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Menstruating at age 7? Docs baffled why girls going through puberty earlier, getting periods younger

Posted by on Apr. 13, 2011 at 7:26 AM
Liz
  • 4 Replies



For parents Claudia and Joe, the onset of daughter Laila's puberty has proven to be more stressful then they could have imagined.

By the time Laila was 6, she had grown pubic hair, and by age 7, her breasts had begun to develop according to USA Today. Out of respect for their daughter's privacy, the couple chose not to publish the family's last name.

Laila's case, however, is no longer a rare one. Doctors are finding early onset puberty more prevalent in young girls with no real understanding of the cause.

According to a study from last year in the academic journal Pediatrics, about 15% of American girls now enter puberty by age 7. For African-American girls, like Laila, that statistic is even higher, with 23% hitting puberty at the same age.

"This is an issue facing the new generation," Laila's doctor Pisit (Duke) Pitukcheewanont, a pediatric endocrinologist at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, who treats girls with early puberty told USA Today. "Many parents don't know what is going on."

In the past, girls would hit puberty much later thanks to poor nutrition and living conditions which prevented the accumulation of body fat many believe is necessary for the body to prepare for pregnancy.

Today, most researchers have honed in on numerous reasons for childhood puberty including obesity, prematurity, genetics, hormone-like environmental chemicals, family stress or even, a brain tumor.

"Over the last 30 years, we've shortened the childhood of girls by about a year and a half," said Sandra Steingraber, author of a 2007 report on early puberty for the Breast Cancer Fund, an advocacy group. "That's not good."

The consequences for early physical changes are equally numerous.

According to Steingraber's report, hitting puberty as a child increases girls' chances of depression, drinking, drug use, eating disorders, behavioral problems and attempted suicide.

Physically, too, girls are at a higher risk of developing breast and uterine cancers because their bodies are exposed to estrogen for a longer period of time.

For others, like Laila, growth spurts at young ages limit the total amount of time the girl will grow in later years, leaving Laila - tall and slim now - to be shorter than many of her friends later, her father said.

Monthly hormone shots can offer some consolation for girls hoping to slow breast development and menstruation. Laila is undergoing one of the newer forms of hormone therapy which is implanted only once a year.

As of now, she has not experienced any side effects and her parents are planning for one more implantation before letting nature run its course.

"She is still our baby," Claudia said. "But to look at her now, and think that she is growing faster than the average, we can't help but to feel like we are being rushed through her primary years."



by on Apr. 13, 2011 at 7:26 AM
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Replies (1-4):
LadySaphira
by Member on Apr. 13, 2011 at 7:30 AM

That is sad, she is still just a baby.

Wyldbutterfly
by Snow Bunny on Apr. 13, 2011 at 7:39 AM

 This is sad. Girls this young are completely unsure of themselves. Girls who are older and going through puberty find that time confusing. I can't imagine being as young as 7 and going through this.

blooize376
by Member on Apr. 13, 2011 at 7:42 AM
My 9 year old is starting and I thought that was bad
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Mom2Jack04
by Melissa on Apr. 13, 2011 at 8:14 AM

That IS sad.  Kids should be able to be kids....

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