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Keywords:

  • estrogen;
  • androgens;
  • ovary;
  • uterus;
  • breast;
  • vulva;
  • adrenarche;
  • thelarche;
  • menarche

Abstract

Puberty is the period of biologic transition from childhood to adulthood. The changes that occur at this time are related to the increasing concentrations of sex steroid hormones. In females, most pubertal changes are caused by estrogen stimulation that results from the onset of central puberty. Significant development occurs in the organs of the female reproductive system and results in anatomic changes that characterize reproductive maturity. Adrenal and ovarian androgens also increase during puberty, affecting change that includes the promotion of certain secondary sex characteristics. The ability to recognize normal pubertal anatomy and distinguish between estrogen and androgen effects is important in the ability to diagnose and treat disorders of sex development, precocious puberty, pubertal delay, and menstrual irregularities in children and adolescents. An understanding of this developmental process can also help clinicians identify and treat reproductive pathology in adultsand across all female life stages. Clin. Anat. 26:115–129, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.