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Early Onset Puberty in Girls: January 30, 2011

Do girls seem to be growing up faster than they used to? “There’s a movement towards believing early onset of puberty in girls is genuine and it is real,” says Dr. Cayce Jehaimi, a pediatric endocrinologist with the Children’s Hospital.

Recently, the journal “Pediatrics” published a study that found girls are showing signs earlier. Some as early as 8 or 9 years old. “Twenty years ago, it was easier to define what is considered precocious puberty.” Precocious puberty is when the body changes begin to develop earlier than normal. But what’s considered normal? “In many cases, the onset of periods are genetically determined and familial.”

Dr. Jehaimi encourages parents to talk to their child’s doctor when it comes to puberty-related issues. “We can test to see if those changes are estrogen induced or not. Perhaps blood tests, x-rays, in order to distinguish what is a normal process.”

Developing breast tissue and hair growth are the first signs that a body is changing. This can be an emotional and confusing time for girls so keeping the lines of communication open between mother and daughter is essential. “Most of the time, when they present to us for example with early breast development, children do not go right away into menses, it takes quite a while so it gives the mother time to discuss with the child what to expect and why it’s happening,” explains Dr. Jehaimi.

Physicians aren’t seeing onset early puberty in boys as much as girls and researchers aren’t exactly sure why. They are currently looking into certain environmental factors.