Can You Actually Have A 'Second Puberty'?

Puberty is a slow burn. From alarming bodily changes to an increasing curiosity about sex to feelings of awkwardness and irritability with everyone and everything, the hormonal changes that come with puberty make the growth spurt feel like forever — although it lasts for only two to five years, per Saint Luke's. Although teenagehood is fun and memorable in its own right, puberty is a ritual of passage into adulthood that most of us don't want to go through ever again. Well, do we have to? 

The NHS states that puberty starts to hit girls at the average age of 11, and 12 for boys. On average, by the time girls turn 15 and boys turn 17, most of them have reached full physical maturity. And it's common knowledge that puberty — like a total solar eclipse seen from the same place — hits only once in a lifetime. However, in recent years, many adults have reportedly experienced a major transitional phase in their lives which they describe as a "second puberty." The idea of going through a process of rapid physical maturation and ferocious soul-searching for the second time in life is rather foreign — and shocking. Imagine acne breakouts and enlargement of private body parts all over again. So, can we really go back to the awkward age? Or is this so-called second puberty just an alternative fact of the digital age? Here are some insights from medical experts.

A second puberty is not biologically possible

According to Dr. Helen O'Neill, founder and CEO of Hertility Health, the idea that men and women can go through a second puberty is not backed by science. Dr. O'Neill tells Cosmopolitan: "Second puberty is a slang term to refer to physical and psychological changes during different stages of life post-adolescence." These changes are not bound by age, and it's normal for people to experience age-related changes in their body and their mind as they go through a new life transition, whether they're in their 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s.

As we advance in years, our body experiences change naturally, and the number of hormones produced is also subject to fluctuations. Hormone changes can give you puberty-esque symptoms, but there's no such thing as going through puberty for the second time, says gynecologist Dr. Alyssa Dweck to SELF. "People go through hormonal shifts during various life changes," says Dr. Dweck. The sweeping changes ascribed to the so-called second puberty are no different from those you experience during your first and only puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. For example, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, weaker bladder control, and sleeping difficulties are common to those recently entering menopause. In your 60s and 70s, your bone density decreases significantly, your spinal discs degenerate, and you might lose an inch or two of your height. Besides, your lifestyle habits — like using birth control pills or constantly losing sleep — also affect your hormone levels, contributing to noticeable bodily changes and mood swings.

How to brace for a second puberty

If you put a figurative number on every transition your body and your mind go through later in life, you will lose count. There will be a third, fourth, and fifth puberty. Age-related changes are a part of life, and you don't have to let them catch you by surprise. To prepare for your physical and mental health as you enter menopause — or any transition phase — it is essential to maintain a healthy weight, adopt a high-fiber and low-carb diet, and stay physically active, geriatric specialist Dr. Sharon D. Allison-Ottey tells HealthyWomen. It is common for people to confuse underlying medical conditions with age-related bodily changes — like menopause — so it's best to speak to a healthcare professional for expert advice if you experience any abnormal bodily change.

If you're concerned about hormone-induced changes — such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness – Health One Family Medicine recommends seeking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to keep the symptoms under control. Smoking can intensify hot flashes and give you sleeping problems, so try to swallow the tobacco cravings. At the same time, work on your mental health. The best way to distract yourself from negative thoughts is to stay active, so make an effort to engage in a relaxing exercise daily. A regular fitness routine followed by a good massage not only helps with sleep quality but also releases feel-good hormones such as endorphins, endocannabinoids, and dopamine, which help you get in the mood and reduce anxiety.