Girls may start menstruation at six years in future, doctors warn

Kampala – 35-year-old Anne Tumwesigye was shocked when her eight year old ran to her in tears because of blood flowing from her privates. Tumwesigye says she was as speechless as her daughter was tearful.

“I did not know what to do as I was not expecting it that early for I thought I had another four or five years to have the ‘you are a woman’ talk with my child who was a baby, and she still is,” Tumwesigye says.

According to Tumwesigyes, by the time her daughter began her periods, her breasts had begun growing but she did not think that meant her daughter would start menstruating at the age of 8 years.

Doctors predict that the age at which girls will enter puberty and start menstruating is to reduce. Puberty refers to the period during which children aged between 10 to 19 (adolescents) reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction.

According to written science, girls and boys are supposed to enter puberty between the ages of 13 and 15 years of age. 

For the girls, during this time, they are supposed to undergo the growth of breasts, and pubic hair and also start experiencing monthly menstruation periods. On the side of the boys, they are supposed to experience a growth of pubic hair, the deepening of their voices, growth of beards, elongation of the penis, enlargement of the testicles and sperm production.

However, due to changes in lifestyles, doctors warn that the age at which girls enter puberty is likely to reduce to as low as six or seven years in the future.

Dr Sabrina Kitaka, a senior pediatrician who also runs an adolescent clinic says this should not worry parents. She says that is it normal for girls to start puberty at an early age.

According to Dr Kitaka, the early onset of puberty can be caused by having excess fats in the body. She says having a large number of fat cells in the body can lead the body-brain to assume that a person is bigger and is grown which in turn will lead to the release of hormones in the pituitary gland which then starts producing hormones called gonadotropins. Gonadotropins cause the testicles or ovaries to produce testosterone or estrogen which leads to puberty.

She however warns that parents should seek medical help if their children start puberty below the age of six for girls.

According to Kitaka, the youngest patient that has been treated at Mulago for precocious puberty, which occurs to children below the age of 8, was a two-year-old who is currently on treatment.The condition is treated by suppressing the hormones using a monthly injection.

Dr Kitaka however says that in boys, the early onset of puberty below the age of nine years should be a cause of worry.According to Dr Kitaka, this is because boys are late bloomers and normally enter puberty at 14 years.

With the age at which the onset of puberty of expected to become lower, Dr Kitaka says parents need to start talking to their children about sexuality early so that children know what to expect as they grow.

Source: URN