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Precocious (Early) Puberty in Children

  • Overview

    "Sometimes, the pituitary begins signaling the ovaries and testes to make sex hormones earlier than it should. It can be that simple -- the switch just gets turned on too soon."

    Diane Stafford, MD, assistant clinical director, Children's Division of Endocrinology

    When a child enters puberty (the process of becoming sexual mature) too early, it’s called precocious puberty, or early puberty. Children experiencing the condition develop early sexual characteristics; in girls this means before age 8, and in boys, this means before age 9.

    • Most children with the disorder grow faster than their peers at first, but finish growing before reaching their anticipated height.
    ?• Children with this disorder may have psychosocial difficulties as they may not be emotionally prepared for the physical changes of puberty and may feel self-conscious about these changes.
    ?• There’s every reason to be optimistic. With proper treatment and care, most children with precocious puberty will ultimately experience a normal and happy adolescence.

    • The goal of treatment for precocious puberty is to stop, and possibly reverse, the onset of puberty. At Children’s, we often use synthetic luteinizing-hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH).

    How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches early puberty?

    Our Division of Endocrinology is one of the world's leading centers dedicated to caring for children and adolescents with endocrine disorders, including early puberty. Caring for more than 7,000 patients each year, our division is one of the largest pediatric endocrinology practices in the country.

    Our team is sensitive to the physical and emotional challenges that come along with entering puberty early, and our team is here to help. It’s perfectly normal for a child to feel different than his peers when his friends have gone through puberty and he hasn’t. But with treatment and care, most children will go on to have a normal and happy adolescence and healthy adulthood.

    Children's has been ranked second in Endocrinology
    Children's has been ranked second in Endocrinology in the U.S.News Media Group's 2009 edition of American's Best Children's Hospitals featured in the August issue of U.S. News & World Report.

    Reviewed by Diane Stafford, MD
    © Children’s Hospital Boston; posted in 2011

The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO