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How Early Is Too Early for a Girl to Enter Puberty?

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But parents worry, too, that early-blooming daughters will get too much attention from older boys. They worry about giving sex education to a 7-year-old. And for many, it's just plain disturbing to see physical signs of puberty in a 4-, 5- or 6-year-old.

"Jasmine is already feeling embarrassed about what's happening to her," Henderson says. "She's the tallest person in her class, ... yet she still acts like a little girl. ... I'm nervous because she has started growing little breasts, and they're noticeable because she's slender and tall. ... Her period must not be very far away."

In fact, it was the thought of her daughter possibly beginning menstruation while just in second grade that convinced Henderson to start the Lupron injections, she tells WebMD. Jasmine will have them until she reaches 10 or so, when many girls start their periods. "Her breasts will disappear," her mother tells WebMD. "We just needed to slow her body down a little."

But Kaplowitz says that trends are showing that, despite the emergence of earlier signs of puberty, girls are generally not starting their menstrual periods any earlier. White girls typically start menstruating at about age 12½, and African-American girls at about age 12.

"That hasn't changed in 50 years," he tells WebMD. "Parents should know that a girl who has started breast development at 7 is not likely to have menstrual period for at least two or three years. We're not talking about breasts one day and period starting the next. There's plenty of time to prepare a young girl for menstrual periods."

Parks adds a note that should reassure even the parents of girls with true precocious puberty. "Early puberty does not seem to increase interest in genital sex -- at least not in girls, to the same extent that male precocity does," he tells WebMD.

For Henderson, it's all been confusing and overwhelming.

"Jasmine still plays with Barbie dolls," she tells WebMD. "How do you explain menstruation to your 7-year-old ... and she has a male teacher? ... How would she handle it at school? I feel better knowing her period won't start."

 

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