What Is Premature Menstruation?

Mary McMahon

Premature menstruation is the onset of menstrual periods at an age earlier than normal. The average age at menarche, the first menstrual cycle, varies between cultures and time periods; in the early 2000s, for instance, it was around 11.5 for girls worldwide, but 100 years earlier, it was closer to 17. A doctor can determine if a patient has premature menstruation on the basis of information about patients with a similar medical history and profile.

Girls experiencing precocious puberty will typically begin menstruation early.
Girls experiencing precocious puberty will typically begin menstruation early.

Over the course of puberty in girls, hormones trigger the development of breast buds and the slow maturation of breast tissue. Two to three years after the breast buds appear, girls usually experience menarche. Breast buds may appear as early as age eight, with menstruation following by age 10 to 11. Menstruating before age 10 may be premature, the result of precocious puberty, where girls develop sex hormones too quickly.

Most girls start to menstruate between the age of 10 and 15 years old.
Most girls start to menstruate between the age of 10 and 15 years old.

For patients, this can cause some immediate distress and social discomfort. Young girls may not be prepared for menstruation and in some cases have not received adequate information about what to expect because parents and care providers assume they do not need this information yet. They can also become targets for attention among their peers, who may take note of the differences associated with puberty.

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Premature menstruation may catch young girls unaware and unprepared.
Premature menstruation may catch young girls unaware and unprepared.

In the long term, premature menstruation can increase the risk of developing depression later in life, and it is also associated with cardiovascular disease. Patients who develop early periods may need to be aware of these higher risks, especially if they have other risk factors. A patient with a family history of depression, for instance, might need careful monitoring for the early signs of depressive behaviors.

The normal female menstrual cycle usually lasts 28 days.
The normal female menstrual cycle usually lasts 28 days.

A patient with premature menstruation might consider options like hormonal birth control to manage the timing and intensity of periods if they become a problem. These patients may also need some sexual education and other interventions to protect them from risks like pregnancy that might not otherwise be a concern for girls at the same age. Some also benefit from counseling and support to help them adjust to their maturing bodies and to develop coping strategies for teasing and other attention from their peers.

The uterine lining is shed during menstruation.
The uterine lining is shed during menstruation.

In cases of precocious puberty where a doctor can predict that a patient will experience premature menstruation, treatments are available to delay the onset of puberty. The patient can take medications to suppress the sex hormones until she reaches a more appropriate age, at which point she can be allowed to develop naturally. A doctor may discuss this option with patients and their parents if early onset puberty is identified.

Menstruating before age 10 may be considered premature menstruation.
Menstruating before age 10 may be considered premature menstruation.
Obesity may affect the age at which a girl begins menstruation.
Obesity may affect the age at which a girl begins menstruation.

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Discussion Comments

burcinc

I can't believe that hundreds of years ago, girls got their menses at age 17. Does this mean that in the next one hundred years, the age for first menstruation is going to be even less than it is now?!

donasmrs

@ddljohn-- I know how you feel because my daughter got her period when she was nine, which is too young according to me because I got mine when I was fourteen.

But don't worry, because according to my daughter's doctor, menarche can happen anytime between the age of eight and fourteen. It's been happening sooner and sooner for most girls because we feed our kids very nutritious food. Some milk and meat products also have hormones in them and this contributes to it as well.

ddljohn

My brother's daughter got her menstruation last week and she's only eight years old. My brother is divorced and cares for his daughter alone. Her mom lives abroad.

As soon as I heard, I rushed to see her with some sanitary napkins and a book about puberty. She was very stressed out and so was my brother. I'm also shocked about her early menstruation. I was thirteen when I got mine, and I was planning on talking to her about menstruation in a few years. This caught all of us by surprise.

My brother made an appointment with her doctor this week, to ask him how normal this is and what should be done.

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