Dear Doc | Provoked because of early puberty
Q Dear Doc, I am very concerned about my daughter. She is being provoked at school that she is stupid because she looks older than she is. She is seven, but already has started puberty, having breasts and armpit and pubic hair. I figured it happened because of her diet, but changing that did not help, and her changes continued. She is now very upset by it. Is there anything that I can do to slow it down or stop it so that she can feel more comfortable.
A Yes, that can be a problem and I understand your concern. It seems as though your daughter is having early puberty.
So what is early puberty?
Puberty is a term used to describe the changes that occur to the body as a child becomes an adult. Early puberty happens when these changes occur at a much younger age than normal.
Puberty usually starts between ages nine to 12 in girls and ages 10 to 13 in boys. Puberty is early if it starts before age eight in girls and age nine in boys.
Puberty is caused by hormonal changes in the body. Normally, these hormones are produced in the brain as well as in the ovaries in girls and testicles in boys. Different things can cause puberty to start early.
Sometimes when puberty starts early, it is because a child’s body might just be ready to start puberty earlier than other children. In this case, it can be normal and not caused by a medical problem. Otherwise, it can be because of abnormally high levels of hormones in the body. This can be as a result of:
● An abnormal growth in the brain, ovaries, or testicles.
● Use of skin products that are for adults that have certain hormones in them.
The body changes that occur in early puberty are the same as those in normal puberty, they just happen at a much younger age. The changes that happen during puberty in girls are:
● Breast enlargement. In many girls, the first sign of puberty is the breasts growing bigger. If your child is overweight, her breasts might look like they are growing. That’s because breasts can look big from being overweight. This is different from starting puberty.
● Growth of pubic hair. Hair grows in the genital area (pubic hair), as well as under the arms (armpits) and on the legs. In some girls, pubic hair is the first sign of puberty.
● Menstruation. The final stage is having monthly periods. This usually happens a year or two after the first signs of puberty.
To be sure that your child has begun puberty early, you should see your child’s doctor, who will do a physical examination of your daughter, as well as order blood tests. Depending on the results, the doctor might want to do a CT scan (Cat scan), ultrasound, or other imaging test of your child’s brain or belly. The doctor will also do repeat exams over time to follow your child’s growth and development.
If treatment is offered, it will depend on the cause of the early puberty, and how her body is changing. For some children, doctors do not recommend treating early puberty. Children might not have treatment if they are going through puberty slowly, or if the puberty started but then stopped on its own. For example, some girls grow breasts very early, but then go through the rest of puberty at the normal time.
For children that doctors do recommend treatment for, some treatments stop puberty for a few years. They stop puberty with medication, and after a certain amount of time, your child will stop taking the medicine, then normal puberty can happen.
Other treatments might include taking medication to lower abnormally high amounts of hormones in the body, or having surgery to remove an abnormal growth.
It will also help if your child feels good about herself. Point out her beauty and strengths instead of focusing on her body changes. You can also talk to your child’s doctor about ways to get help in this regard.