As if raising girls wasn’t hard enough, now parents of young females are facing a growing phenomenon in the aspect of female child growth and development. Known, medically, as precocious puberty, many parents are struggling with the early onset of puberty related changes in their daughters. As parents, understanding the dynamics of precocious puberty, including the signs and symptoms of precocious puberty changes in a child, will aid in preparing for the emotional, psychological and physical changes of this child development disorder.
Precocious puberty is simple defined as the early onset of puberty in children. While most children enter into puberty as adolescents, generally age 10 for girls, there is a growing medical phenomenon in which female children are experiencing pubescent changes as early as five years of age, entering into a child development phase known as precocious puberty. From physical to emotional changes, female children, experiencing precocious puberty, often struggle with changes in their emotions and physical appearance, requiring both psychological as well as medical attention. So, how does a parent know if a daughter is experiencing precocious puberty?
In females, precocious puberty, physically, will present with an initial case of acne. From acne development, the female child, experiencing precocious puberty, may then begin to experience the development of breast tissue and show a sudden increase in height and weight. With symptoms of precocious puberty beginning as early as five years of age, this same daughter may experience a first menstrual cycle, known as menses, as early as eight or nine years of age.
Beyond physical changes of the developing female child, precocious puberty will also contribute to a change in hormonal fluctuations. Most often, the younger the female child, the greater the psychological complications, as the female child tends to be most unable to address and express emotional and psychological issues. As a parent, caring for the precocious pubescent female child, evaluation and treatment by a child psychologist may be needed to assist the daughter in working through emotions commonly not experienced by her peers and most notably influenced by hormones out of her control. Beyond psychological counseling, how is precocious puberty treated in females?
In terms of medical treatment, a female child experiencing symptoms of precocious puberty should be evaluated and treated by a pediatrician. In the diagnosis of precocious puberty, the pediatrician will generally obtain urine and blood testing to rule out other health related complications and to test for specific levels of sex hormones commonly found in the pubescent child. Once confirmed as precocious puberty, the female child may require medical intervention, depending on the age of onset.
With early onset of precocious puberty, in the female child, the pediatrician will work with an endocrinologist to address hormonal intervention therapies. Because the pituitary gland is responsible for the regulation of most hormones, specific medications may be administered to inhibit the pituitary glands production and function in the female child. As a general rule, these pituitary gland inhibiting drugs are safe, effective and do not lead to long term complications in the female child although do require several months to provide therapeutic effectiveness in the treatment of precocious puberty. As a result, early intervention and treatment, of the precocious pubescent female is crucial.
As with any childhood disorder, understanding the implication the condition plays on the child’s emotional, psychological and physical needs is a crucial part of the parenting process. When caring for young children, as early as five years of age, who exhibit symptoms similar to that of pubescent adolescents, consult a pediatrician regarding the possibility of precocious puberty.
For more information regarding puberty in children, visit your child’s pediatrician.