Ask the Pro: Let's Talk About Puberty

What happens during those adolescent years

by SHFamily | Thu, June 15, 2017

Dr Quan Fang, Chief Surgeon at Shanghai East International Medical Center (SEIMC), sheds light on changes during adolescence.

When do children usually experience puberty?

Girls usually get a head start on puberty. Most girls start their sexual development between the age of eight and 13, and the average age is 12. Most boys start to develop sexually between the ages of 10 and 13, and continue to grow to 16 years of age.

What happens during puberty?

Changes in girls include:

  • breasts begin to develop
  • hips become rounded
  • increase in height
  • appearance of pubic hair
  • the uterus and vagina increase in size.

Menstruation usually happens last. Most girls have their first menstrual period between ages 12 and 13, but it can start earlier or later. The first sign of puberty in boys is an increase in the size of the genitals. Other features include: appearance of pubic hair, deepening voice and bigger larynx cartilage, also called “The Adam’s apple.”

What kind of doctor is the most appropriate for teens to visit?

If a teenager grows fast and is ready to move on, a good fit for health care is an Adolescent Medical Practitioner. However, depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find one in your area. Teens keep seeing their Pediatricians as long as they are comfortable talking to them about important physical and mental health issues, with or without parental attendance.

What can boys expect in a physical exam?

For a teenage boy, a physical exam would include the eyes, ears, nose, throat, mouth, abdomen, back, legs, arms and thyroid gland. An assessment of growth and evaluation of pubertal changes will also be carried out. Screening for hypertension, scoliosis and obesity may be performed on certain teens. Examination of the genitals will also be performed.

What can girls expect during a physical exam?

General physical examination and screening of certain diseases are the same as the exams for teenage boys. It may also include an external check of a girl’s genitals. However, a pelvic exam is not usually needed unless a girl is having problems, such as abnormal bleeding or pain.

What are some of the main concerns facing teens and how can parents help?

A recent Australian study showed that the main concerns facing teenagers are: drugs, suicide, body image, family conflict, bullying or emotional abuse, and alcohol, physical or sexual abuse. Parents, teachers and other guardians should be well aware of the problems that teenagers are facing today. It is very important to stay connected to your teen and talk to them about the issues that are troubling them. Parents should always have confidence in their teens and show trust by praising them for facing challenges. Consider seeking help from professionals such as Pediatricians or Child Psychiatrists if parents feel it is necessary.