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Possible causes and ways to put off puberty

No one is exactly sure why some girls are reaching puberty much sooner, but these factors may play a part, according to the lead author of the Pediatrics study and other physicians:

  • Childhood obesity. An increasing number of kids are overweight or obese, due to poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. A child's body may misread her increased weight as a sign of natural growth and physical maturity.
  • Exposure to environmental chemicals. Traces of estrogen have been found in plastics, foods, and other products our families use. Higher levels of the hormone in the body can trigger earlier menstruation.

So what can parents do to help prevent precocious puberty in their daughter? The authors of the study recommend taking these steps:

  • Living "green." By making greener choices, such as eating organically, you can reduce your child's exposure to chemicals and added hormones in foods, food containers, and elsewhere in the environment.
  • Eating well. Eating a nutritious diet will help your kids maintain a healthy weight – making it more likely that they'll physically mature at a typical pace. Try to make a habit of having meals as a family to set the example of how healthy eating is an important part of everyday life.
  • Keep 'em moving. Making family fitness another priority can help your kids achieve a healthy weight and get hooked on exercise, which will benefit their body and mind for years to come.

Some parents with daughters who hit puberty at a very young age seek medical intervention, such as hormone-blocking medications that regulate estrogen to postpone or prolong body changes. These medications, called gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs (GnRHa), are generally considered safe and effective for treating precocious puberty, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But more research is necessary before the AAP can issue standard recommendations on the use of GnRHa, according to a 2009 AAP report.

If early puberty is a concern in your family, talk with your child's pediatrician.

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