View complete Your Body sectionChanging Nature

The blueprint for the basic architecture of both women’s and men's bodies is drawn by our genes from the moment we are conceived and we can do very little about that. A woman's body changes constantly throughout her life, from childhood, through adolescence, the so-called reproductive years, menopause and old age. In addition, environmental and cultural developments have further impacted on our lives.

Women today live longer, are generally taller and heavier than previous centuries - this has all also been compounded by improved medical advancements, increased education and better nutrition in childhood and adolescence.

Let us look at what is unique to a woman's body and how it changes over time.

Eat Well

Lack of certain vitamins are believed to effect the level of hormones of the menstrual cycle. So, it is important to have a wholesome diet.

This includes:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables every day (5 serves of vegetable and 2 serves of fruit are ideal)
  • Wholemeal breads, brown rice and nuts
  • Lean meat, fish and chicken
  • Unsaturated fats e.g. cold pressed vegetable oils
  • Low fat dairy products
  • Lots of water and fruit juice

Limit or avoid:

  • Junk foods
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Alcohol/ cigarettes
  • Salt and saturated fats.
  • Foods high in refined sugars, e.g. soft-drinks, lollies, biscuits.

Try and exercise at least 3 times a week, by walking, cycling, tennis or jogging

Childhood and Puberty

At about the age of 9 to 12 children's bodies begin to undergo remarkable changes that will transform them into adults. Puberty is the time when physical changes occur and sexual maturity is reached. It is usually complete when a girl is capable of bearing a child and for a boy when he can father one.

Adolescence involves emotionally, intellectually and physically becoming an adult. It starts at the same time as puberty and can go on for a number of years.

The physical changes for girls begin between the ages of 9-12 (this can vary according to the individual) and for boys a year or two later. Puberty is controlled by the body's hormones and results in a growth spurt where every bone and muscle in the body grows. This usually lasts four to five years in girls and seven to eight in boys. Amongst the many changes, girls develop wider hips and twice as much body fat.

At this time sex hormones are produced and the most obvious changes that result from these are in the breasts, pubic and underarm hair, voice change and, in boys, beard growth.

Events Of Puberty

  • 9 - 11 Years of Age
    • Growth spurt begins
    • Nipples bud and enlarge
    • Fine pubic hairs appear
  • 11 - 13 Years of Age
    • Breasts begins to develop
    • External genitals begin to grow
    • Internal reproductive organs grow and develop
  • 12 - 14 Years of Age
    • Nipples become darker
    • Breasts develop further
  • 13 - 15 Years of Age
    • Coarser pubic hair appears
    • Hair appears in armpits
    • Further breast development
  • 10 - 16 Years of Age
    • Menstruation begins
  • 13 - 17 Years of Age
    • Increase of fat on thigh and breasts
  • 15 - 18 Years of Age
    • Growth in height stops
    • Periods become more regular