Early menarche due to lifestyle changes, say doctors

Findings state even environmental and genetic factors raise chances of getting periods at an early age. Here’s a guide to how parents, teachers, family and friends can help young girls deal with it

menstruationIn what could be termed as an alarming trend, early menarche in some girls has reached the age of 7 and 8.

“Of late, various researches have revealed that girls are entering puberty at an age as early as 8. Early menarche is sign of change in lifestyle,” said Dr Arun Nayak, past president of Mumbai Obstetric and Gynaecological Society.

Talking about lifestyle change, Nayak said Indians are more inclined towards adopting Western culture, and this has raised chances of early menarche in young girls.

“Nutrition plays an important role in our lives. Eating junk food increases risk of childhood obesity. Unhealthy food habits are one of the reasons for early menstruation,” said Nayak.

Dr Mukesh Gupta, a gynaecologist and obstetrician at Le Nest Hospital, explains that early puberty includes bodily changes such as development of breasts, pubic and underarm hair and menstrual bleeding, which some girls are developing at an age early than usual. It is also known as precocious puberty.

“Environmental and genetic factors are main causes of early menstruation. Some girls get early periods due to genetic reasons which runs in the family, like their mother, sister or grandmother have also had experienced early periods,” said Gupta.

How early menstruation impacts young girls?

Gupta, who has been holding seminars in schools on menstrual period and hormonal changes awareness, explained early menstruation has long-term physical and psychological impact on girls.

“Due to hormonal changes, girls who get early periods usually appear more mature than other girls of their age. Development in their body such as breast, height, weight and face features cause awkwardness and shyness in them” said Gupta.

Talking about psychological impact, Gupta said in some cases, girls may need counselling.

“An eight-year-old girl was brought to me by her mother. She was quiet and depressed and did not speak for a week to anyone at home. She was told by her friends that it is a sin to bleed and soon, she will die because of bleeding. I had to send her to a counsellor to clear the misconception in her mind. Another nine-year-old girl had stopped playing outdoor games and interacting with her classmates as she feared they would make fun of her,” said Gupta.

Gupta said such cases are becoming increasingly common wherein girls are paranoid with early periods and changes in their physical appearance. Findings say early menstruation also causes long-term impact such diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer in later stages of life.

What can be done to prevent it?

Parents, teachers, family, friends and doctors play a vital role in a child’s life. “As girls are hitting menstruation at an early age, it is important to educate them,” said Dr Ashwini Bhalerao, gynaecologist at PD Hinduja hospital.

Conducting awareness session in schools, hospitals and housing societies will help young girls understand their body better.

“Empowering girls at tender age before they hit menstruation helps them to be mentally prepared to accept the changes in their body. Young girls are becoming victims of misinformation and this needs attention,” said Gupta.

Gynaecologists say parents should remain calm instead of getting worried.

“Parents should be calm and supportive. If a girl is hitting menarche early, they are bound to get worried as they are not in the state to understand the biology and why it is happening to them,” said Dr Gupta.