Early Menarche: Early menstruation causes and trends over the years

Early Menarche Or Early Menstruation

Early menarche or early menstruation definitely is not an issue any young girl would want to face.

Even more disturbing is the report that you may not be the only one but part of a general trend of declining age of first menses.

This article seeks to define this abnormality, discuss some common causes of early periods with regards to the general declining trend.

When Is Menarche Considered Early?

Early menarche is menarche that begins before a girl is 8 years old.It is also similar to the definition of early puberty. It is not just part of a general trend( see below) but can occur as an isolated early occurrence of menses for a particular girl, related to specific cause.

A Declining Trend

Over time, there has been a progressive decline in the age at which puberty and menarche occur. In Europe, a decline in the age at which girls had their first menses from 17 to 13 was noted from 1850 to 1960, but a large North American survey reported only a 2-3 month decline from the early 70s to the to the 90s.

According to the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the average age a girl begins menstruating has declined in the last century, from 13.3 to 12.4 years of age.

Racial differences have also been reported. Multiple studies have found that African American girls start menstruating about three months earlier, on average, than girls of European descent.

Causes Of Early Menstruation

What could be the cause of this general trend or specific cases of early menstruation? There are many suggestions which may also contribute to any specific case of early menses though not all have been accepted by all experts.

Causes that may be contributing to the general trend include

  • Nutrition changesIncreasing childhood obesity making young girls attain the required body size earlier than expected. The fat also secret a hormone called leptin that promotes sexual maturity.
  • Exposures to pesticides with estrogenic activity.Urbanization and sexualization of the western society, exposing children to inputs which may hasten sexual maturity.

Specific Causes that may be responsible for individual cases of early menses

  • Genetics
  • Endocrine disorders
  • History of abuse

Consequences Of Early Menarche

Some studies have reported some adverse effects of premature menarche, which have not been supported by others. Still, other similar studies have not proven any real long-term effects though they concluded on some short term consequences of having menarche earlier than expected. All these issues have caused considerable concerns about the emerging female sexuality problems amongst doctors, parents, researchers and even politicians.

Think about it for yourself. You are probably reading this because you or a child of yours is having a problem with this. Imagine having menses at age 6!

Some consequences are listed below

  • Psychosocial effects.
    This has been proven by may surveys. A young girl having puberty than her peers has negative psychosocial consequences. There is an increased risk of depression, eating disorders, negative body image, social withdrawal, aggressiveness and increased menstrual distress.The most difficult challenge facing girls with premature menarche may likely be that they do not fit the acceptable image of an ideal feminine beauty, that of a tall, slim silhouette.
  • Sexual. Early puberty and menarche has been associated with an earlier onset of sexual activity.
  • Breast cancer. By reasoning, Early menstruation brings more exposure to estrogen and increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Illicit drug use and Smoking.

What To Do?

What do to with the trend or with a specific case of early menses? Of course there is nothing you can do to prevent it once it is already there!

Also many of the causes of the general trend might not be within one’s control but parents can take simple precautions like watching what their kids watch and hearing what they hear to avoid excessive premature exposure to sexual material!

An individual case of early menses requires medical evaluation to rule out treatable causes. Therefore be sure to consult your physician.

Resources For Further Reading

A journal article that fully explores the issues surrounding early menarche and female sexuality concerns

The US National Research Center For Women And Families( NRCWF) also provides useful related information.

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