UAE: Girls as young as 8 are getting their first period; doctors explain why

The early age for first period is associated with many factors such as higher socio-economic status, obesity, nutritional status and general health

by

Sahim Salim

/

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Thu 25 Apr 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 28 Apr 2024, 5:45 PM

When UAE resident S.S. found out that her eight-and-a-half-year-old daughter M.S. had got her periods, she was shocked. None of the women in her family had a history of early menstruation and she did not know anyone who had got their periods that young.

“Initially, her cycles were sporadic but then a little after she turned nine, her periods became very heavy,” she said. “At one point, she was bleeding very heavily for an entire month. She would be scared to go to sleep because every morning, her clothes and bedsheets would be stained.”


M.S. is among a growing number of young girls who are experiencing early onset of menstruation. Some doctors are seeing children as young as eight getting their periods.

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“Worldwide, the average age of puberty varies between 8 and 14 years, depending on a number of factors, including ethnicity,” said Dr Amal Abddelaziz, consultant and head of the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Thumbay University Hospital. “We commonly see girls aged 10 to 12 getting their periods, which is considered normal.”

Start of Puberty

Some experts say that the early age for first period is associated with many factors such as higher socio-economic status, obesity, nutritional status and general health.

“Today's pre-teens are maturing faster than any previous generation,” said Dr Charles Nagy, consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist at Medcare Women & Children Hospital. “The average age of menarche, or first menstruation, in the developed world has steadily decreased from 17 years a century ago to 9 years today. Although boys are also reaching puberty earlier, the rate increase is not as concerning.”

They have also advised parents to prepare their children for menstruation earlier than later. “Paediatricians advise talking about puberty around age 8, which is right before all the physical changes begin,” said Dr Nagy. “Most children can comprehend the fundamentals by the time they are 6 or 7 years old. Look for signs of readiness and a suitable moment to discuss it, like when children ask about physical changes or when they want to know where babies come from or when you're at the store purchasing tampons or pads.”

S.S. added that she had spoken to her daughter about periods from a very young age and this helped her to be mentally prepared. “I had started talking to her about the concept from a very young age and I had even demonstrated to her how to use a pad,” she said. “This helped her to be prepared when she got her period that young.”

Medical Intervention

In some cases, early onset of menstruation can require medical intervention, especially if the girl experiences complications.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

“Medical intervention is necessary for girls experiencing precocious puberty, occurring before the age of 8,” said Dr Abddelaziz. “In such cases, medication is administered to halt menstruation, allowing for normal growth. Early puberty or periods may hinder normal height attainment and pose risks for future health issues, including an increased cancer risk.”

S.S. said she sought medical intervention for her daughter after prolonged periods. “It was heartbreaking as a mother to watch my daughter return home from school every day completely spent and exhausted,” she said. “I consulted doctors, got her bloodwork done and also explored alternative medicines. Now, at the age of 11, her periods are regular, she has a normal flow and it only lasts seven days.”

According to Dr. Abddelaziz, certain factors call for a medical checkup. “Intense pain throughout the menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding, irregular periods, and problems with recurring infections needs a thorough evaluation,” she said. “That includes a physical examination, a review of the patient's medical history, and any necessary diagnostic testing.”

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