With the first menstrual cycle occurring at a younger age for many girls, early menarche poses concerns for a child's physical and mental health. Because at what age your daughter has her first menstrual period can affect her health later in life, it's important to be aware of the factors that may contribute to early menses as well as how the process may affect your child's overall health both in the present and future.
Causes of Early Menarche
Although the onset of early puberty can occur for any of a variety of reasons, there are several factors that may contribute to early menarche in female children.
Genetics. While some girls begin menstruating at about the same age their mothers did, research is ongoing to identify genetic factors, including race and ethnicity, that may contribute to early menarche. Although genetics may in part influence the age at menarche, nongenetic factors appear to play a role in the timing as well. Therefore, no matter how old you were when you started your period, keep in mind that your daughter's body is wired differently from your own.
Body composition. Some studies suggest that height and weight – particularly body mass index, or measure of body fat – may be related to the onset of menstruation. Having more body fat at a younger age may contribute to early puberty and then early menarche. Excess body fat leads to changes in hormone production, affecting the levels of estrogen, insulin, and leptin (a hormone that regulates fat storage) in the body – hormones that can trigger the early onset of puberty.
Nutritional habits. Consuming more animal protein than vegetable protein during the early years of a child's development may influence at what age puberty occurs. Eating a diet that's high in animal protein is often high in saturated fat and calories, which can lead to your child putting on excess weight. A high dietary intake of animal protein also promotes growth, which can bring on the onset of puberty faster.
Chemical exposure. Studies link exposure to certain chemicals in the environment, including chemical flame retardants and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, as risk factors for early puberty. Exposure to pesticides, building materials, plastics, food packaging, and other consumer products with estrogenic activity can lead to obesity, poor insulin regulation, early puberty, and early menarche – all of which can cause health problems.
Estrogenic chemicals, which mimic the actions of naturally-occurring estrogens in the body, can affect a child's development by triggering hormonal changes. Researchers are also looking at synthetic hormones farmers use to increase milk production in dairy cattle and promote faster growth in beef cattle and other livestock people consume as food as possible contributors to the early onset of puberty.
While you can't turn back her biological clock once it happens, the age at which your daughter first experiences menstrual bleeding can have effects on her health throughout life. Early menarche may put your child at increased risk of:
Breast cancer later in life. Longer exposure to estrogen circulating through the bloodstream increases the risk of potentially cancerous cells collecting in the body. Estrogen attaches to estrogen-receptors in the cells, causing them to divide. This uncontrolled division of cells can cause cancer to develop.
Menstrual distress. A preadolescent who suffers uncomfortable physical symptoms during the menstrual and premenstrual phases of her cycle may find menstruation stressful – stress that can then negatively affect her menstrual cycle more.
Mental health disorders. Early menarche can cause mood and behavior changes, including aggressive behavior, depression, social withdrawal, and eating disorders. Depending on your child's age, physiology, and sensitivity to the hormones circulating in her bloodstream, fluctuating gonadal (sex) hormones can cause mood swings and other emotional reactions. The lack of preparation may also contribute to problems coping with the changes.
For more on this topic, contact a clinic like Central Iowa OB/Gyn Specialists, PLC.Share
13 September 2016
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