Onset of Menses - average age?

OK, so I have read a few reliable reports about menses beginning earlier in some girls, and NIH investigating. But a Mom (intelligent, laid back, vaccinates her kids on schedule . . .) says that her Pediatrician told her the average age of onset is now 7.5 to 9 years old.

:eek::confused: What?!? :confused::eek:

Talk me down guys. Does anyone have any reliable statistics, or know where I can find some? Because if I’m going to have to face this in the next three years I’ll need to start preparing right the frack now.

I don’t even know how this is possible. I mean for that to be the average age, would mean that some girls must be starting earlier. Again, I’ve read about “pockets” of girls who were starting in the 7-9 range, but this was considered odd enough to warrant an environmental investigation.

Say it ain’t so. And gimme a cite, please?

Have you tried googling “onset of menses”?


IANAD, but 7 years seems much too soon, at least for an average. That’s first grade, fer chrissakes. I don’t seem many first graders walking around with boobs.

There are references in the Wiki article.

That’s the current age for breast development to begin, which has moved up significantly in the last several decades. Onset of periods (menarche) not so much so. Your cite.

This is one of those topics where your research numbers are going to be a little bit behind what doctors are actually seeing. That is, doctors see these girls and collect data, which is later interpreted by researchers, so they’re always a little behind the curveball.

As of 2003, the average age of menarche in the US was somewhere between 12 and 13, depending on what study you’re looking at and what population you’re looking at. This was only 3 months younger than reported in 1973. Fewer than 10% of girls in 2003 got their period before age 11. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2008/09/19/changing-biology-age-at-first-menstruation/ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12509562

Now, and this came as a total shock to me, 2003 was almost 10 years ago! In those 10 years, we’ve seen a lot more fat kids, and girls with more body fat tend to get their periods sooner. We’ve also seen a rise in the percentage of non-white girls as a total of our population of girls, and they tend to get their first periods a little sooner than other girls. So it’s entirely possible that the average age has dropped a little more since 2003. But if it’s dropped by five years, I’d be exceedingly surprised. That’s how much menarche dropped between starving peasants in feudal Europe (17 years) and well-nourished 21st century. That’s an incredible lot. That falls into the “extraordinary claims” category - I’d ask that doctor what studies he’s basing his statement on. His claim, he’s got to support it.

That being said…yes, you do have to talk to her sooner than you think, if you were waiting until she’s 12 or starts bleeding to start The Talk. “The Talk” is rather passe, anyhow, and it’s generally recommended that you have many small Talks, beginning in early childhood, keeping an open dialogue of age-appropriate information. Most parents who plan one The Talk end up doing it far too late, after their kids have all sorts of nonsense in their heads (and sometimes babies in their bodies!) from their classmates. It’s actually much easier on you both to have many small talks than one long embarrassing lecture. If you need some tips on how to broach the topic(s), I quite like this guide: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/questions_sex.html By 6, most kids are ready for sperm-and-egg-make-a-baby level of information, as well as, “boys and girls have different body parts and we don’t let anyone touch anything covered by a bathing suit unless it’s a doctor” and “we don’t have to keep bad touches a secret; that secret is okay to tell”.

One of my favorite books to introduce hard topics is called It’s Not the Stork! It covers not only sexual stuff, but bullying/how to be a good friend, the range of what families look like, etc. It’s a fantastic book to read with your kid and start those difficult conversations.

From what I’m seeing, it seems that while it’s not an average, 7-15 is the new “normal” range. i.e. If a child starts at 7 it doesn’t prompt an investigation into the cause.

But I don’t have access to the actual studies, only the blogified summaries - which I find extremely unsatisfying. I’d like to see some real data, or at least primary information.


Menarche at age 7 is without question very abnormal. It is early even for breast development. Most of us peds would still at least make sure that the 7 year old with breast development is not also suddenly shooting up the growth chart (which would further raise the issue of true precocious puberty) and/or does not also have pubic hair onset. If so we’d likely still proceed further. Menarche then? Very abnormal.

If that review from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Adolescence, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Committee on Adolescent Health Care and its long list of references does not satisfy your desire for “real data” I don’t know what will.

Maybe I’m on ignore? It’s possible. But then why no acknowledgement of WhyNot’s articles, including a comprehensive cite of primary data: “Age at menarche and racial comparisons in US girls”? Both of us on ignore? Doubt it.

Another link that may help is webmd:

WhyNot, well I appreciate your post! I notice that “It’s Not the Stork!” is done by the same team that did “It’s Perfectly Normal” which I heartily recommend for later middle school on - parents should definitely read it on their own first to make sure they are comfortable with it.

I think that somewhere from the doc saying something to being asked here there was a confusion regarding a mention of the drop in the onset of puberty, as marked by thelarche (onset of breast development) and onset of menses (menarche). My WAG is that the long scale drop in age of menarche was a return to species norms as nutritional status improved (the same happened with heights) whereas the earlier thelarche is function of both created chemicals functioning as “endocrine disruptors” and obesity. Anecdotally we are also seeing a greater percent of males with more significant degrees of male breast development with puberty (male gynecomastia, a normal occurrence in general that usually goes away in 1 to 3 years, but again, seeing it more commonly and to a greater degree)

This statement might cause some raised eyebrows so I figured I’d preemptively back it up. Not available free online but the article I am quoting is Science 4 May 2012: Vol. 336 no. 6081 pp. 538-539 DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6081.538-b :

I know that it is a huge digression but again it supports the concept. Height came back to Paleolithic norms in the last hundred years and leveled off at that point in the last decades. Along that same time menarche dropped to a median of about 12.5 and leveled off at in the same time course. Thelarche’s change has followed a different course.

You know that “average” covers things like the 8-year-old and also things like the 16-year-old, right?

If I had a daughter, I think I would have started preparing her early enough to cover all of it, just so she wouldn’t be freaked out if she happened to be in the early part of the range. But then, the topic will come up much earlier if there is a functioning female (i.e., right age, no hysterectomy, no period-suppressing drugs) as there will be supplies, and kids will find them.

Okay, are you talked down yet? Has she seriously never found your box of tampons and poured them into the toilet to see if they’ll expand? Or seen TV ads for feminine products? Or heard you bitching about one thing or another? Because I had sons, and by the time they were 5 or 6 they knew that certain things went on with moms and other women, and hands off the stuff. I was just as specific as I had to be (“No, those are not candles”) but would have been more specific with a daughter, I’m sure.

So, as someone on the “starving peasant” end of things (thanks, WhyNot), are there any health benefits or deficits due to starting menses statistically late in life?

My mother, aunt, and grandmother all started very late also, so I’m betting that if I have a girl eventually, there’s a chance she’ll be a late bloomer also.

Have to say that I prefer that to starting at 7. Christ, that would be horrid to deal with as a little kid.

Sorry about that! When I saw “Your Cite” I thought you were re-linking the above one. That’s exactly what we needed.

Thanks all of you! I’ve forwarded the info to my friend as well. I promise you she’ll make sure the Dr. sees the info. LOL!

One data point which popped up in my household this week is that it happens at 12.5 years old. Dammit.

Several potentially.

  1. Possibly less risk of breast cancer.

  2. Longer to grow. The growth spurt hits from a higher starting point.

  3. Avoidance of attention as a sexual being earlier than emotionally prepared for. Of course offset by the not being as developed as her friends envy. Not being too far off from the median is always easiest, given how mean some kids are, but I think kids are meaner to the early bloomer than to the girl who is late. And the attention of older boys can cause real problems …

No worries.

Thanks! I’ll check that one out myself.

Well, would you like the good news or the bad news? The good news is that you’re looking at a lower risk of breast cancerfor every year menarche is delayed.

The bad news is thatyou’re more at risk for bone fractures*, particularly as a little old lady. So lots of calcium (dairy, but also dark leafy greens, collards, blackstrap molasses, beans and almonds) and weight bearing exercise for you, to keep those bones nice and strong. Might be a good idea to ask your doctor about magnesium and Vitamin D, as well - she can run some tests and see if you’ve got any deficiencies that might affect your bone health down the line.

*Sorry, I can’t find ANY citations that aren’t to ridiculously abstruse studies inaccessible to the layperson. But yeah, it’s one of the risk factors they taught us in school.

I did not know that association with decreased peak bone mass. Interesting.

This one has me confused. Do you mean that it takes longer to reach full growth as an adult, or that the size of “full growth” as an adult is increased, or something else entirely?

I think I can handle that. I eat about a half-cup of almonds every day anyway, so that works out, I loooooove dairy, and my husband seems to think that I look better with shoulder muscles, so I do a lot of weightlifting. :smiley:

Interesting about the decrease in bone mass leading to fractures. Will that also make me ‘shrink’ as I get older?

It’s more of a delay, but from the perspective of a short child, or a parent concerned about their child’s being vertically challenged, it is important to be aware that the longer it takes for puberty to hit the taller they end up being, because they will be growing longer.

The pattern is more easily recognized comparing boy early and late bloomers.

We all knew the kid who was shaving in eight grade, the big tough guy kid. He didn’t grow any after that. By the end of High School he was the short guy who still acted tough but was sort of comedic thinking he was all that.

We also all know the boy who was very short and prepubertal going into High School as the other boys were all in the midst of the growth spurt and he was growing but no where near as quickly. Then they all pretty much stopped growing just as he hit his growth spurt, which he continued maybe into Freshman year of college, going from the shorter kid to one of the taller young adults.

For girls the growth spurt is early enough in puberty, and height less of a major issue most of the time, that the height is not noticed so much as the lack of breast development and or menarche.

“Onset of Menses” sounds like a Henry Miller novel.