At her well-child appointment with her regular pediatrician, they discussed her concerns. "Looking at her on the outside, she was a normal petite 8-year-old girl who weighed about 65 pounds," she tells me. "But the doctor listened to what we had to say and gave her a physical examination." Once she got a good look, they were referred to a pediatric endocrinologist.
The endocrinologist told them they needed to rule out other causes of early puberty by looking at X-rays of her bones and checking out her blood work before taking the next step. Her X-rays revealed that her bone growth had not been accelerated, which was a relief to her family. "I had no idea that early puberty could cause bone and growth issues," she explains. "Sometimes when a child goes through puberty too early, their bones mature rapidly causing advanced bone age and growth plates to fuse."
When her blood work came back, she was given the diagnosis of central precocious puberty (CPP). Since she didn't demonstrate advanced bone age, she's expected to grow normally. However, the part of this they weren't prepared for was having to explain to their young daughter what it all means. Fortunately, kids are usually curious and adaptable and can take news like this better than you'd expect.
"Teaching your 8-year-old about puberty and periods was a terrifying experience!" Gardner relates. "We got through it and she understands what her body is doing and why. She was actually most intrigued about the science behind becoming a woman." Her daughter is worried about her period starting, because it can pop up without much warning, but her mom has prepared her with a pouch full of supplies she can keep in her purse or backpack.
The signs for precocious puberty are the same as puberty that happens on a regular timeline, but it starts earlier — in girls, before age 8, and in boys, before age 9. In kids who develop earlier than their peers, they can run into emotional distress and teasing in addition to the possibility of having their adult height impacted. CPP is more common in girls than boys, but it can still happen in both sexes.
CCP can be treated (although it's not always necessary), so if you notice your young child changing a little too soon, you should talk with her doctor.
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