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Early Puberty in Girls

What is early puberty?

Puberty is the time when a girl’s body grows into a woman's body. Puberty starts with changes in hormones. Because of a change in hormones released from the brain, ovaries start making estrogen hormone. The ovaries are part of a girl’s reproductive system. They make eggs and also the female hormone progesterone. Estrogen is the main hormone that starts the changes that happen when girls go through puberty.

Early puberty in girls starts before the age of 8. It may also be called precocious puberty.

Early puberty may keep your daughter from growing to her expected height.

What is the cause?

The exact cause is not always known. Early puberty may run in the family. It may be caused by something that affects the release of hormones, such as:

  • An injury or other problem with the brain or spinal cord
  • A tumor or other problem with the adrenal, pituitary, or thyroid glands that produce hormones
  • Use of testosterone or estrogen medicines, including some natural remedies

If your child shows signs of early puberty, she should be checked by her healthcare provider.

What are the symptoms?

Usually the first symptom of early puberty in a girl is her breasts start to grow. After a year or two, other symptoms include:

  • Having pubic hair or underarm hair.
  • A big growth spurt because of growth in bones and muscles
  • Having menstrual periods

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child.

Tests may include:

  • X-rays
  • Blood tests
  • An MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the brain

Your child may be referred to a specialist for other tests.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on the cause. Early puberty is often treated with medicine that slows the release of hormones that start puberty. This allows more time for your child to grow to a normal adult height.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Talk to your child about the changes in her body. Explain that the changes are a normal part of growing up, even if they are early. If she is taking medicine for the problem, explain how the medicine will help.
  • Talk to her brothers and sisters to help prevent teasing.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your child’s test results
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-24
Last reviewed: 2014-12-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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