Early Puberty in Girls And Boys - All You Need To Know

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Just yesterday you were holding your tiny baby girl in your arms, and now she is going to school! You might be experiencing a reduced burden when it comes to tending to your kid, but homework, exams, and your child’s lunch boxes are going to keep you busy.

All of this may not prepare you when puberty occurs in your child earlier than expected. Normal puberty is nothing short of an emotional roller coaster ride with tempers flaring up, frequent break-downs, fussy behavior, and a load of emotional drama; but precocious puberty can be demoralizing and disheartening.

Early Puberty in Girls:

Early or precocious puberty may start at around eight years of age, and is known to affect more girls than boys. It is a condition affecting a lot of kids and can be quite stressful for both, parents and children.

Apart from dealing with the changes at an early age, your child may also have to face peer pressure and physical awkwardness. MomJunction would help you understand this condition. Find below a few signs and symptoms to detect and tackle early puberty.

[ Read: Emotional Changes During Puberty ]

Signs Of Precocious Puberty in Girls:

While in a vast majority of cases, precocious puberty doesn’t have any underlying cause associated with its occurrence, certain conditions might impact or cause symptoms associated with the condition.

  • A tumor in the brain or the spinal cord
  • Injury to the organs of the central nervous system
  • Radiation related effects on the brain and spinal cord
  • Birth defects of the central nervous system such as presence of non-cancerous tumors and excess buildup of fluid
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (a genetic disorder that causes abnormal hormonal production of the adrenal glands)
  • Hypothyroidism, which is a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones
  • McCune-Albright syndrome (a genetic condition that affects the bones and the skin and causes hormonal problems)
  • An adrenal or pituitary hormone that secretes estrogen or progesterone
  • Exposure to creams that contain estrogen and progesterone
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Ovarian tumors

There are certain factors that could raise your little girls’ risk of being affected by precocious puberty.

  • Being exposed to sex hormones in the form of creams or ointments
  • Consuming supplements that raise the risk of precocious puberty
  • Being obese which is a factor that influences precocious puberty
  • Receiving radiation therapy as a treatment

[ Read: Puberty Signs In Girls ]

Early Puberty in Boys:

Puberty is the time in boys when their bodies and minds fully grow, and they develop into young men. It starts around 12 years of age, but sometimes much younger boys also show certain signs of puberty.

Signs Of Precocious Puberty in Boys:

The early signs of puberty can be very hard for your boy. Some of the signs include:

  • Development of penis
  • Development of testicles
  • Development of facial, underarm and pubic hair
  • Rapid growth of height
  • Change in voice
  • Acne
  • Strong body odor

If your son has these signs before he turns nine years, take him to a doctor.

What Causes Early Puberty In Boys?

Normal puberty occurs when hypothalamus (a part of the brain which controls pituitary gland) signals the pituitary gland (situated at the base of the brain) to release the hormones. This stimulates the testicles to prepare sex hormones. Sometimes, certain conditions in the body system may cause precocious puberty in boys.

  • An injury to the brain
  • A tumor in the brain or central nervous system
  • Infection to the brain
  • Problem with the thyroid gland

[ Read: Puberty Signs In Boys ]

Some boys may experience partial early puberty and may show underarm or pubic hair growth, but not other sexual development signs.

Consequences Of Early Puberty:

Early puberty can affect your child both physically and emotionally. The consequences may be as follows:

1. Short Stature:

Kids with precocious puberty often end up short as adults. Once they cross their puberty, the growth stops. Precocious puberty ends at an early stage than normal puberty, and so the children stop growing early.

2. Higher Rates Of Anxiety And Depression:

Children with early puberty have higher anxiety and depression rates compared to normal kids. The effect is more in girls than boys. The most disturbing fact is enhanced risk of anxiety and depression could extend to college years.

3. Drug Abuse:

Girls and boys who reach puberty at an early age could fall into the trap of drug or substance abuse. Smoking and drinking are more common in them than those who reach puberty in time (1).

4. Early Sexual Activity:

Early puberty will also increase the child’s risk of becoming sexually active at a younger age. Research reveals that girls are more promiscuous sexually than boys. It, therefore, increases the risk of teen pregnancy which associates a host of consequences such as lower lifetime income, high dropout rate, and increased risk of having children at an early age.

5. Lower Body Image And Self Esteem:

Girls, who experience early puberty, are likely to suffer from poorer body image and lower self-esteem than those who reach it on time. However, boys would not have these effects.

6. Weak In Academics:

Girls who reach early puberty perform poorer in academics compared to their peers. Their drop in studies may extend through their high school and also beyond. However, boys do relatively well in academics even if they hit puberty earlier.

7. Other Risks:

Some research findings say that there is an association between precocious puberty and increased risk of breast cancer in later life. But there is no proper evidence and more research is required.

[ Read: How To Hit Puberty Quicker ]

Ways to Handle Early Puberty:

Precocious puberty can be quite stressful for the family, and appropriate treatment is necessary. Managing the underlying condition is the best and most efficient way to deal with the problem. If your little girl is affected by this condition due to the presence of a tumor in the adrenal or pituitary gland, getting it removed surgically could help you deal with the condition. Your doctor may also suggest some medications to suppress the tumor, if possible.

In almost all cases of precocious puberty, an endocrinologist will recommend shots of a drug called LHRH (Luteinizing Hormone Releasing Hormone) analog to be taken daily or every three to four weeks, depending upon the hormonal levels as examined in your daughter.

Here are a few tips to help you deal with the condition:

1. Stay Calm:

Do not panic. Your daughter is young and practically unaware of what is going on with her. Panicking at this stage may affect her tender mind and may leave scars lasting into adulthood.

2. Seek Medical Attention:

The best way to detect the cause and take care of the problem is to visit a doctor and explain your concerns to him. The doctor will probably examine her to understand her condition better (what you may see as the onset of breast development could just be a little extra fat on the body).

3. Have A Positive Approach:

The condition is very much treatable; you just need to stay focused and look for good outcomes from the treatment.

4. Be There For Your Kid:

Explain to her that she’ll be receiving treatment for a condition that she’s suffering from and that you are with her.

5. Seek Support:

Stay in touch with your kid’s teachers and school management to understand and assess her academic progress. It will also help you find out if your child is a victim of bullying or peer pressure or if her condition is affecting her performance at school.

Treatment For Early Puberty:

For precocious puberty, medications known as GnRH (or LHRH) analogs are the standard treatments. They block the hormones flowing from pituitary glands which trigger puberty. The medications are given in the form of injections or implants.

  • Injections – These are monthly dosages injected into muscles or daily dosages injected underneath the skin.
  • Implants – These are small tubes which are placed beneath the skin in the upper arm. They slowly release the medicine into the system.
  • Nasal sprays – are also given every day.

Sometimes, GnRH analogs cause mild side effects such as headaches, abscesses, and menopausal signs like hot flashes.

[ Read: Headaches In Puberty ]

Radiation and surgery can be the treatments if early puberty is caused by a brain tumor. Though these treatments cannot help in resolving the signs, they assist in delaying puberty.

What Parents Can Do?

If your child shows the symptoms of precocious puberty, take her to a pediatric endocrinologist. You should not take it as a fearful medical condition, but rather help your child pass through it.

Explain that the changes are normal for older children, but she is developing much before. Do not focus on the appearance of your child, rather praise her for doing well in academics, sports, and other things.

These symptoms warn you to take the matter immediately to doctor’s notice:

  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in daily chores
  • Low grades and problems at school

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What age is early puberty?

Early puberty or precocious puberty is when your child starts changing into an adult at a very young age. Normal puberty that has to progress between ages nine and 14 in girls and around 12 in boys starts showing up before eight years in girls and nine in boys.

2. What is central precocious puberty (CPP)?

Central precocious puberty is nothing but precocious puberty, which starts early in children. One out of every 5000 is affected with CPP, and it is more common in girls.

3. What triggers the onset of puberty?

The onset of puberty triggers in a tiny part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. It is a gland which secretes GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone).

4. What are the first signs of puberty in a girl?

Development of breasts and growth of pubic hair are the first signs of puberty in girls.

5. How to hit puberty early?

The onset of puberty is considered late if your child crosses 14 years and is not showing any signs. She may have an endocrine disorder or a hormonal imbalance that can only be diagnosed by a doctor. Remain patient and do not overlook the condition.

6. How to stop early puberty in girls?

You need to help them prevent obesity, exposure to environmental estrogens and stress-proof them.

Do share your experiences with us in the comment section below.

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Rebecca Malachi

She is a Biotechnologist with a proficiency in areas of genetics, immunology, microbiology, bio-engineering, chemical engineering, medicine, pharmaceuticals to name a few. Her expertise in these fields has greatly assisted her in writing medical and life science articles. With 8+ years of work experience in writing for health and wellness, she is now a full-time contributor for Momjunction.com. She is passionate about giving research-based information to readers in need. Apart from writing, she is a foodie, loves travel, fond of gospel music and enjoys observing nature in silence. Know more about her at: linkedin.com/in/kothapalli-rebecca-35881628
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