Do you remember when you were a teenager and you began to experience many different emotions and urges and you didn't always know what to do with your feelings? How many of you got the hormone and sex talk from your mother or father? Is your teenager daughter going through a similar time in her life?
Hormone changes are real and normal, but that doesn't mean they are easy to experience or live through for everyone involved. Now's the time for understanding your teenager daughter's hormones and how you might help her weather this exciting and also tumultuous time in her life. It's going to take time and patience on everyone's part.
Which hormones commonly cause changes in teenage girls?
The catalyst for the changes in teenage girls is the activity of three hormones, and the impact can be considerable, as many parents will attest to.
At the start of puberty, the brain releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone causes the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) into the bloodstream. That's when big changes begin in the production and levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Both FSH and LH stimulate the ovaries to begin producing the hormone estrogen as well as eggs. Around this time, teenage girls typically begin to grow taller, gain some weight, and develop muscle mass. Your teenage daughter will likely come face to face with these hormone-related changes:
- Start of menstruation as her body begins to make more hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in preparation for reproduction
- Changes in body shape, including increased weight, the development of fuller breasts and hips, and additional fat in the legs and stomach
- Breast development is typically a gradual process. The nipples become raised slightly while the areola grows larger and becomes raised as well. By the end of puberty, the breasts will be rounded and the nipples—but not the areola—will be raised.
- Sometimes feet, legs, arms, and hands begin to grow faster than the rest of the body, which may cause teen girls to feel awkward or clumsy
- The appearance of body hair under the arms, on the legs, and in the groin. In the groin, the hair usually starts out soft and over time becomes darker and coarser. In some cases, it may spread to the thighs and stomach
- Production of more oils in the skin, which can result in stronger body odors and skin problems, such as acne
- Although testosterone is typically thought of as a male hormone and plays a significant role in teenage boys, teenage girls also experience a rise in testosterone levels during adolescence. The hormone contributes to sexual arousal, sex organ function, and musculoskeletal growth.
What are symptoms of hormones in teenage girls?
Parents of teenage daughters bear witness to the symptoms of the hormone surge that occurs during adolescence. The leap in hormone activity, as well as peer pressure and lingering doubts about fitting in with the crowd and body image issues, can result in females engaging in risky behaviors and experiencing confusing and disruptive mood swings.
A consequence of those swings involves how girls think about dating and sex. Because this can be a tremendously confusing time for young women as they juggle both internal and external pressures about dating, sex, and intimate relationships, it's important for parents to keep communications lines open as much as possible and for girls to have someone they can trust to talk to.
Teenage raging hormones lead young people to experiment with sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that among high school students surveyed in 2017:
- 40 percent already had had sexual intercourse
- 10 percent had four or more sexual partners
- 30 percent had had sexual intercourse during the previous three months; of these, nearly had had not used a condom during the last sexual encounter and 14 had done nothing to help prevent pregnancy
Another symptom of teenage hormones concerns body image. Body changes associated with sex hormone production can cause some young women to become obsessed with their weight, contributing to eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. Research into this relationship is not yet conclusive, but parents and other concerned adults should watch for changes in eating habits and/or significant weight loss.
High on the list of symptoms of hormone changes is mood swings. It's common for teenage girls to become mouthy, impulsive, irritable, nontalkative or monosyllabic, and/or dramatic. Doors may slam. Tears may flow. They may even tell you they hate you.
While these behaviors and responses may be common, parents should watch out for more severe symptoms, such as:
- Sleeping too much or too little
- A sudden lack of concern for appearance
- Withdrawal from friends and activities they once enjoyed
- Dramatic mood swings
- Sudden expressions of aggressiveness
- Turning away from good friends and joining a new social crowd
- Expressing thoughts of suicide
What are the common causes of hormone imbalance in teenage girls?
Several factors contribute to the causes of hormone imbalance in teenage girls.
- One is stress: from their peers regarding sex and popularity, scholastic pressures, family and/or economic instability, dynamics, feeling safe in school—all contribute to a stressed-out teen.
- Fatigue is another factor. Many teens are juggling school and homework, home responsibilities, part-time jobs, extracurricular sports and club activities, and pressure to socialize. On top of all this, teenagers need 9 to 9 ½ hours of sleep every night, yet most are getting between 7 and 7 ¼ hours.
- Teens also are exposed to a significant amount of toxic chemicals in their food, sodas, water, makeup, and health supplies that can disrupt an already imbalanced hormone profile.
- Teenage girls (and boys) who engage in eating disorder behaviors can cause further chaos to their hormonal balance.
The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a natural process, but it can be a trying one. If your teenage daughter is experiencing hormone changes, offer to spend time and a listening ear, even though you may meet resistance. A big dose of patience plus counseling and/or natural ways to balance hormones (with the guidance of a knowledgeable health professional) may make the whole transition easier.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual risk behaviors can lead to HIV, STDs, & teen pregnancy. 2019 Aug 13
Harden KP et al. Descriptive review: hormonal influences on risk for eating disorder symptoms during puberty and adolescence. International Journal of Eating Disorders 2014
Hormone imbalance and teens. Ask Joe DiMatteo
Nationwide Children's. Sleep in adolescence
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Teenage hormones and sexuality. Newport Academy 2012 Dec 15