72 chapter 4: Understanding your body
Here are the main changes you will notice during puberty:
• You grow taller and rounder.
• Hair grows under your arms and between your legs, on
• Your breasts grow as they become able to make milk for
babies after pregnancy.
• Inside your body, the womb (uterus), tubes, ovaries, and
vagina grow and change position.
• Wetness (discharge) starts to come out of your vagina.
• Your monthly bleeding starts (period, menstruation).
• You begin to have more sexual thoughts and urges.
• Your face may get oily, and pimples or spots may grow.
• You may sweat more, and your sweat may smell different than it did before puberty.
These changes are natural and normal. Changes in your body and in your
feelings help you be aware that you are changing into a woman who is ready to
have a sexual relationship and who can get pregnant.
Still, puberty can be difficult. You may not feel like a girl or like a woman—your
body is somewhere in between.
Whether or not you have a disability, during these years it is important for you to
look after yourself, to eat healthy food (see page 86), and to stay clean during your
monthly bleeding (see page 109). It is equally important for you to protect yourself
from sexual abuse (see Chapter 14).
Sometimes, because of the way people treat her, a disabled girl may pity herself
and feel ashamed of her body. She may become submissive, withdraw from meeting
other people, and be more dependent on family members. For information on self-
esteem and mental health, see pages 62 to 63.
Many of the changes a girl experiences while her body is changing are caused by
hormones. These are chemicals your body makes that control how and when your
body grows. A little while before your first monthly bleeding starts, your body starts
to produce more of the hormones called estrogen and progesterone—the 2 main
hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle (see page 75).
Hormones also control when a woman can get pregnant—by controlling when
her ovaries will release an egg (one egg every month)—and allowing her breasts to
make milk to feed her baby after she gives birth. Many family planning methods
work to prevent pregnancy by controlling the hormones in a woman’s body (see
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007