Dealing with Early Onset Puberty in Girls, Part I

Dealing with Early Onset Puberty in Girls, Part I

As a young girl, I always felt like a freak. Having to wear a B-cup by age 8 and having to bring pads to school for your period by age 9 should not be commonplace events. I remember the morning I woke up with my period. It was during our third grade standardized state test week, and I thought I was bleeding to death. My mother had to give me a quick talk and send me to school with a note about my “condition.”

This is beyond embarrassing, since you are pretty much still too young to even understand what sex is. When I think of introducing my own daughter to her menarche, I’ve always envisioned something beautiful when she’s in her early to mid-teens, when she can understand the changes of her body a bit more—maybe a circle of elders to bring her gifts and stories, a special dinner at her favorite restaurant, and maybe even some sort of modern day, close-to-home vision quest type thing to make it sacred and special.

Sadly, the odds are that I’ll still have to explain this to my daughter when she, too, is still finger painting and learning cursive handwriting. The age that young girls are starting to hit puberty is steadily lowering. In recent studies, more than 1 in 10 girls at age seven started developing breasts and other signs of puberty in my daughter’s race. That number increases to 15% of seven-year-old Hispanic girls and a whopping 23% of black girls. By age 8, these numbers rise even further, from 18 to 42%. That means in some cases, nearly half of our daughters could be getting their periods while still in the second grade.

We spend so much time worrying about the over-sexualizing of our daughters through media and pop culture—especially with Barbie, Miley Cyrus clothing lines, makeup, and awful music videos aimed at them from every angle—that many of us never think of the dangers hidden within our own children’s hormones.

Why is this occurring? Studies point to a variety of factors, including increased body fat, diets high in sugar and fat, chemicals all over our environments that effect our hormones (from the plastics we keep our food in to the mattresses we sleep on and everything in between), and lack of physical activity. So while we can try to combat these changes by providing our children with the safest, most healthful surroundings possible, there is little else we can do to stop this early puberty onset. 

 

Part II