Puberty beginning in younger and younger girls
Recent studies show girls are reaching puberty earlier than any generation in history, with about 15 percent of girls in the U.S. starting by age 7. Compare that to the average age of 14 for a girl to reach puberty back in 1900.
Younger girls often are not emotionally ready for the changes their bodies are experiencing.
“Many parents are also surprised and not prepared for their daughters entering puberty at such a young age,” says Dr. Akilah Weber, a pediatric gynecologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “But support from family members – especially moms – can help younger girls cope with what can at times be awkward and even upsetting physical changes.”
Experts are not sure why puberty is hitting earlier, but some believe contributing factors include increased percentages of obesity in children, which triggers the puberty-associated hormone leptin, and environmental chemicals, which can play havoc with hormonal systems.
Dr. Weber suggests parents help by:
• Brushing up on the facts about menstruation;
• Setting aside a time for “the talk” with your daughter once she starts to develop signs of puberty; and
• Having a first-period kit ready, with sanitary napkins, tampons and wet wipes.
Dr. Weber also notes that although some girls will start puberty around age 7, signs of pubertal development before that age should be evaluated by a physician.
Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/obgyn to learn more about clinical services for obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern.
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