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"My 6-Year-Old Started Her Period"

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Hear from two Moms whose daughters had "precocious puberty."

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Debbie Smith is a British mother whose daughter started puberty at age 3. Age three! We then talked to Joy, a Mom whose daughter also started puberty at age 3. Both of their daughters experienced what doctors call "precocious puberty," an uncommon condition that occurs when the physical changes of puberty begin before age 8 for girls and before age 9 for boys. "I was worried because I was seeing a 2-or 3-year-old girl having breasts, and then seeing pubic hair…I was like, 'What’s going on with my kid?'"Joy recalls. "I didn’t think it was normal, and I was scared." What Mom wouldn't be?

Because these two Moms have such similar experiences, we introduced them so they could each share stories with another Mom who's been there. We sat down with each of them to discuss the unique challenges their daughters have faced and how they are coping with precocious puberty. We then spoke with Andrew B. Muir, MD, a specialist in pediatric endocrinology and one of the leading experts in the field, for his perspective.

The signs

Debbie: Hayley had body odor and pubic hair at 3. At six, she had breast development and started her period. During her monthly cycle, she would have migranes, a tummy ache, and a pink discharge. She experienced a huge weight gain. At age six, she was in size 10 women's clothes. She started shaving her legs and underarms at age eight. She has long periods that last as long as 55 days.

Joy: At age 3, Jiabre started getting breasts. The doctor told me it was just normal baby fat, and that I had nothing to worry about. At age 4, she developed pubic hair. Then, two months after her 6th birthday, she started her period. Now, at age 8, she’s wearing size 14 clothes. She’s not fat, but she doesn’t look 8. Although she’s in second grade, she’s about the same size of a fifth grader.

The conversation

Debbie: I borrowed books from our local library to explain about your body changes. I did go to a child psychologist on my own, so I could explain to Hayley and tell her in the right way about the changes that were happening.

Joy: When she turned 6, I talked to her about her period. I taught her how to use maxi pads, and I explained that all girls go through this. I didn't want her to be scared when it happened.

The challenges

Debbie: It was really upsetting to my husband and I as parents, because our little girl was never able to have a childhood. That has been taken away from her. She was bullied because she was the tallest in the school, and because of her weight. It was more of the boys than the girls who were unkind.

Joy: The second time she had her period, it was very heavy, like a grown woman's. I was scared. I didn’t want her to grow up fast, and I wanted her to enjoy her childhood. At age 6, she had mood swings and was emotional. It was something I had to get used to and learn to understand. It’s hard because she’s growing up so fast, but all I can do is be here for her, and let her know how things are.

I had to write notes to her teacher because she needed to go to the ladies room several times a day during class, and I didn’t want the teacher to think she was just playing around. The teacher didn’t believe her and wouldn’t let her go to the bathroom when she wanted to go.

Advice to other Moms

Joy: No question is a stupid question. Don’t be afraid to ask, and keep asking (doctors) if you’re not getting answers you want or think is right. Get a second opinion because I didn’t and now I realize I should have.

Debbie: Hayley was undiagnosed for too long. If I could go back a couple of years, I would say, "No, I am not happy with the care I'm getting. I want something done." From a medical point of view, if you're not happy with one medical consultant, go to another specialist, even if you have to travel hours to do so. If that's what you need to do to get the best care, do it. It's better than just waiting and waiting. Push until you get a diagnosis and the care your child is entitled to.

A word from the doctor

Andrew B. Muir, MD, is a pediatric endocrinology specialist, and one of the leading experts in the field of precocious puberty.

How common is this?

Many healthy children today are entering puberty at a younger age than we have traditionally seen. But in terms of numbers, the estimates on precocious puberty vary—it happens to anywhere from 1 in 500 to 1 in 5,000 children. Girls are 5-10 times more likely to have precocious puberty than are boys. Compared to girls, early puberty in boys is more often associated with a defined cause that requires treatment.

What causes it?

Most often, children who develop signs of puberty before the “normal” age have no definable cause. That doesn’t mean there is no cause. It just means we aren’t smart enough to find the cause. Probably less than 5% of these children receive hormone treatments to stop the development, but most do not need any treatment.

Occasionally, children will be unwittingly exposed to hormones in the environment that cause early puberty. An example is shampoos that contain placental extract. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine in February 2007 suggested tea tree oil and lavender in skin care products could cause breast development in boys. Transient ovarian cysts, low thyroid hormone levels, and a variety of different types of tumors are more common causes of precocious puberty.

What do parents need to know?

Girls with puberty starting before 8 years and boys with puberty before 9 years should be evaluated by a physician. Most of these children are normal, but a small number have abnormal causes of puberty that need treatment. If a child needs medical treatment for precocious puberty, it should be supervised by an endocrinologist, preferably one who specializes in pediatric care. Children with early puberty and their parents often face psychological challenges related to teasing and low self-esteem. Affected children look mature, but their brains have developed in an age-appropriate way. One must therefore be careful to keep expectations commensurate with their age, rather than their appearance.

For more information on precocious puberty, click here.


next: Runaway's Mom: 'My Kids Are My Life'
56 comments so far | Post a comment now
Tea tree Assoc Secretary January 21, 2008, 6:49 PM

The article contained in the New England Medical Journal alleging a link between pre-pubertal gynecomastia in boys and the use of productings containing lavender and tea tree oil has been thoroughly debunked as the very poor research that it is. There is absolutely NO EVIDENCE to support the claims made in the article (check any number of reports on this). The NEJM has been requested to retract the article.

kATIE.  June 23, 2008, 4:42 PM

wow. i am so sorry

wow! August 13, 2008, 8:15 PM

WOW! this is sad. A six year old having her period… how sad = (

LULU August 17, 2008, 12:19 AM

IS HAPPENING TO MY GRAND DAUTHER AND IS SO SAD SHE IS ONLY 6 YEARS OLD PRAY FOR HER PLEASE.

jenni September 30, 2008, 1:51 AM

This is happening to my 6 year old daughter now, she is developing breasts and pubic hair but is so withdrawn in herself she will not speak to me help

Karen November 19, 2008, 12:09 AM

My wonderfully tolerant 6 y/o daughter is going through the same thing. We have been to approx 20 doctors and b/c she has a large unexplained weight gain that is what they blame for her developing pubic hair and wearing a womans size 7 shoe. i was wondering if any of you experienced this discrimination also. We put our daughter in private school so hopefully she will feel more comfortable and take some of the pressure away from her. I just don’t want to explain what period is yet, She is just a little girl.

Jessica December 11, 2008, 10:19 AM

I started mine when I was 9 and now I am 10 so then I have gotten used ti it. The reason why I am on this sight is because I wanted to know if it was normal.

la-lu December 15, 2008, 2:22 PM

i am 12 an i started mine at 5 so just wate till she asks you what is happening dont worrey

Anonymous December 19, 2008, 10:18 PM

i’m very sorry 4 all of u moms whos daughters got their period at a very early age. try to help them and always listen 2 when they try to tell u something. tell them to not let ANY BODY TOUCH them.
PLEEZ listen 2 ur daughters when they tell u some one is tising them or if someone is trying to touch her

not important February 2, 2009, 7:31 AM

i have got my period at 9 and now im 11 and im sorry

ashley February 2, 2009, 8:28 AM

That’s really sad and scary. I feel for all of you girls. I was scared to tell my mom when I got mine at 13. I can’t even begin to imagine. I new a girl in 3rd grade that got hers, she was 8. She was scared to tell her mom but she told some of us girls and we told a trusted teacher and she took care of her. This makes me afraid for my baby girl. She’s 20 months now and I can’t even begin to fathom the idea of this happening to her at such a young age. wow!

Caitlin March 11, 2009, 5:47 PM

I “started” puberty I guess at eight, and I got my period as soon as I turned ten, and I thought THAT was abnormal! This is a horrible cndition and I’m sorry your girls have to go through it. Even I have faced taunting and teasing because of it, it’s terrible. They’re not alone though. I wish you the best.

Anonymous March 26, 2009, 4:55 AM

omg i just got a phone call from my dad freaking out how my 7 year old sister got her period :( i am so sad I am 20 and i hate getting cramps imagine these baby girls.

Shebur Lewis April 5, 2009, 9:34 AM

It was 5 am today when my visiting mother woke me up to tell me that my daughter who turned 9 on the 26th of march, was in the bathroom washing out her underwear. When I asked her “did she wet the bed” she said “I wish!”. What did she mean by that? I just wanted to pass out whent I realized that she was washing blood out of her panties. I am at a loss for words. Jow is her poor little life going to change now? I was 13 when my period came. my friends and I were talking about those things already, but she is still just my “baby”.

Alyssa April 7, 2009, 1:27 AM

I’m 12 and got mine 6 months after I turned 11. I feel so bad for these young girls that get their period so early. Having mine, made me feel like I need to grow up faster and it has taken a lot of fun out of things for me. But I’m getting used to it and after a while it isn’t that bad.

Casey May 24, 2009, 10:35 PM

My daughter is olny 4. She has pubic hair. Already got breast. My 11 year old No pubic hair no breast. Very weird.. they both havthere peroid

Anonymous May 27, 2009, 2:29 PM

i havnt got mine yet im 10 few

liv liv May 27, 2009, 2:39 PM

hi im 10 my friend(who is 11) started hers 2 mounths after her 11 bday scary! i feel 4 all you mums. my mum dosent really talk about the subject much but my friend saids she hates hers.i haven got mine yet(yippy!) but i have spots and wear a bra non of the girls in my class are like me!

Han September 30, 2009, 9:58 AM

Read The China Study. There’s been many statistically significant studies that show the link between dairy and animal product consumption and the age of a girl’s first period. The best thing that moms who are worried about their children growing up too fast too soon is to get their kids eating more raw whole foods instead of refined/processed foods and dairy. On average in rural areas of the world where the diet does not involve dairy and minimal animal products first periods come around 16-18. Doctors have no way of testing to see whether or not a child is going to have an early period unless they look into a patients nutrition/diet. So, the people you should be consulting are nutritionists, not MD’s.

Dolores October 15, 2009, 11:28 AM

I got mine 3 months before turning 16. I can’t imagine getting a period that young! If this will help anyone, I lived on a farm for 8 years growing up and ate a pretty healthy diet.


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