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Precocious and Delayed Puberty

Puberty is a time of change when the body starts transitioning from being a child to becoming an adult. It begins and ends at different times for everyone, but typically girls experience puberty between the ages of 9 and 13 and boys between the ages of 10 and 15.

Precocious puberty is defined as children experiencing puberty before the age of 8 (girls) and the age of 9 (boys). Some parents of internationally adopted children have seen signs of precocious puberty in their children. This is concerning because kids typically stop growing when puberty ends, which can result in short stature.

The causes of early puberty are unclear. Some believe that early malnutrition followed by a healthy diet fools the body to go into puberty. It could also be that the exact age or birthdate of the child isn’t known with certainty.

Some subtle signs of puberty include acne, body odor and pubic or underarm hair. If there are early signs, it’s best to contact a pediatric endocrinologist, who may use various diagnosing techniques to understand the disorder. It’s also important to rule out other causes (for example, one family found a tumor pushing on the pituitary gland).

If precocious puberty is confirmed, the parents and doctor may decide to try to delay it with medication. There are two ways of administering the medication (quarterly inter-muscular shots or a yearly implant). The doctors will do a blood test 4-5 weeks afterwards to make sure hormone levels are being correctly suppressed.

Delayed puberty is when the typical signs of puberty aren’t noticeable until age 14 in boys and age 12 in girls (with an absence of menstruation by age 14). There can be many causes including hereditary, chromosomal abnormalities such as Turner syndrome or Klinefelter syndrome, etc. If you suspect your child is experiencing delayed puberty, it’s best to consult with a pediatric endocrinologist.

Resources

  1. “Growth and puberty” (growingup.net)
  2. “Precocious puberty is common in adopted kids” (adoption.com)

See also

  1. Stature

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