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Niharika Bedekar

Helping girls understand puberty

You’ve probably heard of puberty, but what is it exactly? Puberty is when you start making the change from being a child to being an adult. You’ll grow taller, get bigger breasts, and grow hair in new places. You’ll also start your period (menstruation), which means you will be able to get pregnant if you have sex. And these are just a few of the changes you’ll experience. With all this happening, you might feel uncomfortable or shy about it. Just remember that these changes are common and normal. Everyone goes through puberty — girls just do it at different ages. And these changes mean your body is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Niharika (say: NEE-ha-ree-kuh) Bedekar (say: BED-uh-kuhr) was on the younger side when she started going through puberty. She knows it can be a hard and confusing time, especially if you start earlier or later than your friends. That’s why she started an organization that teaches girls about the changes they’ll experience. Read our interview with Niharika to learn what she wants every girl to know about puberty.

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How old are you?

I am 18.

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What are your interests and hobbies?

I am very passionate about female empowerment, or helping women and girls learn how to use their strengths. I pursue this interest through my organization, Power Up. Power Up educates and inspires confidence in young girls to make sure they understand and feel confident about the changes that take place during puberty. We want to get rid of the idea that puberty is an awkward phase and would rather show that it’s a time filled with opportunity, promise, and empowerment.

I am also interested in public health and am studying Human Biology at Stanford University. In my free time, I enjoy playing tennis on Stanford’s club tennis team, trying new foods, babysitting, and photography.

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Some people may feel uncomfortable discussing puberty. Why do you think it’s important we talk about it?

It is important to have an open discussion about puberty because even though it may be awkward to discuss, every teen goes through it. Talking about it helps girls get the correct information. It also helps people who may be feeling out of place during this time feel comfortable enough to share their struggles.

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What can girls expect during puberty?

Girls, expect your bodies to change significantly. You are going to get taller and become curvier, and hair is going to start growing under your arms and in your pubic area. Your breasts will also begin developing, but do not be worried if they are growing slowly or unevenly. Everyone’s breasts grow at different rates. During puberty, there is an increase in the number of hormones in your body, which can cause pimples and body odor. You will also be getting your first period, which is always a landmark event. Usually, you do not need to worry if you get your period earlier or later than your friends. (You can read about getting your period and when to see a doctor if yours hasn’t started yet).

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For you, what was the hardest part about going through puberty?

I began puberty when I was 7, which was much earlier than any of my friends. (Usually, signs of puberty in girls appear between 8 and 13). This was the hardest part of going through puberty because I felt like I was cut off from all my peers. I was so self-conscious that I avoided walking in front of large groups of people because I was sure they were judging my body. Starting puberty so early caused me to have some body image and self-esteem issues, which made puberty a difficult time for me.

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Puberty also involves changes you can’t see. What kinds of emotional changes can girls expect?

Changing from a girl to a woman can be confusing emotionally. Sometimes, girls feel like they are stuck between being a child and being a grown-up. This may cause feelings of doubt.

Because of changing hormone levels during puberty, you may experience mood swings. You may find yourself becoming easily irritable, or you may feel happy one minute and sad the next.

Girls also often become more self-conscious during puberty because they are not prepared for all the changes their bodies go through. Everyone deals with puberty differently, so do not be alarmed if you find your personality changing in some ways. However, it is important to ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed by your emotions.

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Even though it can be a stressful time, what are some positive things you’d like to share about puberty?

During puberty, girls can look forward to figuring out who they are. I believe this makes it one of the most exciting times in a girl’s life. When I was younger, I could not wait to grow up, and puberty gave me the chance to do that.

Girls, as your bodies change, you are going to slowly begin to take on more grown-up responsibilities. While you are becoming taller and stronger, the way you think will develop too. Puberty can be stressful at times, but you get the chance to define and develop who you are and what makes you unique.  

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What advice would you give to girls about puberty?

Girls, do not feel anxious about the changes that are happening in your bodies. Whenever you begin puberty or however your body changes, just remember that you are beautiful. Make sure you take the time to nurture your body. Lead a healthy lifestyle when you are young because this will benefit you later in life. Be aware of what your body is telling you. If you ever feel anxious or overwhelmed, it is absolutely okay to ask for help. I hope you take pride in your new bodies, and even though it may be hard to at times, enjoy this period of change. It is one of the most exciting milestones in your life!

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed by some of the changes you’re going through, talking can help. Don’t be afraid to go to a parent or school counselor. They were young once, too! To learn more about puberty, check out our Body section.

Content last reviewed July 02, 2014
Page last updated July 02, 2014

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.