Puberty is an oft-heard word that most of us are familiar with! In lay terms, it is when a girl starts to develop breasts and then starts her period after two to three years. By definition, it is when the pituitary gland begins the production of two hormones – lutenizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. If a girl shows no signs of breast development by the age of 13, it means that her puberty is delayed.
Causes of late puberty
In most cases of late puberty, growth changes happen in the body later than usual. This means that you are a “late bloomer”, and will attain puberty later than most children. There’s no cause of worry here, since these people eventually catch up with the others! It is also influenced by genes, which is in case the mother started with her periods after 14 years of age, then it is most likely that the daughter will have a late period!
Another significant cause of late puberty is decreased body fat. Girls who are athletic or indulge in sports such as gymnastics or swimming generally have late periods. Besides, it can also be seen in girls who are anorexic and are into extreme dieting and purging, since they fear putting on weight. Lastly, there could be some health conditions, because of which the body fat is lower than usual!
There are a few cases wherein girls with delayed puberty have an issue with their ovaries. It could be either of the two cases – their ovaries have not developed properly or are damaged; this is called Primary Ovarian Insufficiency. Some girls suffer from Turner Syndrome, right from the time they are born, in which all or part of one of the two X chromosomes is missing. These girls are extremely short for their age and have distinctive features such as webbing of the neck, a high-arched palate, or even arms that bend outward when extended. This syndrome is generally diagnosed before the age of 13, but it affects the growth of ovaries in a significant manner!
Furthermore, some girls may have damaged ovaries due to the improper functioning of the immune system. They could also have a late period due to lack of pituitary hormones, or suffer from some pituitary deficiencies.
When does one need to get checked?
In most cases, delayed puberty is not a cause for concern. In case you feel a little unsure about it, make sure to visit a doctor. A medical physician is likely to tell you if your child needs to be checked for medical problems. Your doctor will enquire if there’s a family history of delayed puberty and could also suggest a physical exam and blood tests to check hormone levels. Besides, the child’s growth and her bone health will also be examined to examine if the bodily functions are in place. There are some children who also might need a sonogram to check if their uterus and ovaries are developing properly.
In rare cases, a late period or delayed puberty also occurs if the child has celiac Disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease that keeps the intestines from absorbing nutrients from food.
Your doctor could prescribe certain medicines, including estrogen pills, to help the girl attain puberty. Some girls might need a long-term hormone therapy depending on their condition!
Incorporate lifestyle changes
The body needs proper nutrients for optimum health during different stages of life, including puberty. This is a period problem that could be tackled with lifestyle changes, including incorporating a healthy diet. Studies suggest that adolescents between the ages of 9 and 13 must consume a certain amount of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B6, apart from other nutrients. For proper growth, there is an increased need for nutrients in teens and a well-balanced diet is the key to attain puberty on time. Include carbohydrates, proteins such as lean meats, fish, and beans, as well as calcium-rich good, and leafy vegetables. This will help your child maintain a healthy weight and prevent nutritional deficiencies that delay the onset of puberty.
Malnutrition and eating disorders are extremely common among teenagers, so make sure your child receives adequate amount of nutrition for her growth and development. After all, prevention is always better than cure!