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"My 6-Year-Old Started Her Period"

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


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
klabbablalle February 11, 2010, 10:14 AM

I haven’t started mine yet, but I’m scared to have it. Some of the boys in my class are going through the boy puberty. I will be scared to tell my family that I’m going through it though, because it’ll be embaressing. I can only trust my friends to know, nobody else because they might tease me.

pewee February 15, 2010, 5:33 AM

I cant believe Debbie gets her period for 55days. wow

Anonymous April 18, 2010, 1:30 PM

My niece is four and I believe strongly that she has started her period. She is also very moody and tired often. This is week 2 for her and we’re taking her to a pediatrician Gyno in a week. It just sickens me that doctors immediately point out sexual abuse when we’re scared to death for her. We love her and take very good care of her. If any other families are experiencing this I’m so sorry but I hope it all turns out okay in the end.

anonimous May 16, 2010, 10:23 PM

My 6 year old sister is going through puberty. It is so sad. I’m twelve and I started period at eleven. I think that is to young. Imagine if she gets hers at age 7 or 8.

Alexia Crosbie June 4, 2010, 8:49 PM

OK so i am 11 and i got mine in march and i feel WICKED BAD for all those girls out there who got theirs at so young of a age!! i don’t get cramps or i don’t get physically emotions or basically anything just blood and i just don’t know how to tell my mom i got it i just want to tell her SO BAD! but i just don’t know how to explain it to her we haven’t had “” The Talk”” yet i just don’t know how to start the conversation she is not like other moms i tell you that part and i only know 4 other people who got theirs and when i told my friend she looks at me a different way

Kimberlee June 28, 2010, 9:03 PM

My 7 yr old is bleeding from the vagina, As far as I can tell, it seems she started her cycle, There is no worry of any abuse, she is 4ft 5, starting to have pubic hair and her legs became very hairy, How Possible is it for a mature 7 yr old to start her cycle

stop being noisy July 26, 2010, 3:33 AM

i’m 12 and i don’t have my period yet i don’t won’t mine

Tyki August 2, 2010, 7:29 AM

Hi i started my period at nine bt now im 13 and this morning i took my four year old sister to the bathroom as i do every morning and she was spotting and i havent told my mom yet because im scared how should i tell my mom

nada August 9, 2010, 1:05 AM

i am 12 and i still didn’t get mine but i am hoping soon but i am really sorry for your daughters.. god helps them

Diamond August 9, 2010, 2:33 PM

WOW! A 6 year kid have period i feel very sorry for her but no worrys its normal just tell her to stay carm and just tell her to relax i had mine when i was 9 and now i’m 10. And i am feeling really worried about her.

sabrina August 28, 2010, 5:37 PM

ok you may not take my advice and if so its not my fault ok this is the chemicals in are food and water stay away from aspertame, corn sryup, high frutose corn sryup and cotton seed oil these ingredeants are in most food so stay aware and also if you notice chages like pubic related symtoms ask a doctor and dont be affraid to pry it out of the doctors

Not needed August 29, 2010, 5:55 PM

Wow i havent even started my period yet and im 14. How do these little girls live with this? Can anything be done? I feel so bad for these little girls.

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liia September 2, 2010, 1:37 PM

I got mine when I was 9 and a half it was a hard experienced I had to go through. I was the only one in my class with breast and a “womenly” figured, boys used to teased me and I could always feel older men looking at me. It was an uncomfortable situation. I feel for all those little girls going through this. I Wish you all the best.

Mystery September 11, 2010, 1:29 PM

i got my peroid at 9 and a half and now im 10 i thought something was wrong with me but 3 of my other friends go their peroid too. so i elt good but when i read these stories i was shocked but we all need to take care of our daughers as mush as we can

Anonymous September 23, 2010, 3:53 PM

i got my peroid when i was 9 and a half and there was this one day where this girl’s stomach was hurting she said she needs to ues the bathroom so i took her she took a long time in their i also saw blood on the floor where she was using the bathroom so then i kind of saw blood spots in the back of her pants i new she had her peroid because it was the begging of the month and i was curious i wanted to tell her but i didnt want to make her feel bad so i tryed to tell her when she was sitting down but she couldent hear me i told her your bleeding she said she knows so i said ok bye so when it was time for lunch everyone saw blood in the back of her pants it was even bigger then when i saw it even the teacher saw it so she had to go back home because she needed to change but she did not go back to school because i thik she was emberrsed

xxxxxxxxxx October 7, 2010, 6:29 PM

WOW!!! :(
i got mine when i was 11. Its sad that little girls have to go through all that trouble at such a young age.

Online Banking Guide October 18, 2010, 5:02 PM

@chels I know what you mean, its hard to find good help these days. People now days just don’t have the work ethic they used to have. I mean consider whoever wrote this post, they must have been working hard to write that good and it took a good bit of their time I am sure. I work with people who couldn’t write like this if they tried, and getting them to try is hard enough as it is.

Valentina October 27, 2010, 8:55 PM

I’ve been 15 for a month and I have not started my period yet..

Hipolito M. Wiseman November 16, 2010, 10:18 AM

K this is just pro - great job!!!

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