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Puberty is when a girl’s body begins to change; such changes include developing breasts and starting the menstrual cycle. The process begins when the brain starts to produce gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). When this hormone reaches the pituitary gland that is responsible for growth and development, the ovaries produce the estrogen hormone.
The average age for a girl to start her period is 11. While it’s normal that puberty begins between the ages of 8 and 13, some girls might get their first periods a little earlier. Early or precocious puberty affects one out of 5000 children. Medical consultation is needed if the period starts before the age of eight. In some cases, early puberty could be a sign of an underlying condition that requires treatment.
Causes of early puberty
- Family history
- Hypothyroidism – a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones
- Exposure to external sources of estrogen-like creams and ointments
- A genetic disorder like McCune-Albright syndrome; a disorder that affects the bones, skin, and several hormone-producing (endocrine) tissues.
- Damage to the brain caused by infection, surgery, or radiotherapy
- Brain or spinal cord tumor
Symptoms of early puberty
Complications of early puberty
- Short stature: Children, who suffer from early puberty, may grow quickly in height, as compared to their peers. However, due to abnormal bone maturity, they often stop growing earlier than usual because once puberty is over, growth stops. This can cause them to be shorter than average as adults.
- Social and emotional stress: Girls who begin puberty long before their peers may be extremely self-conscious about the changes occurring in their bodies and looking different from others. This may affect their self-esteem and increase the risk of depression.
The specialized physician can ask for these tests to exclude any underlying conditions:
- A blood test to check hormonal levels as luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulation hormone (FSH), thyroid hormones, and a form of estrogen called estradiol
- A hand or wrist X-ray to show if the bones are maturing too early
- An ultrasound scan or MRI scan to check conditions like tumors
- Simply explain to your little one what’s happening.
- Clearly inform your daughter if she will go under any sort of treatment.
- Look out for signs that mean your child is facing psychological stress due to the condition. These signs can include poor grades, problems at school, or loss of interest in activities.
- Never comment on your kid’s body.
- How to Spot Series: Puberty in Girls and Boys
- Parenting: How to Talk to Your Son About ‘Periods’
- My Daughter Is Being Bullied Because of Her Body Hair
Sources used in this article:
- Precocious Puberty – Mayo Clinic
- Early (Precocious) Puberty – WebMD
- Precocious Puberty – Stanford Children’s Health
- Early or delayed puberty – NHS UK
- Precocious (Early) Puberty in Children – Nationwide Children’s
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