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Puberty is the period of time when the bodies of children start to develop. Puberty begins when the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain sends a signal to the reproductive organs to start producing hormones. The signal goes to the ovaries telling them to start producing estrogen or the signal goes to the testicles telling them to start producing testosterone. It is these hormones (estrogen and testosterone) which are responsible for the changes that occur during puberty.

When does puberty begin?

The average age to start puberty is 8-10 for people with ovaries and 10-12 for people with testicles. It is important to note that these are just averages and that there is no set age to start puberty. Although everyone goes through the changes of puberty, not everyone will experience these changes at the same time or in the same way. Puberty is very individual, some may experience the changes earlier than others and some may experience the changes later than others. This is totally normally.

Summary of Changes:

People with testicles People with Ovaries All
  • Make sperm
  • Chest hair
  • Facial hair
  • Chest and shoulders broaden
  • Penis grows wider and thicker
  • Testicles enlarge
  • Involuntary erections
  • Wet dreams
  • Breasts grow
  • Hips widen
  • Menstruation (period) starts
  • Uterus and fallopian tubes grow
  • Body hair grows/thickens
  • Acne
  • Increased sweating and body odour
  • Voice changes
  • Grow taller and heavier
  • Mood swings
  • Develop sexual feelings

Points to consider:

  • Puberty is different for everyone.
  • It may start earlier or later either way is completely normal.
  • After puberty starts it usually takes 4-5 years to complete all of the changes.
  • Puberty is a natural and normal process.

What can a parent do to help?

  • It’s really important to prepare kids for puberty. It can be a scary time for them. Help them to understand that puberty is normal and they will get through it.
  • Remember what it may have been like for you. Your children may be experiencing the same thoughts and feelings that you once had.
  • Remind your children that everyone is different and that everyone has their own "timetable". Everyone grows and changes at his or her own rate and can experience the changes of puberty differently. Teach your children to be respectful and sensitive of the differences in individuals. Not everyone will be experiencing changes at the same time and may look and act different from each other. This is a good opportunity to talk about expected behavior and relationships.
  • If children have questions, it is important to answer them. This helps children to see you as an askable person and a good resource. If you don’t know the answer it's okay to let them know. You could look up the answer together or you can ask your doctor or health care provider.
  • If children become embarrassed or shy, you can use books to provide them with information. There are also many good educational websites that are appropriate for children and parents such as Sex and U and Canadian Federation for Sexual Health.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about your child and their growth and development,  please contact your health care provider.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact The Clinic at 519-663-5317.

Date of creation: December 14, 2006
Last modified on: December 16, 2019


1The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada Retrieved from
2Canadian Federation for Sexual Health Retrieved from