What is precocious puberty?

Precocious Puberty
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Precocious puberty: Overview

Precocious puberty means that a child has signs of puberty at an early age. Girls with early puberty may have breast development before age 8. Or they may have menstrual periods before age 10. Boys can have pubic hair and genital growth before age 9.

During puberty, both boys and girls have a rapid growth spurt. That growth usually ends when puberty ends. In precocious puberty, children start to grow early. They also stop growing early, before they reach a normal adult height. With treatment, puberty is delayed and children have a longer period for growth.

Some girls and boys have early growth of pubic or underarm hair. This is called "partial" precocious puberty. This does not always mean that they have "true" precocious puberty. If your child has signs of early puberty, your doctor will probably do tests. If tests show partial precocious puberty, treatment usually is not needed. Your child will go through puberty at the usual age, and growth will be normal.

In most cases, the cause of early puberty is not known. Some children who have it need to take hormone treatment. Others don't need treatment. Hormone treatment stops early puberty and slows rapid growth.

Treatment, especially when given early, will help your child reach a normal adult height. Your child may still have some signs of puberty. But these changes usually stop after a couple months of treatment. For girls, these changes may include mood changes, acne, an increase in breast size, and the start of their periods. Boys may have an increase in pubic hair and acne.

How can you care for your child going through precocious puberty?

  • Talk to your child honestly about what is happening. He or she may be confused or embarrassed about being different than other children. Explain that his or her body has started developing early but is growing normally. Keep your child informed about the treatment. Let him or her know what to expect along the way.
  • Help your child build healthy self-esteem. Help your child learn how to make and keep friends.
    • Teach your child how to start conversations and politely join in play.
    • Show your child how to have healthy friendships by being a good friend to others.
    • Encourage your child to talk about concerns and problems making friends.
  • Although your child may look older, remember to treat your child according to his or her age.
  • Find your child's strengths, and work to build on them.
  • Assure your child that you accept him or her even when others do not. A child's self-esteem wavers, sometimes from moment to moment. Help your child understand that life has ups and downs.
  • Be positive. Children usually value an adult's interest and praise.
  • Treat your child with respect. Ask his or her views, consider them, and give helpful feedback. A child's self-esteem grows when he or she is respected.
  • Encourage communication. Ask open-ended questions. Make statements such as, "Tell me more about the math test" or "It sounds like it was a busy day." Listen to what your child says.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.