Everyone grows and matures. 7-year-olds that have pubic hair may be startling for a parent and they may worry whether their child is developing as they are supposed to.
Is it normal for a 7-year-old to have pubic hair? It’s normal for girls to start developing things like pubic hair, body odor, and breasts before the age of 8. For boys, that is a little more unusual. If they are early then they should probably go in to get a checkup as it could be a sign of precocious puberty.
However, if your child is beginning to develop, they should be going to the doctor for a check-up whatever their age. It is possible that if they are developing as early as 7-years-old they could have either early puberty or precocious puberty.
Girls and Boys Puberty Development
We all know that boys and girls develop at varying rates. Generally girls develop faster and sooner than boys do. There is actually a pattern that each gender follows in their development, pubic hair being one of the first signs of beginning puberty.
Girls start puberty between the ages of 8-13. The beginnings of puberty are initiated by the pituitary gland which produces and send hormones coursing through their body for the first time.
These hormones cause their bodies to change and develop, causing them to look more like women than little girls. The first thing they will notice is pubic hair, body odor, and the beginning development of their breasts. (These are usually called breast buds because it’s just the beginning.)
After that, she will start developing armpit hair and once she gets pubic hair it’ll be 1-2 years before she starts her menstrual cycle. This is caused by the presence of estrogen which wasn’t present before.
Note that not only does a girl’s body change, but the fact that she has hormones she’s never dealt with before(hormones which are produced in her brain) her mind will change. Her brain is starting to develop rather quickly at this point.
Boys start developing at around age 9-14. The pituitary gland also sends hormones, but the hormone that is sent is different than for girls. Testosterone begins to be released and the male organs begin to develop.
Along with the beginnings of male organ development, a boys will start to grow pubic hair and body odor. They can also start having wet dreams which are dreams of sexual arousal that cause them to ejaculate in their sleep.
Note: This is perfectly normal even though it might be uncomfortable and embarrassing for your growing boy.
They also develop armpit hair, have a growth spurt, and their penis and testicles will grow. All are part of puberty and are completely normal.
They will also have acne, their voice will change or “crack” and get deeper, and they start to sweat more. This all happens between the ages of 9-14 and is a gradual process. The smallest changes come first and gradually get faster and more extreme the deeper into puberty the boy goes.
What is Precocious Puberty and What Causes It?
Precocious or early puberty is when your child starts developing before they reach the normal developmental age. Precocious puberty can be a cause for concern.
If your young child has signs of puberty, it might be a wise idea to have a check-up to rule out this condition. However, over the past few decades, onset of puberty has gotten earlier than in the past.
“Precocious puberty” is used to refer to a pathologic condition, while “early puberty” has become lots more common. There are 2 different types of precocious puberty; Central precocious puberty and peripheral precocious puberty.
Helpful Fact: Central refers to the Central Nervous System (CNS), or the brain. Peripheral refers to the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS), or others areas in the body that aren’t the spinal cord and the brain.
Central Precocious Puberty
This is caused by the premature secretion of gonadotropins from the brain. The release can be caused by:
- CNS Abnormalities
- Family Genetic History
- A tumor on the pituitary gland
While these are all causes, the list is still uncertain. Sometimes the reason for precocious puberty is unclear. There is still a lot of research being done to discover just exactly what causes it.
Peripheral Precocious Puberty
Peripheral Precocious Puberty is triggered by the early release of androgen and estrogen production from other parts of the body. This early release is caused possibly by:
- rare genetic syndromes
- tumors of the ovary or testis
- other tumors that secrete human chorionic gonadotropin
- disorders of the adrenal gland
- severe hypothyroidism
It is becoming more and more common for boys and girls to have early puberty these days. Why that is is still uncertain, but it is definitely something to be concerned about if your daughter is 7 or 8 and she starts her period.
What Can Happen if Precocious Puberty is Allowed to Continue Without Treatment?
When precocious puberty shows itself in young children it’s not always a sign that there is something horribly wrong with them. However, there are treatment options available.
You can choose to treat your child or not, but there’s been no significant difference shown (physically, that is) between children that are treated and those that have not been treated.
If you choose not to treat your child there are emotional and social side effects. Your child will probably struggle socially and with their self-esteem. Some may feel uncomfortable, while I imagine with boys they may feel like they are on top of the world because they are finally becoming men.
However they feel, it is a reflection of the early onset of puberty. It is a lot more common for girls to have precocious puberty than boys. And, it is girls who are the ones that will struggle with their self-esteem because they are developing quicker than their peers.
They may feel embarrassed or singled out, and they will need a lot of support if they are going to go without treatment. And, it may be wise to give them that treatment for their own emotional well-being.
Not treating your child is an option, but I’d argue that it’s not necessary to allow your child to go through unnecessary suffering if they don’t have to. It’s better to get them the treatment than to not.
They have to take medication at least once a month, but that is nothing compared to the emotional onslaught that likely would have occurred without treatment.
Is Treatment Necessary?
Treatment is not necessary, but it is advised so that your child will feel comfortable in their own skin. It really depends on what you think as a parent and what your doctor thinks.
Every child has different needs, so whether they should do the treatment or not is up to whoever is involved. If the treatment is applied, it will only be applied until your child reaches the appropriate age of puberty.
Once they reach that age the treatment will stop and they will continue as normal. They will probably develop at a pretty quick rate, but that’s the only thing that will be different.
How Is it Treated?
Depending on what type of precocious puberty your child has, the treatment will vary. If it’s Central precocious puberty an injection will probably be the treatment. If it’s Peripheral precocious puberty could be anything from hormone treatments to the removal of tumors.
Note: It is not likely that the treatment will affect their ability to have children in the future (or anything like that).
It is a hormone-stopping hormone that is put into the body that will stop the production of Gonadotropin. (CNS Precocious Puberty) It is usually injected monthly.
The hormone may vary, but a common one that is used is a synthetic luteinizing-hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH). It is injected under the skin and blocks production for a period of time.
Peripheral puberty is a little different and there’s not much that has been stated about how to treat it. It’s a little harder. Because CNS precocious puberty is in the brain and that space is pretty specific, it’s easier to track down.
Whereas, precocious puberty is in the outer regions beyond the spine and focused more in the organs. The hormones in your body are all over the place and can come from several different areas. That’s what makes PNS precocious puberty a different matter.
“Treatment for peripheral precocious puberty depends on what’s causing excess estrogen or androgen production. Options include tumor removal, blocking the actions of estrogen or androgen on the body, or treatment of hypothyroidism with replacement thyroid hormone.”childrenhospital.org
Precocious Puberty: Supporting My Child
Your child will likely be very uncomfortable and uncertain with their early puberty. The first thing you need to tell them is that they are going to be just fine. There is no reason to freak out or think that their life is over.
Even though we mentioned earlier about the isolation your child will feel as they reach puberty before their peers, there is another thing to consider. Early puberty comes with early everything- mood swings, menstrual cycle, wet dreams, body odor, hormonal imbalance etc.
For a teenager, these are all pretty normal and their body and mind are prepared to handle it. (however sloppily they choose do to so- some are more graceful than others.)
A 7-year-old child is not naturally ready for this. Their brain has not yet developed the necessary coping mechanisms as a teenager. They will need a lot more support than a teenager. Through the puberty stages, they will display everything that a teenager would display during puberty- only sooner.
To help them cope, you first need to understand that this is not normal and is difficult for them. It may be tempting to begin treating them as though they are a teenager because they are developing so quickly.
Avoid treating them like a teenager! They aren’t one and won’t be one for a little while. Try and remember that fact as you seek to support them and help them cope with precocious puberty.
Even though their body is developing sooner, their brain is still young. They won’t likely be able to approach puberty as a teenager would.
You can help them by being understanding of this very fact. Showing them that you care and are not going to make them grow up too fast will allow them to relax a bit and realize that even though it’s hard, it’s doable.
Explaining what is going on to them will also help them feel like there isn’t something horribly wrong. If you choose to be shy and not too forthcoming with the details on what’s going on with their body, it will probably make them feel uneasy and won’t help them.
You can also counsel with your doctor about what to do for your child with precocious puberty. Doctor’s are more than happy to help you with your child’s health- it’s what they do all day. Talk to them about what to do and do some frequent checkups to make sure that your child is still doing alright.
At what age does a girl start her period? The earliest a girl can start her period is 8 years old, but most girls start around 11-12 years old. If you start a little later that’s okay too. It can start any time near the middle of puberty.
At what age do boys begin to have wet dreams? There is not a set age for when boys begin to have wet dreams. Wet dreams are normal to have and they can happen any time during puberty. It’s also normal if they don’t have them.
Does pubic hair cause body odor? It isn’t necessarily pubic hair which causes body odor, but the fact that bodily fluids get caught in pubic hair which causes odors.
The information in this article was reviewed by a licensed pediatrician.