The human body goes through many changes over the course of a lifetime. In women, body changes occur primarily during puberty, pregnancy and menopause as a result of normal hormonal fluctuations. Changes in the breasts, menstrual cycle and reproductive system are among the many bodily changes that occur during a woman’s life. Understanding the nature of body changes in women allows women to identify and deal with changes as they arise.
During a woman’s life, her body undergoes many different types of changes. Puberty—or the maturation of the reproductive system—is the first major change the female body incurs, usually between the ages of 8 and 13.
The next set of physical changes comes during pregnancy in women who elect to have children, with the final changes occurring at menopause around the age of 50. Small, subtle changes occur throughout the life cycle due to aging and oxidative stress.
Hormones are the major cause of bodily changes in women. Estrogen and progesterone are primarily responsible for these changes, with follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone playing a smaller role. These substances are responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle, breast formation, fetal development and neurological functions such as mood, energy levels and libido.
Body changes can cause a variety of effects in women, some of which may be viewed as negative. According to Mayo Clinic, physical changes that can occur during menopause include vaginal dryness, increased abdominal fat, breast sagging and thinning hair.
Pregnancy-related body changes such as weight gain and breast swelling can lead to self-consciousness regarding body image. With a healthy diet and regular exercise, pregnancy-induced body changes usually resolve after delivery.
Puberty can be a difficult time for young girls, whose bodies undergo rapid and drastic changes in a short span of time. The appearance of pubic hair, breast growth, minor changes in the voice and rapid height increase are among the signs of puberty in girls.
While most body changes in women cannot be avoided, it’s often possible to treat individual symptoms of processes such as menopause and premenstrual syndrome. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, evening primrose oil may be helpful for alleviating PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness, bloating and mood swings.
A healthy diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep are vital for maintaining a youthful appearance. Antioxidants in foods such as fruits, vegetables and green tea can help prevent oxidative damage involved in the aging process. Avoiding excessive sun exposure, smoking and unnecessary emotional stress, which can also help prevent premature aging symptoms, such as collagen loss and wrinkles.
Changes that are dramatic or come on suddenly may signal a more serious problem. Severe hair loss, extreme fatigue and unexpected changes in menstrual bleeding warrant medical evaluation to rule out other conditions.