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Early puberty in girls raises risk of teen pregnancy

Girls who start puberty “very early” are more likely to be at risk of psychological problems and early pregnancy, researchers suggest.

The onset of “normal puberty” is said to commence in girls from around 10 years onwards, while in Europe the lower end of the “normal range” for the onset of puberty is 8 years in girls.

In girls, early puberty or “precocious puberty” is defined as the development of secondary sexual characteristics, such as the development of breasts or pubic hair before the age of 8 years old.

A review published in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist claims most children with premature sexual development require a referral to a paediatric endocrinologist for evaluation and management.

Consequences of early puberty can mean a girl's final adult height will be compromised and the advancement of adolescent behaviour thanks to the higher level of sex steroids.

“Starting puberty early can have a significant impact both psychologically and socially on both the child and her family,” said Sakunthala Sahithi Tirumuru, Specialist Registrar, Department of Obseterics and Gynaecology at Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.

“Puberty marks the start of a child's sexual development and early onset could result in a higher risk of sexual abuse.

 “This all needs to be considered by the healthcare team and further studies are needed to evaluate the effects of hormone treatment on quality of life and long term impact.”

According to the review, the goal of treatment for precocious puberty should be to stop, and possibly reverse the onset of puberty, improve final height and to avoid psychosocial /behavioural effects.

Researchers claim the decision on whether to provide treatment for girls who commence puberty between 6 and 8 years old “should not be a difficult one”.