LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Most parents are nervous to talk about puberty with their children, but some parents are finding it necessary to have that talk a lot earlier than expected. Children are maturing younger than they have in years past.
Dr. Paige Hertweck, a pediatric/adolescent gynecologist said, "Now we see girls as young as six, seven and eight [who] have some sign of puberty happening.”
Hertweck said those signs are early breast development, pubic hair and sometimes early menstrual cycles. With those signs, she is also seeing a growing number of nervous parents.
“Most of the time they're concerned that there is some sort of abnormal condition, and they want to make sure is this normal for [their] child,” Hertweck said.
Usually, the answer is yes. It is normal for some little girls to deal with the complications of becoming a woman.
The mother WHAS11 spoke with said, “It is ok. It’s natural for your body to go through that. I just wasn't expecting to have the conversation at such a young age with her.”
Dr. Hertweck and some families dealing with early puberty are using the Lammily doll. It is anatomically correct for height and weight and comes with information about menstrual cycles and hygiene. A book published by the popular American Girl Doll Company contains similar information.
“It did it in a kid friendly language which was much better than I could explain it to her,” the mother said.
One question the books, the doll, and even the doctors cannot answer yet is exactly why children are maturing at younger ages
“Some of it is nutrition based some of it is the type of plastics we store our food in that can act like hormones that stimulate our nervous system. Some of it is lack of activity, higher percentage of body fat,” Hertweck said.
Genetics also plays a factor. Whatever turned the page for the eight-year-old WHAS11 spoke with, her mom and her doctor agree, open honest conversations between parent and child are key to navigating the difficult days of growing up.
Samantha Miller, the practice supervisor for Kosair Children’s Hospital Gynecologist Specialists said, "This is normal. This is normal for your child. We're going to work with them.”
Dr. Hertweck said keeping a healthy household and good nutrition are key to proper development. In the long term, there could be some health and well-being issues, so it is good to consult a doctor about your child's development.