The development of breast buds is one of the first signs of puberty in a girl. The beginning of adult breast development is called thelarche. As the breasts start to develop, a girl will have small, firm lumps under the nipples called breast buds, which may sometimes be tender. In some cases, one breast may start to develop weeks or months before the other. The breast tissue continues to get larger and become less firm over the next few years. It is normal for Caucasian girls to begin developing breast buds as young as seven years old and African American girls could be as young as six years old. It is advised to consult a pediatrician to evaluate breast bud development and check for other signs of puberty.
A girl usually attains menarche (gets her first period) around two years after breast development begins. The average age for girls in the United States to start their periods is anywhere between 9 to 15 years. Girls usually have a similar pattern to their mothers when it comes to beginning their period. If the mother started her period early, the daughter is more likely to start early. However, this is not true for everyone. Nutrition, medical illnesses, long-term medication and other environmental factors can also influence the onset of puberty.
What is precocious puberty?
Precocious puberty is when the signs of puberty begin before the age of seven or eight years in girls and before the age of nine years in boys. When this happens, it is advised to consult a pediatrician to rule out any serious causes and help manage the effects of precocious puberty.
The effects of precocious puberty
Early puberty can affect the child emotionally and socially. Children with precocious puberty may be confused or conscious about the changes in their bodies. They may have changes in emotions and behavior, and they need guidance on how to navigate through these changes. Girls could be concerned about getting periods and can become moody and irritable. Boys may become more aggressive and develop a sex drive inappropriate for their age. Girls who attain puberty early may be at a higher risk of sexual abuse, hence it is important to educate children. It may also be a good idea to seek the help of the teacher at school, a counselor or a psychologist.
Precocious puberty causes a growth spurt in the child, making them taller than their peers. However, their bone growth stops at an earlier age than other kids. They stop growing in height sooner and end up shorter in height than they would have otherwise been.
What are the causes of precocious puberty?
The onset of puberty is triggered by the hypothalamus, an area in the brain that sends signals to the pituitary gland (a small gland at the base of the brain) to release hormones that stimulate the ovaries (in girls) or testicles (in boys) to produce sex hormones.
Precocious puberty in girls is often due to the hypothalamus sending these signals earlier than it should. This may run in families and usually not a medical problem.
Rarely, precocious puberty may occur due to a more serious medical problem, such as a brain tumor or trauma. Thyroid or ovarian disorders can also trigger early puberty. Hence, it is advised to consult a pediatrician to rule out anything serious and help manage precocious puberty in the child.
How is precocious puberty treated?
The treatment goals are to stop or reverse sexual development or stop rapid bone growth and maturation. This growth spurt may lead to short stature as an adult. Depending on the cause of precocious puberty, treatment may involve treating the underlying disease and lowering the high levels of sex hormones with medication to stop sexual development.
Hormone treatment with drugs called luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) analogs may be used in precocious puberty. LHRH analogs are synthetic hormones that block the body's production of sex hormones, which cause early puberty. They are typically safe and don’t cause side effects in children. It is also extremely important to address the child’s mental health at this stage. Parents should help them cope with their changes physically and mentally by taking help from family, friends, teachers, a counselor or a psychologist.
- Stress Urinary Incontinence? Know Your Surgical Options
- Exercise Does Help People With Parkinson's Disease, Review Finds
- Scientists Pinpoint Brain Area Needed for Vision-Guided Walking
- Walking & Talking at Same Time: Aging Brain May Make It Tougher
- Medication Shortage Means Many With Advanced Prostate Cancer Are Missing Treatments
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
National Health Service. Stages of Puberty: What Happens to Boys and Girls. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/stages-of-puberty-what-happens-to-boys-and-girls/
Top Can a 7-Year-Old Develop Breasts? Related Articles
7 Signs It's Time To Wean Your Baby from Breast or Bottle FeedingWhen is it time to wean your baby from the breast or bottle to solid foods? Learn how and when to wean your child from breastmilk to formula, and from formula to solid food.
At What Age Does Gender Identity Develop?Research shows that children recognize their own gender and gender in others starting as early as two or three years old.
Breast AnatomyThe breast, or mammary gland is made up of lobules, milk producing glands, and a system of ducts to transport milk. Both males and females have breasts. Abnormal enlargement of breasts in men is referred to as gynecomastia. In women, during pregnancy the breasts grow larger and produce milk. Common medical conditions that affect the breasts include breast cancer, breast lumps, fibrocystic changes and cysts, mastitis, and benign tumors (fibroadenomas).
Breast Anatomy PictureThe breast refers to the front of the chest or, more specifically, to the mammary gland. See a picture of Breast Anatomy and learn more about the health topic.
Young Women & Breast CancerIs breast cancer genetic? Should I get tested for the BRCA gene? What every young women should know about breast cancer. Discover the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and other crucial breast cancer facts.
Central Precocious PubertyCentral precocious puberty is characterized by the unusual early onset of puberty -- in girls, prior to 8 years of age, and boys, prior to 9 years of age. The appearance of secondary sex changes -- enlargement of penis and testicles and development of breast tissue and facial, pubic, and axillary hair -- in central precocious puberty precedes that of routine onset of puberty by two and a half years. Treatment of central precocious puberty depends upon the cause.
PubertyThe time when boys and girls begin the process of sexual maturation is called puberty. During this time, both sexes undergo a series of biological changes that include a rapid increase in height, bone growth, weight increase, the growth of pubic hair, breast development and the onset of menstruation in girls, and testicle, penis, and muscle enlargement in boys.
Puberty in Girls QuizTake the Puberty In Girls Quiz to learn the myths and facts about normal adolescent growth and development for teens and tweens.
Stages of Puberty: In Boys and GirlsPuberty is the time in a child’s life when sexual maturation occurs. There are several stages of puberty. A child goes through many physical and internal changes during the various stages of puberty, beginning around the age of 8 years in girls and 10 years in boys, till the age of 18 years when they attain complete maturation.