What is Early Puberty?

Early puberty is when your daughter starts showing the first signs of puberty before she is 8 years old. This can be normal, but might require evaluation by a pediatric endocrinologist (hormone doctor).

What is Normal Puberty?

Normal puberty is when children’s bodies start to grow and develop into young adult bodies. Girls usually start to go through puberty between the ages of 8-13 years. When your daughter starts to go through puberty, her gonads (ovaries) and adrenal glands (glands that sit on top of the kidneys) release hormones. These hormones cause the first signs of puberty, which are breast development, body odor, underarm hair, pubic hair and acne (pimples). Over time, girls will develop later signs of puberty, such as a growth spurt followed by starting their menstrual periods.

There are 2 types of puberty that make up the entire pubertal process. These are:

  • Adrenal puberty
    This is when the adrenal glands make hormones that cause the first signs of puberty including body odor, pubic hair, underarm hair and acne.
  • Gonadal puberty
    This is when the pituitary gland (a small gland in the brain that controls other glands in the body) makes hormones that tell the gonads (ovaries) to make the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are responsible for breast and uterine development, starting a monthly period and growing taller.

What Causes Early Puberty in Girls?

The causes of early adrenal puberty and early gonadal puberty are different.

Early adrenal puberty: Sometimes, early adrenal puberty is normal. Other times, a problem with the adrenal glands can cause your daughter to have early adrenal puberty.

Early gonadal puberty: There are 2 types of early gonadal puberty, which have different causes. These are:

  • Gonadotropin dependent puberty
    This type of puberty is caused by the pituitary gland making the hormones FSH and LH, which stimulate the ovaries to make estrogen. This can be caused by tumors, radiation or trauma in the central nervous system or can be idiopathic. This means we have not found a cause of the early gonadal puberty.
  • Gonadotropin independent puberty
    This type of puberty is caused by the ovaries working on their own or exposure to medication or products with hormones in them.
Rev. 1/2015
MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.