fertile time. Sexually active women should always use protection at this time to avoid pregnancy. Women who are trying to get pregnant often chart their cycles so they know the best times to have sex. Usually during ovulation the egg that is released is unfertilized and disintegrates. The menstrual flow is made up of this tissue and the endometrial tissue that has been building up in anticipation of a new life to nourish.

The Stages of Development: Girls

Every girl matures in her own, individual way. Each person's "biological clock" is unique. Just because one person's development begins before another's has started doesn't mean that either one is abnormal. Just as it is for boys, sexual development for girls really begins in the womb. Baby girls are born with thousands of immature ova (eggs) in their ovaries. When a girl hits the age of eight, behind-the-scenes hormonal changes start to take place. Estrogen, the most important female hormone, begins to be produced by the ovaries. This starts when the brain tells the pituitary gland to begin to produce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This FSH stimulates the ovaries to make estrogen. This initiates the process of puberty for females. According to The New Teenage Body Book, British physician Dr. J. M. Tanner identified the stages of puberty for girls as follows:

  • Stage One: (approximately between the ages of eight and eleven)

The ovaries are enlarging and hormone production is starting, but external development is not yet visible.

  • Stage Two: (approximately between the ages of eight and fourteen)

The first external sign of puberty is usually breast development. At first breast buds develop. The nipples will be tender and elevated. The area around the nipple (the aureole) will increase in size. The first stage of pubic hair may also be present at this time. It may be coarse and curly or fine and straight. Height and weight increase at this time. The body will get rounder and curvier.

  • Stage Three: (approximately between the ages of nine and fifteen)

Breast growth continues and pubic hair gets coarser and darker. During this stage, whitish discharge from the vagina may be present, signaling that the vagina is self-cleansing. For some girls, this is the time that the first menstrual period begins.

  • Stage Four: (approximately from ages ten to sixteen)

Some girls will notice that their aureoles get even darker and separate into a little mound rising above the rest of the breast. (Some girls never get this.) Pubic hair may begin to look more like the adult triangular pattern of growth. If it didn't happen in Stage Three, menarche (first menstruation) should start now. Ovulation might start now, too. But it won't necessarily occur on a regular basis. (It is possible to have regular periods even if ovulation is not occurring every month.)

  • Stage Five: (approximately between ages twelve and nineteen)

This is the final stage of development. Full height should be reached by now, and young women should be ovulating regularly. Pubic hair should be filled in, and the breasts should have developed fully for the body.


Menstruation, or "getting your period," is the monthly shedding of blood and uterine lining that occurs when the female egg cell is not fertilized. Menstruation normally begins during the onset of puberty in females; however, as with everything else, "normal" is different for everyone. In general, a menstrual cycle is 28 to 30 days in duration (in other words, a girl can expect her period every 28 to 30 days). A period can last from 3 to 7 days. Healthy menstrual periods should at least:

  • Come regularly. It's normal to skip one or two periods when first menstruating. But for girls who've been regular for a few years and suddenly start missing periods, a gynecologist should be consulted.
  • Have a normal flow—not too heavy. Girls bleeding through a tampon in less than an hour are probably bleeding too much. This can make a girl overly tired from iron loss. Again, if this happens, one's doctor should be told.
  • Have a normal flow—not too light. When a girl first starts to menstruate, light periods are common. But those experiencing consistently light or brief periods should not assume everything is okay. A gynecologist can help determine if this is a symptom of a more serious problem.

Premenstrual-Syndrome (PMS)

PMS is a common complaint of young and older women alike. For years, PMS was thought of as something that women "made up" to explain their feelings—physical and emotional—around the time of their menstrual cycles. Today, PMS is accepted in the medical community as a real phenomenon that may or may not affect some women. That means girls and women can have a whole list of symptoms, or just one, or none. Some girls suffer to such an extreme that they seem to experience all the pain and symptoms of PMS. Others do not exhibit any symptoms of PMS.

PMS includes headaches or migraines; abdominal, leg, and lower-back cramps; acne; depression; anxiety; bloating; fatigue; heart palpitations; confusion; breast swelling and pain; cravings; and even proneness to accidents. Most PMS sets in at ovulation. That means up to two weeks of every month can be filled with the above symptoms.

HEALING PMS. Girls can start to come to grips with PMS by writing all of their feelings about menstruation in a journal. They can record and reflect on all the symptoms they have, and try to figure out if the symptoms happen at the same time each month. This is the first step to healing.

The next step is addressing the symptoms themselves. One of the major causes of PMS is poor diet. What are the worst culprits? Processed foods, caffeine, sugar, dairy and meat. Sometimes simply eliminating or cutting back on these foods will cure the symptoms, but that is easier said than done. Girls seeking to beat PMS should think about eating a healthy diet based on whole foods: fruits, vegetables, soy products and whole grains.

Pharmacies also sell over-the-counter products that may help with some of the symptoms of PMS, such as reducing bloating and providing mild pain relief.

Cramps (Dysmenorrhea)

Dysmenorrhea, commonly known as cramps, may be experienced by some females during menstruation. Over-the-counter painkillers can offer a quick fix for cramps, while some women prefer to use painkillers specially formulated to also reduce bloating. (Another dietary way to prevent bloating is to reduce salt intake and drink lots of water.) Chamomile tea is a great natural muscle relaxant. However, to prevent cramps from starting in the first place, eliminating unhealthy foods from one's diet is a good thing to keep in mind. Another approach is exercise. Regular exercise will keep hormones flowing properly through the body and regulate periods, and often eliminate cramps. Doing yoga is a good way to eliminate cramps (and other symptoms of PMS as well). There are even some yoga poses that can be done which will ease the pain of cramps immediately.


Practicing yoga is a good way to eliminate cramps (and other symptoms of PMS as well). Yoga is a form of exercise comprised of many different poses that gently stretch and work out the muscles. One great pose for easing menstrual cramps is called the Bhadrasana or Nobility Pose. This is how to do it:

Sit on the floor and bring soles of the feet together. Close the eyes. Clasp the hands around the feet, and pull the heels as close in to the body as possible. Inhale slowly and try to keep the head, spine, and neck in a straight line. Push the knees to the floor. Hold the breath in at a comfortable level for five counts. Exhale.

If cramps and/or PMS are incapacitating, a physician should be consulted. Getting rid of cramps and PMS doesn't happen overnight. It will definitely be a process of trial and error. So if someone has PMS or even a mom, best friend, sister, or girlfriend has it, let the P stand for patience. Boys need to understand PMS too, so they are kind and compassionate to the girls and women they know who go through it.

User Contributions:

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Jun 24, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
its good i want to ask a question i recently got married i feel pleasure during intercourse but sometime i feel really pain in vagina .one years ago .i was patient of vaginal fungus my doctor treated so i became alrite but after this i some time feel itching in vagina .what should i do ?
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Dec 19, 2011 @ 8:20 pm
My period is very irregular and is approximately every 4 months.. Is there something wrong with me?

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