Early Onset of Puberty? Here’s What Parents Can Do
Girls typically enter puberty around the age of 11. But it can begin between the ages of 8 and 14.
Many parents believe that a girl's first period signifies the beginning of puberty. However, it is a series of hormonal changes that unfold years before menstruation begins.
Early period is known as precocious puberty. Girls are known to experience it before the age of 7 or 8 years. If puberty begins earlier, it can be challenging for young girls.
The consequences can be more than just socially awkwardness. Physical changes in the body, like acne, vaginal discharge, body odour, and mood swings, can lead to psychological and physical health risks for girls, even after they have grown into adult women.
Parents can help reduce the negative consequences of early puberty in their children. Here’s a guide to help you.
Why might this be happening?
There could be three reasons for the early onset of puberty:
1.The obesity epidemic
Obesity is one of the major reasons for early signs of puberty in girls. Girls who are obese are known to develop breasts earlier since body fat secretes oestrogen, which influences breast development.Another reason why obesity affects puberty is the production of a hormone called leptin. It suppresses hunger and appetite in the brain. Obese people produce more leptin than others, but their bodies do not respond to it as effectively. Leptin levels also rise before puberty, so bodies with more fat cells may cause it to start earlier.
2.Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals
Girls' exposure to a variety of potential chemical influences can begin in the womb, making it difficult to determine which, if any, of the many unintended substances found in her body may have contributed to the change by the time she is 8 or 9 years old.
These chemicals are so structurally similar to oestrogen that when they are consumed, they cause bodily responses unique to oestrogen. They are found in plastics, insecticides, antibiotics (as well as the flesh of animals fed antibiotics), and other synthetic materials. Natural substances such as lavender and tea tree oil can mimic the effects of oestrogen on the body.
While stress may not be as powerful a driver as the other options, its moderate appearance can hasten a girl's puberty.
The body is sensitive to its social environment during the early years. Early maturation is an evolutionary response to dangerous environments. When girls grow up in inconsistent or unpredictable homes high in conflict, low in warmth, and low in emotional connectedness, it makes sense that their bodies enter the puberty stage earlier.
What makes it so alarming?
Early puberty has become a new normal among teenage girls and parents. However, girls who experience it may face several difficulties.
- They develop bone and skeleton at a younger age than their peers. Growth halts when puberty ends.
- Girls with this condition may have a growth spurt and be taller than their peers during the early stages. They may, however, stop growing too soon and fail to reach their full height potential.
- They may also face many emotional and social challenges. Younger girls who experience early menstruation and breast development may be teased and subjected to body shaming. They could also be moody and irritable.
- They could develop a sex drive earlier than their peers. Children may find it difficult to psychologically process this, and it may cause anxiety if they act on sexual urges that aren't necessarily age appropriate.
- Early pubic hair growth in overweight girls may occur due to insulin resistance, which has been linked to an increased risk of metabolic disorders such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
- A study found that early menstruation can put girls at a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.
If you believe your child is showing signs of puberty earlier than expected, consult a doctor.
How can parents help?
As a parent, it's easy to worry about early puberty. There is no doubt that you should take any signs seriously. If your child exhibits early signs, their doctor may advise them to see a paediatric endocrinologist. You can also assist your children in several ways:
- Encourage your children to live an active lifestyle, eat a healthy diet, and avoid sugary ‘and processed foods and beverages. Also, persuade them to use glass or stainless steel instead of chemical-laden plastics.
- Use perfume-free products and buy local and organic produce and flowers to reduce other environmental exposures.
- Supporting organic agriculture is a crucial issue when it comes to pesticides. People who work in conventional agriculture are exposed to high quantities of pesticides, and many choose to live and raise their families close to regularly treated fields. Children in rural areas often play or go to school near pesticide-treated fields. The exposure these farmworker families get is far greater than what you get from a single fruit piece.
- It is essential to create a safe and supportive environment to try and prevent the impacts of stress on early puberty and to give a girl a basis for support once she reaches the stage. It's crucial to have a solid family foundation and keep lines of communication open if you have an early developer so that you can talk about the changes your daughter’s body is undergoing.
Puberty can be challenging for young girls and their parents. And these challenges could increase with early puberty. Early-maturing girls are more likely to experience sadness and anxiety.
The more you pay attention to them, the better. Discuss puberty and the feelings that accompany it as openly as possible. Also, make sure they get enough nutrients and live an active lifestyle.
And if you see signs of early development, consult a paediatric endocrinologist.