Puberty, pregnancy

Growing up and making babies – puberty

Puberty is the name given to the physical and emotional changes which take place in most boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 14. These changes occur so that the body is able to make a baby. This is called reproduction, and can only occur when a boy and girl are sexually mature.

One of the main physical changes of puberty is the growth and development of the sex organs – the parts of the body that are used to have sex and make babies. Sex organs that can be seen on the outside of the body are called ‘genitals’ while those that are inside the body are usually called ‘reproductive organs’.

Some more about a girl’s sex organs

A picture of a girl's sex organs, including pubic hair, Labia, Vaginal Opening, Clitoris, Urethal opening, Hymen and AnusAll genitals naturally vary in appearance so not all will look like the genitals represented here.

Between a girl’s legs there are three small holes. At the front is the urethral opening which a girl urinates through, and at the back is the anus which she defecates from. In between these two holes is a third hole, her vaginal opening. From the vaginal opening there is a small passageway or tube, called the vagina, which leads to the reproductive organs inside the body.

When a girl has her period the blood comes out through her vagina. Inside the vagina there is a small piece of thin skin called the hymen. The hymen partly covers the vaginal opening, but there is still enough of a gap for blood to get through. Sometimes the hymen breaks and bleeds slightly when a girl has sex for the first time.

Some other important parts of a girl’s sex organs are:

  • The clitoris, which is at the front of a girl’s outside sex organs and is about the size of a pea
  • The outer lips (labia) of a girl’s sex organs

The labia, the clitoris and the vaginal opening are together known as the vulva.

Some more about a boy’s sex organs

A picture of a boy's sex organs including, Pubic Hair, Shaft, Scrotum, Glans and PenisAll genitals naturally vary in appearance so not all will look like the genitals represented here.

The boy’s sex organs outside his body are his penis and testicles (testes).

A boy’s penis hangs down between his legs at the front of his body. The main parts of a penis are:

  • The shaft – the main, long part of the penis
  • The glans – the tip or head of the penis
  • The foreskin – skin which covers the glans

The foreskin can usually be pulled back quite easily. If it is tight it can be stretched by gently pulling it over the glans. All boys are born with a foreskin, but some have it removed when they are a baby, or later in life. The removal of the foreskin is called circumcision.

Underneath the penis is the scrotum – a loose, wrinkly pouch of skin that hangs down behind a boy’s penis. It contains his testicles. As a boy goes through puberty his testicles move lower down his scrotum. One of the testicles usually hangs lower than the other.

Eggs and Sperm

A picture of a girl's reproductive organs, including Uterus (womb), Ovary, Fallopian tube, Cervix, Vagina

Inside a girl’s body are two small organs called the ovaries. Contained in these ovaries are hundreds of tiny sex cells called eggs, each no bigger than the head of a pin. At some point during puberty, the ovaries will begin to release these eggs. Usually one egg is released every month. This process is called ovulation.

A boy’s sex cells are called sperm and they are even smaller than a girl’s eggs. At puberty a boy’s testicles will start making sperm. Sperm leaves a boy’s body through his penis when it is hard and erect. This is known as ejaculation and it happens when a boy reaches the height of sexual excitement and has an orgasm. When a boy ejaculates, millions of tiny sperm are sent from his testes, up through his penis and out through the end. The sperm are contained in a sticky white fluid called semen.

When a boy’s sperm meets with a girl’s egg they usually join together, and a baby will begin to grow.

How do egg and sperm meet? – Sexual intercourse

The most common way that sperm get inside a girl’s body is through sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse is when a boy puts his hard penis inside a girl’s vagina. It is also often called having sex or making love.

Having sex (which usually involves moving the penis in and out of the vagina) is usually very pleasurable for both a boy and a girl, and it will often result in an orgasm for one or both partners. If a boy ejaculates while his penis is inside the girl’s vagina (or if semen gets inside the vagina any other way) then the millions of tiny sperm in the semen will swim up the vagina, through the cervix (the entrance to the uterus) and into the uterus (also known as the womb). From there they will swim into the fallopian tubes. In one of the fallopian tubes the sperm may find an egg that has recently been released by the ovary. The sperm will surround this egg and try to get inside it. Eventually just one sperm cell will succeed, and the egg and sperm will join. This joining is also known as fertilisation or conception.

This joined sperm and egg then travel back down to the uterus, where they will settle in the thick, blood-rich lining and start to grow into a baby. It is at this point that we say a girl is pregnant.

What happens if the sperm and the egg don’t meet? – Periods

On average, the whole menstrual cycle (from the first day of the period to the day before the next) will last 28 days.

Girls generally only release an egg once a month, and it will normally take a few days to travel down the fallopian tube. If the sperm and the egg don’t meet during this time, then she won’t become pregnant.

Without a new baby to nourish, the thick lining of the uterus is no longer needed. So, approximately 14 days after a girl’s egg is released, the bloody lining of the uterus will begin to come away, and will flow down through the cervix and out of the vagina. This process is called menstruation, and this is the blood that a girl will notice when she has her period. During puberty, a girl’s first period is a sign that she has released her very first egg, and is now able to have children.

Periods will usually last somewhere between 3 and 10 days. Around 14 days after the start of her last period, a girl will ovulate (release an egg) again, and will once again have the chance to become pregnant. This process of period, then ovulation, then period, is known as the menstrual cycle. On average, the whole menstrual cycle (from the first day of the period to the day before the next) will last 28 days, although variations between 21 and 35 days are quite normal.

More about pregnancy

Though an egg is usually released about the same time each month, this doesn’t mean that a girl can predict exactly when she will (or won’t) become pregnant. This is because girls usually have no way of knowing exactly when they are ovulating. Not only can the day of ovulation vary from girl to girl, it can vary from month to month in an individual girl.

In addition, sperm can survive for several days within the body, so they can ‘hang around’ waiting for an egg to be released if there isn’t one there already.

All this means that if a girl wants to avoid pregnancy but still have sex, she and her partner will need to use contraception. Sexually transmitted diseases, which can be passed on from one person to another during sexual intercourse, are also something that both boys and girls need to consider if they decide to have sex. Condoms are widely used because they help to prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Using contraception every time you have sex is very important if you want to avoid pregnancy. It is also important to remember that a girl can become pregnant even if:

  • It is the first time she has sexual intercourse
  • She has sex before she has her first period (it could be that she is ovulating for the first time)
  • She has sex during her period (sperm can stay alive for several days)
  • A boy withdraws his penis before he ejaculates (pre-come, the fluid that leaks out the penis before a boy ejaculates, can sometimes contain sperm)
  • She has sex standing up (sperm can swim in any direction – up or down!)

Because periods stop during pregnancy, the first sign that a girl may be pregnant is usually a missing period. If a girl doesn’t start her period at the usual time, it is probably a good idea for her to talk to her doctor or another adult as soon as she can. Periods can come late for other reasons (for example when a girl is stressed, on a very strict diet or has been unwell), but if she has had sex in the past month, then it may be a good idea to take a pregnancy test to be sure.

Sexual feelings during puberty

It isn’t just the body that changes during puberty – our feelings can change too, and like the changes to the sexual organs, these feelings prepare us to have sex and make babies.

What are the main physical signs of sexual feelings?

When boys get sexually excited, the main sign is that they get an erection. The main sign for girls is that their vagina begins to get moist, and their clitoris gets bigger. For both boys and girls when they are sexually excited or “turned on”, extra blood comes to the surface of the skin, particularly around the penis and vagina. This can cause areas of the body to feel more sensitive, and some people find they get a warm sensation.

Sexual feelings and masturbation

A person can have sexual feelings any time in their life, but these change around puberty. You might find some sexual feelings just seem to happen to you. But sexual feelings mostly come about from things you choose to do, either on your own or with someone else.

A main way that people express their sexual feelings is by touching their own genitals. Girls can get pleasure from touching their clitoris, and boys from touching their penis, particularly the tip. This is called masturbation. Some people masturbate very often, maybe every day. Some people do it less often, and some don’t masturbate at all.

Masturbation is a normal and natural activity and is not bad for you unless you masturbate so much that you make your genital area sore.

When a person is masturbating they become more and more sexually excited. They may then reach a peak of sexual excitement which is called having an orgasm or “coming”. This is when all the tension and excitement that has built up is suddenly released. Boys ejaculate when they have an orgasm and their penis will then go limp. Everybody has their own way of masturbating that feels good for them. For many masturbation is their first sexual experience.

There are many myths about masturbation which make some people think it is wrong. However, masturbation is a normal and natural activity and is not bad for you unless you masturbate so much that you make your genital area sore. Masturbation does not damage you health: it cannot cause cancer, give you a sexually transmitted infection, affect your eyesight, or make you go mad. It does not cause hair to grow on your palms or any other part of your body, and it doesn’t stunt your growth. If it did, the vast majority of people in the world would be very short and unhealthy!

Sexual feelings in relationships

When people have sexual feelings for each other they will usually want to do sexual things together. There is no set time or order in which to do these things.

People often enjoy kissing, cuddling and holding hands. ‘French kissing’ is when both people open their mouths when they are kissing and their tongues touch together.

Many people also like to stroke or rub each others bodies, particularly their genital areas. Some people like to touch each other directly, and some prefer to do it through their clothes.

There are a variety of other sexual activities that people will also do including sexual intercourse.

It can seem natural to bring sexual feelings into a relationship. You might want to do something because you feel curious about it. Or because you think it will make you feel good. And you might want to do it because you feel very close to someone.

“It just felt like the right moment…it wasn’t great, but it was special, because it was with someone who I loved very much and trusted completely.”Clemantine

But it can also change how people feel about each other and about themselves. It’s important not to do any of these things because you feel under pressure. And it’s important to think about the consequences and how you will feel afterwards.

“I seriously wish I had waited because, even now, our relationship is starting to be completely physical.”Jessica

Puberty, periods and girls

What is puberty?

Between the ages of 10 and 14 most boys and girls begin to notice changes taking place in their bodies. These changes, which occur over a number of years, are generally referred to as puberty.

The changes take place in all boys and girls but they will start at different times and take place at different rates. Not everyone starts puberty between the ages of 10 and 14, some people start younger, and some much later. Similarly, in some people all the changes take place in two years, and in others they can take as long as four years. Generally they start between ages 7 and 13 in girls and ages 9 and 15 in boys.

Puberty starts when extra amounts of chemicals called hormones start to be produced in the body. These hormones guide the changes that take place in the body. As well as causing physical changes these hormones also cause emotional changes.

What are the physical changes that take place in girls during puberty?

As a girl progresses through the stages of puberty, she will grow taller and her body shape will change. Her chest will appear less flat as her breasts begin to grow. The first sign that a girl’s breasts are developing is when small bumps (sometimes called “breast buds”) become noticeable on her chest. Some girls find that their breasts or nipples start to tingle or itch whilst they grow. These feelings stop when the breasts stop growing.

Breasts grow into a variety of shapes and sizes, and many girls’ breasts remain small throughout their adult lives. It is also normal for one breast to grow faster than the other. Usually breasts become more even as they reach full development. However, most girls’ breasts will always be slightly uneven in shape and size.

a diagram showing the different stages of purberty in girls This diagram is only a representation. All girls’ bodies look different and breasts come in many different shapes and sizes.

A girl’s hips will get wider and rounder. Hair, often called pubic hair, will start to grow between her legs. At first this hair will be fine and straight. As a girl progresses through the stages of puberty, her pubic hair will grow thicker and become curlier.

a diagram showing the different stages of purberty in girls This diagram is only a representation. All girls’ bodies look different.

A girl will also grow hair under her arms and on her legs. As she gets older, this hair will grow darker and thicker. She will also start to have periods.

What is a period?

A video about all matters relating to periods.

Channel 4 Embarrassing Bodies

When a girl has her period, a small amount of bleeding takes place from her vagina. The vagina is a small opening that girls have between their legs. The bleeding will last for a few days and usually happens every month. This bleeding is referred to as menstruation and is not something to be scared of.

Most girls will have their first period between the ages of 11 and 14. But some girls will start as early as 8, whilst others may be as late as 17. Some girls get a white stain in their underwear before they have their first period, and this means that they may start getting periods soon. But it is difficult to know when a girl’s first period will happen because everyone is different. This causes anxiety for a lot of girls, especially if their first period comes at a different time from their friends’.

“It was the last week in July and everyone was happy because summer was here. I just couldn’t feel the same though because all i could think about each day was my period not arriving. I hadn’t told anyone until my best friend found me crying and i told her everything. She was great, really caring as usual. She suggested we talk to her mum. I felt so much better, telling an adult friend had been the best thing to do. In fact, my period started the next day” 1

When a girl has her period she may notice changes in her body and mood. PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) is a term sometimes used to describe the physical and emotional symptoms a girl might experience just before and during her period. For example, her breasts may feel sore, or become larger, or she may get spots (pimples) on her face. She may feel tired and find it hard to concentrate, get food cravings, or feel very emotional. But no one can tell if a girl has her period just by looking at her.

How does a girl stop blood getting on her clothes during her period?

Sanitary Towel Sanitary towel
Non-applicator tampon Non-applicator tampon
Tampon with applicator Tampon with applicator

When a girl has her period she can use sanitary towels (also known as sanitary pads, panty liners, sanitary napkins) or tampons to soak up the blood. Different girls find different methods work best for them, however most start by using sanitary towels.

Sanitary towels are thin pads made of a soft cotton-like material. They are worn by a girl inside her knickers (panties). Most towels have a sticky strip on them that sticks the pad to the inside of the girl’s knickers.

A tampon is like a small rolled up piece of cotton wool with a string at one end. A girl pushes a tampon into her vagina leaving the string hanging outside her body. The string is then used to pull the tampon out. Some tampons also come with applicators that help you to insert the tampon. As a tampon is put into the vagina, there is no problem about going to the toilet when using one. Some girls find it takes some time to get used to using tampons and that they are a little uncomfortable to insert at first. Never try to force a tampon in if it hurts. Taking some time to relax often helps.

Sanitary towels and tampons can both be bought in supermarkets and drug stores. They usually come in packets of about 10 or 15. Towels and tampons come in different thicknesses so you can use a thicker one when the bleeding is heavier, and thinner ones for lighter bleeding.

“Menstrual cups” are also available in some countries. These are small latex or silicone cups that are inserted into the vagina to collect the blood. The most common type of cup is reusable and can last for many years.

In areas where these types of sanitary protection are not commonly used, or if they are too expensive to afford, many women will use rags or old strips of cloth or towelling to soak up the blood.

How often does a sanitary towel or tampon need to be changed and how do you dispose of them?

A sanitary towel should be changed every few hours during the day, even if the flow of blood is not very great. Tampons should also be changed regularly and it is generally advised that a tampon should not be left unchanged for more than 8 hours. This is because doing so can make a girl ill. Toxic Shock Syndrome is a rare condition, but it can be caused by leaving a tampon in for too long. This is why many people think it is best not to use tampons overnight. It is fine to use a sanitary towel overnight without changing it.

It is important for a girl to wash her vaginal area daily. If a girl is using a tampon, it is best to take it out before having a bath or shower and use a new one afterwards. It is fine to use a tampon in the swimming pool if a girl wants to go swimming whilst she has her period. Sanitary towels cannot be used while swimming.

Used sanitary towels and tampons should be wrapped up and put in a bin. In most women’s public toilets there is a special bin in each cubicle which used sanitary towels and tampons can be put in.

Do periods hurt?

Some girls feel uncomfortable or have cramp-like pains when they have periods. These pains are often not very bad and do not last very long, however some girls experience quite intense pains which can stop them from doing things that they normally would. If a girl is finding it difficult to deal with period pains, she should talk to an adult as there are a number of things that can be done to help. If the pains are very bad, it might be necessary to speak to a doctor.

There are lots of ways that girls deal with period pains. Taking a warm bath or holding a hot water bottle to her stomach can be comforting. Painkillers can also be used if the cramps are bad. Many girls find that light exercise, such as going for a brisk walk or a swim, helps to ease the pain.

When does a girl need to start wearing a bra?

There is no set time when a girl needs to start wearing a bra and some girls go through life never wearing one. Girls who wear a bra usually do so because they feel more comfortable wearing one. Some girls wear a bra only when they are doing sports, others wear one all the time except when sleeping. Bras are made with different size cups for different breast sizes.

It is not necessary to wear a bra to keep breasts healthy.

What can a girl do if…

Her period starts and she doesn’t have a sanitary towel or tampon?

Having a period start unexpectedly is something that lots of girls worry about happening. But there is no need to panic. Often the blood flow at the beginning of your period is light, giving you time to get home or to a shop.

If you’re not able to do this, don’t be embarrassed about asking someone you feel comfortable with for help. Remember that many women will have experienced the same problem and will be happy to help.

You can also use something soft like tissues, or rolled-up toilet paper to soak up the blood until you can get a sanitary towel or tampon.

Her period starts when she is at school?

If you are at school you should ask a friend or a teacher or other adult if they can help. Some girls like to carry a sanitary pad or tampon in their bag so that they are prepared for when their period starts. But it quite often happens that a girl’s period starts unexpectedly, so many schools have spare sanitary towels in the office that they can give you.

Her period doesn’t start when she expects it to?

The interval between periods is usually about 28 days (around one month). However, when a girl first starts having periods they may not be “regular”, she might skip a month or have two periods very close together. After time (sometimes up to two years) most girls settle into a regular cycle and can predict when their period will start each month.

If your period does not start when you expect it to and you have had sexual intercourse, you could be pregnant. You must talk to an adult or see a doctor as soon as possible. It is important to do this even if you used contraception, as no form of contraceptive can be guaranteed to be 100 percent effective.

If you have not had sexual intercourse and your period doesn’t come when you expect it to, there is probably no need to worry. There are many things that can cause changes to your periods, for example being unwell, changing your diet, doing excessive amounts of exercise or feeling stressed. Sometimes, the worry caused by a late period can delay it even further. If you do not get your period for several months, speaking to a doctor could help to identify what is causing the problem.

She has mood swings?

Girls and boys may experience sudden changes in feelings during puberty. Feelings can swing backwards and forwards, and you may feel like laughing at one moment and crying the next. Sudden mood changes are partly caused by the increasing amount of hormones in the body.

“I can usually guess when my period is coming because I get mad easily and my mood just changes a lot. Every month is an emotional rollercoaster, and I always end up feeling depressed and guilty over the way I’ve treated people”Maria

Talking to a friend or someone you trust can help to relieve your feelings. Mood changes are only temporary, and will settle down with time.

Someone says she smells?

As boys and girls’ bodies develop during puberty so too do their sweat glands. These glands are to help control the body’s temperature and result in more sweat being produced. The best way to reduce the risk of smelling is to wash and change your clothes regularly and perhaps use anti-perspirant deodorant under your arms. Most girls do not need to use a vaginal deodorant, and these may cause irritation.

She gets spots (pimples)?

Almost everybody has spots at some time during their life, and most young people get spots around puberty. Washing your face more often with mild unperfumed or antiseptic soap and warm water may help, but be careful not to scrub your face as this can irritate the skin. It is especially important to wash your face thoroughly if you have been using make-up or sunscreen. Oils from your hair can also cause spots, so keeping your hair clean and out of your face can help.

Some people find that eating less fatty foods (such as chips and chocolate) and drinking lots of water can help. However, spots during puberty are usually caused by hormones, and are not something that you can control.

It is important to try not to pick at, or squeeze the spots as this can cause them to become infected.

If you get very bad spots it might be acne. Acne is a common skin condition that mostly occurs on the face, arms, back and chest. If you think that you might have acne, you could speak to a doctor as they will be able to give you advice. There are also various special creams and pills that your doctor may prescribe to help you with the problem.

She is unhappy about the way she looks?

“Height and weight are two things that can particularly worry young people. But try and think about things you like about yourself and the way you look.”

The physical changes that occur during puberty can cause considerable worry for young people. Some people become worried because they are growing or changing faster or slower than their friends.

Height and weight are two things that can particularly worry young people. But try and think about things you like about yourself and the way you look. Also remember that your body is changing and will keep changing.

“I used to have a problem with the way I look, and I’m still self conscious about some bits of my body. But overall I do have confidence in myself, I think I’ve got a pretty face and I like being little. No matter how bad I look, someone always thinks I’m cute because I’m small!”Jess

She starts changing before her friends?

There is no set time when puberty starts, and this means that often girls will find they start to change at a different time from other girls their age. This is very normal, but can cause a girl to feel embarrassed or ‘different’ from her friends. Remember that it won’t be long before others start to go through the same changes.

Many girls begin puberty as early as age 7. In some cases a girl may begin to show signs of puberty at a younger age, this is known as ‘precocious puberty’. If a girl starts to show signs of puberty much earlier than age 7, it is a good idea to speak to a doctor to make sure there are no underlying health problems.

If you are worried, it can help to speak with somebody you feel comfortable talking to.

All her friends have started changing but she hasn’t?

In the same way that girls who are ‘early developers’ can feel embarrassed or ‘different’, not beginning puberty until much later than others can also cause a girl to worry. Try to remember that everyone goes through puberty at their own pace. Starting later than your friends does not mean that your body will always be less mature; it won’t be long before you start to go through the same changes that they are.

Many girls don’t start puberty until age 13. If a girl is worried that she has not begun to see any changes by this age, she should speak to an adult who she feels comfortable talking to.

If a girl is much older than 13 and has not begun puberty (known as ‘delayed puberty’), it is a good idea to speak to a doctor to make sure there are no underlying health problems. But remember that starting puberty does not mean that a girl will be experiencing all the signs of puberty by this age. For example, many girls do not start having their period until as late as age 16.

She is being bullied?

Bullying comes in many different forms. It is bullying if somebody hurts you physically, calls you names, threatens you, steals or damages your belongings, excludes you, or spreads rumours about you. It is not something that just happens at school, it can happen anywhere: at home, over the phone, through text messages, and online. Bullying is a very serious issue and if a girl is being bullied for any reason, she should speak to an adult.

“Even though you may feel helpless sometimes, there are a lot of things you and others can do to help stop the bullying.”

Puberty and boys

What is puberty?

Between the ages of 10 and 14 most boys and girls begin to notice changes taking place in their bodies. These changes, which occur over a number of years, are generally referred to as puberty.

The changes take place in all boys and girls but they will start at different times and take place at different rates. Not everyone starts puberty between the ages of 10 and 14, some people start younger, and some much later. Similarly, in some people all the changes take place in two years, and in others they can take as long as four years. Generally they start between ages 7 and 13 in girls and ages 9 and 15 in boys.

Puberty starts when extra amounts of chemicals called hormones start to be produced in the body. These hormones guide the changes that take place in the body. As well as causing physical changes these hormones also cause emotional changes.

What are the physical changes that take place in boys?

A boy’s voice gets deeper, his muscles develop and his chest gets broader. Hair starts to grow on his face, legs, chest, and under his arms. In due course he will need to start shaving.

During this time his penis and testicles will also grow bigger and longer. Sometimes one testicle grows faster than the other, and it is natural for one to hang lower than the other. Hair, called pubic hair, will also start to grow at the base of his penis. As a boy gets older, this hair will grow thicker and courser.

a diagram showing the different stages of purberty in boys This diagram is only a representation. All boys’ bodies look different and penises come in many different shapes and sizes.

As a boy progresses through the stages of puberty, he will also start to have erections and he may have wet dreams.

What is an erection?

An erection is when a boy’s penis hardens and lengthens. This usually happens when a boy has romantic or sexual thoughts, or as a result of physical stimulation. However, during puberty a boy will start to get erections more often, sometimes without any stimulation at all.

Most erections are not straight, and tend to either curve upwards or to either side. Many boys worry that their penis is smaller than other boys’, but most penises are around the same size when erect.

What is a wet dream?

“Wet dreams are not something to be embarrassed about; they are natural and happen to lots of people.”

Erections can happen at any time, including when a boy is asleep. A wet dream happens when a boy becomes sexually aroused while he is asleep and ejaculates (semen – the sticky liquid that sperm is part of – is released from his body through his penis). Sometimes boys can remember having had a sexual dream. But often they just notice a wet patch on their nightclothes or on the sheets when they wake up.

If a boy has a wet dream, he should always wash when he wakes up. This is because he may develop an infection around his penis and testicles if the area is not kept clean. It is a good idea for a boy to wash his testicles and penis, particularly behind his foreskin (if he has one), every day.

Wet dreams are not something to be embarrassed about; they are natural and happen to lots of people. There is also no need to worry about not getting wet dreams as not everyone does.

How often does a boy need to shave?

Disposable razor Disposable razor

When a boy first grows hair on his face, it is usually just a small amount on his upper lip and chin. This can be removed by shaving it off with a razor. Razors can be bought in most supermarkets and drug stores.

Sometimes shaving can cause a rash, particularly if a boy has not shaved before or has sensitive skin. Using shaving foam or gel before shaving will help reduce any irritation caused to the skin. You can also buy electric razors, which are used on dry skin and are less likely to cause cuts.

At first a boy probably won’t need to shave very often. But eventually a boy will probably need to shave every day as this hair starts to grow back thicker and more quickly.

What does it mean for a boy’s voice to break?

This is just a way of saying that a boy’s voice will get deeper. Sometimes it can happen very quickly, perhaps even overnight. But often boys go through a period where they have trouble controlling their voice, and it goes up and down in pitch as they talk. This can be embarrassing, but it usually doesn’t last very long and all boys’ voices will eventually settle down and sound deeper.

“When my voice was breaking i used to get really embarrassed, it would go really high in the middle of a sentence and all my mates would laugh. But now i laugh right back when it happens to them!”Jon

What can a boy do if…

He gets spots (pimples)?

Almost everybody has spots at some time during their life and most young people get spots around puberty. Washing your face more often with mild unperfumed or antiseptic soap and warm water may help, but be careful not to scrub your face as this can irritate the skin. Some people find that eating less fatty foods (such as chips and chocolate) and drinking lots of water can help. However, spots during puberty are usually caused by hormones, and are not something that you can control.

It is important to try not to pick at, or squeeze the spots as this can cause them to become infected. It may help to use a face wash, cream or lotion, designed specifically for spots. These can often be bought from chemists.

If you get very bad spots it might be acne. Acne is a common skin condition that mostly occurs on the face, arms, back and chest. If you think that you might have acne, you could speak to a doctor as they will be able to give you advice. There are also various special creams and pills that your doctor may prescribe to help you with the problem.

He has mood swings?

Boys and girls may experience sudden changes in feelings during puberty. Feelings can swing backwards and forwards, and you may feel like laughing at one moment and crying the next. Boys particularly can experience strong feelings of anger. Sudden mood changes are partly caused by the increasing amount of hormones in the body.

Talking to a friend or someone you trust can help to relieve your feelings. Mood changes are only temporary, and will settle down with time.

He gets an erection when he doesn’t want to?

Spontaneous erections are very common during puberty, and there’s not much a boy can do to stop them happening. However, there are ways of dealing with an unexpected erection and making it less noticeable. You can sit down or cover it with something (for example a folder, bag, or by tying a sweatshirt round your waist). You can also choose to wear clothes that make an erection less obvious, for example jeans and tighter styles of underwear. Try to concentrate on something else until it goes away. You may be embarrassed, but remember that it happens to everyone.

“The worst time was when i was playing soccer. I was out in the middle of the field in front of everyone so i couldn’t do much about it. It wasn’t funny at the time but everyone got over it pretty quick”Alex

Someone says he smells?

As boys and girls’ bodies develop during puberty so too do their sweat glands. These glands are to help control the body’s temperature and result in more sweat being produced. The best way to reduce the risk of smelling is to wash and change your clothes regularly. You can also use antiperspirant deodorant under your arms.

He is unhappy about the way he looks?

“Remember that there is a large range of healthy penis sizes and shapes, and that most penises are around the same size when erect.”

The physical changes that occur during puberty can cause considerable worry for young people. Boys often compare themselves to their friends, and worry if they are growing or changing faster or slower.

Height and weight are two things that particularly worry young people. For boys, penis size is also a common worry. Try to remember that there is a large range of healthy penis sizes and shapes, and that most penises are around the same size when erect. Also remember that your body is changing and will keep changing as you go through puberty.

It is important to think about the things you like about yourself and the way you look.

He starts changing earlier than his friends?

There is no set time when puberty starts, and this means that often boys will find they start to change at a different time from other boys their age. This is very normal, but can cause a boy to feel embarrassed or ‘different’ from his friends. Remember that it won’t be long before others start to go through the same changes.

Many boys begin puberty as early as age 9. In some cases a boy may begin to show signs of puberty at a younger age. This is known as ‘precocious puberty’. If a boy starts to show signs of puberty much earlier than age 9, it is a good idea to speak to a doctor to make sure there are no underlying health problems.

If you are worried, try to speak with somebody you feel comfortable talking to.

All his friends have started changing but he hasn’t?

In the same way that boys who are ‘early developers’ can feel embarrassed or ‘different’, not beginning puberty until much later than others can also cause a boy to worry. Try to remember that everyone goes through puberty at their own pace. Starting later than your friends does not mean that your body will always be less mature; it won’t be long before you start to go through the same changes that they are.

Many boys don’t start puberty until age 15. If a boy is worried that he has not begun to see any changes by this age, he should speak to an adult who he feels comfortable talking to.

If a boy is much older than 15 and has not begun puberty (known as ‘delayed puberty’), it is a good idea to speak to a doctor to make sure there are no underlying health problems.

He is being bullied?

Bullying comes in many different forms. It is bullying if somebody hurts you physically, calls you names, threatens you, steals or damages your belongings, excludes you, or spreads rumours about you. It is not something that just happens at school, it can happen anywhere: at home, over the phone, through text messages, and online. Bullying is a very serious issue and if a boy is being bullied for any reason, he should speak to an adult.

“Even though you may feel helpless sometimes, there are a lot of things you and others can do to help stop the bullying.”