Puberty In Girls : Dr. Sonia Malik

Q. As an expert, do you see a rising trend in onset of puberty in young Indian girls, as early as 8-9 years of age? Can you give any statistics to support this fact?
Ans. Precocious puberty is defined as the onset of true puberty before 7 to 8 years of age in girls or 9 years of age in boys. There is a range, and this has been part of the problem of establishing the “normal” age of puberty. Girls might enter full-blown puberty anytime between ages 9 and 15. The early growth spurt can retard fuller growth in adolescence, as the brain tells the bones that growing time is over. Girls under age 10 aren’t mentally prepared for monthly periods.
Q. What are the prime reasons for this phenomenon?
Ans. Earlier sexual desires —with a mature body and immature mind—can lead to earlier sexual encounters. Puberty requires the body to have a certain weight and fat distribution, hence the delay for female gymnasts and ballerinas. So 8-year-old girls weighing as much as a normal 12-year-old are at risk for precocious puberty. But also, across the board, fat children have high levels of the protein leptin. This chemical, through a complicated chain involving the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, can stimulate the release of the three main hormones in puberty: hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone, luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone.
Q. What problems can the girl face in her young age, as well as, in her mature years, if she gets her menses as early as 8-9 years of age? (In conception, pregnancy, getting afflicted by peripheral diseases like cancer, weight gain, any other aspect)
Ans. If child shows any signs of early sexual maturation (before age 7 or 8 in girls or age 9 in boys), including breast development, rapid height growth, menstruation, acne, enlarged testicles or penis, or pubic or underarm hair. To confirm a diagnosis of precocious puberty, the doctor may order blood and urine tests to look for high levels of sex hormones. And X-rays of your child’s wrist and hand can show whether the bones are maturing too rapidly.
Q. What precautions can mothers of small girls take in the future, so that their girls do not become a victim of early puberty?
Ans. She/He may refer to a pediatric endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in growth and hormonal disorders in children) for further evaluation and treatment. Once precocious puberty is diagnosed, the goal of treating it is to stop or even reverse sexual development and stop the rapid growth and bone maturation that can eventually result in adult short stature. Imaging and scanning tests such as CT scans, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), and ultrasound studies can help rule out specific causes of precocious puberty, such as a tumor in the brain, ovary, or testicle. The currently approved hormone treatment is with drugs called LHRH analogs — synthetic hormones that block the body’s production of the sex hormones that cause the early puberty. Dramatic results are usually seen within a year of starting treatment with an LHRH analog, which is generally safe and usually causes no side effects in kids.

Dr.Sonia Malik

Dr.Sonia Malik
New Delhi

Vinod Kumar

Health Journalist & writer. Editor of monthly health magazine "Health Spectrum."

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