Too much growth hormones in the chickens?
February 27, 2013 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Our 9 year old daughter is maturing alarmingly fast physically. Should we be concerned? And is there any way it has anything to do with our habit of eating roast chickens from the supermarket? Could it have anything to do with growth hormones in the chickens?
posted by musofire to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Share your concerns with your daughter's pediatrician. They will be able to provide an informed opinion about your daughter's development. Children do start maturing at different ages and different rates. Although 9 is on the younger end of the spectrum for girls, anecdotally it doesn't seem abnormal. But do ask the doctor to reassure yourself.

Finally, industrial poultry farming may or may not have something to do with public health, but not in the sense that your daughter will continue developing faster or slower based on how much chicken she's eating.
posted by Nomyte at 8:47 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

No, you shouldn't be worried. If you're gonna be worried, then please don't do it around her. There's nothing wrong with her changing body, and you don't want her to feel anxious or ashamed over her transitioning to a different stage of life.

The main bit of advice I would give you is to get her properly fitted for a bra. If you'd like, I manage a moderated bra community on LJ, and I can ask there if you have any specific questions about fitting or whatever. Or you could join and ask yourself -- just message me on LJ and I'll add you to the comm. It's a really great bunch of folks, and I know there are some parents who are members who would be able to talk to you about having a daughter who's developing earlier than expected, and could talk more about the unique fitting needs of pre-teens.

(The chicken is probably not a major issue.)

(Does this count as a self link? It's not my site or anything, I just moderate the community.)
posted by spunweb at 8:59 PM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

I was 9 almost 30 years ago and also matured to the point that I needed a bra before my 10th birthday. Not sure if that's what you mean, but in case it is - it was mortifying. NO ONE else wore one, and EVERYONE made a big deal about it. The one time I forgot to wear it I felt naked and miserable all day.

The only thing that made me feel better was my mom taking it all in stride - had she also made a big deal about it, I'm not sure what I would have done.

Anyway - just my experience. But thought it might help you feel better.
posted by dotgirl at 9:19 PM on February 27, 2013 [14 favorites]

At my daughter's check-up right before she turned 9 our GP told me to be on the look-out for signs of puberty as it's not uncommon for puberty to start that young now. She did also say, however, that generally speaking, girls who go through earlier puberty tend to weigh at least 100 lbs. Being African American also increases the likelihood.
posted by looli at 9:22 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can you be more specific about what "alarmingly fast" is? Because my suspicion is that what you're seeing is actually alarmingly typical. Apparently the average age for the onset of puberty has dropped dramatically in recent years--this New York Times article discusses it more.

My daughter recently turned ten, and has a substantial amount of armpit hair, some pubic hair, and fills an A-cup bra. (When she wears it, that is, which is not often.) She also shot up--between second and third grade (the summer she was nine), she went from "tall, but not that tall"--maybe 4'6", not the tallest in her class--to 5'1", and several inches taller than anyone else. The breasts and pubic hair became very apparent then, as well. My daughter's taller than any other kids I know who're that age, but definitely not more developed. I know quite a few people with girls in the nine-to-eleven demographic (me included) who now buy all their child's clothing in from the junior's and women's department. It seems to be an interesting range--just in my limited social circle, I know nine year olds who have B-cup breasts, and twelve year olds who don't need bras at all, no rhyme or reason for it. (Most of the kids I know are relatively fit, so weight-related sizes aren't really entering into it--when the kids have gone from children's to women's, it's been because of needs for hip room and shirts cut to accommodate breasts, etc.)

I have relatives who are medical professionals, doctors and nurses both, and have spoken to my daughter's pediatrician about this, as well. They've all basically said that, well, puberty hits younger these days. There doesn't seem to be anything to do for it other than to make things as easy as you can for her. It seems to be especially hard for these early-maturing kids--they have all the emotional ups and downs of someone fully in the throes of puberty, but they don't have the corresponding maturity that you would've seen from pubescent girls of even twenty or thirty years ago.
posted by MeghanC at 9:25 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, and there are a couple girls in my daughter's Grade 4 class who are clearly pubescent. Head and shoulders taller than the other kids and very teenager-y looking. One girl I know repeated a grade, so she she could be close to 11, but the other girl just turned 10 and she's mature enough looking that I expect the development has been going on for some time.
posted by looli at 9:25 PM on February 27, 2013

It is completely normal for your daughter to be developing that early. In fact, most girls don't start their periods until two years after they start developing breasts; at this rate (though I don't know what "alarmingly fast" means) your daughter won't get her period until around 11, which is perfectly in line with normal. On a side note, I started developing breasts when I was eight, and got my period when I was ten-and-a-half, and I weighed exactly 100 pounds.

But this is really important. Everyone I know who developed that early developed an eating disorder in middle school/early high school, including myself. Part of the reason for this was a compete rejection of my body. Please, girls all go through puberty at different ages, and nine is not unusual, but if you make her think something is wrong, she will react as if something is wrong.

Finally, I've just got to get this out there: the worst part about going through puberty, for me, was feeling different from my friends. Everyone stressed that I was a woman now, but no one stressed that I could still be a kid. All the bras (I am rather well-endowed) were lacy, all my pads were light pink, and I felt like a mom, not a kid. Things have come a long way in the last decade, and I am so excited for all the choices girls have now. I am 21 years old and whenever I need pads, I make a point to buy Kotex tween pads just because I am so happy they exist. You won't be able to stop your daughter's puberty, but you can help her accept it and stay a kid as long as possible.
posted by obviousresistance at 10:06 PM on February 27, 2013 [17 favorites]

You may want to try camisole-bras at that age so they look and feel like an undershirt, not a bra and are also less visible and susceptible to the bra-snapping and teasing an early developer can get.

We had early puberty with one kid due to specific malnourishment/heavy protein issues, but it is rare, and it is much more likely to be race and health/weight. Healthy larger kids go into puberty earlier. Definitely talk to your doctor and ask about diet, but don't be surprised if they say she's within the normal range.

And she's a kid still. You may want to talk to her about how to handle unwanted attention. There are creeps - not necessarily obvious! - who will leer at or catcall or flirt with a young teenager. A flat cold glare then ignoring them and immediately reporting to a safe adult any harassment is one way. Just - I was surprised by the quantity and ordinary type of men who felt they could openly leer at my daughter in her school uniform because of early puberty. It can be super confusing for a young girl who feels like and is mostly treated as a young girl, not a teenager, at home and school to come up against sexualised public harassment based on breasts. I wish I had taught my daughters to be more assertive about this in hindsight.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:21 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

THough I agree with everyone above about supporting your daughter practically and emotionally in a strange time, I also think you should talk with a pediatrician. My daughter's best friend at that time started entering puberty, and was given some sort of medication to slow down the process. THis is not US.
posted by mumimor at 10:51 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Can't agree more with everyone stressing the importance of talking to your daughter about the types of attention she will start to receive. The girls I knew who developed earlier went through some serious crap that I do not envy - boys randomly running up and grabbing their breasts, endless bra snapping, every boy in school wanting to be their 'boyfriend' (right up until they felt the poor girl up and told the entire school about it), the leering of fully grown adult men, being labeled a slut by their classmates just for LOOKING like a woman, relentless teasing - you name it. Regardless of their bodies, these were just little girls. That crap would be hard as an adult - absolutely no one is equipped to handle it as a tween or teen. Please do support her. The more you can help her brace up and manage this, the better.
posted by involution at 11:21 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I got my period the summer after fifth grade... I did not develop an eating disorder, so it may be common (?) but not inevitable. Mostly I felt self conscious about my height... I hit 5'7" by seventh grade. I'm thirty now, and everything turned out fine! I agree... Don't fuss too much, and let her have fun buying cute cartoon sports bras or whatever works for her. I also highly recommend keeping an accessible stash of pads, tampons, etc for her to use as needed, no questions asked. If she has a friend or slightly older cousin who can take her shopping, that could help too if its the right dynamic. You can also buy cute flannel pads, which are infinitely more comfortable than disposable, and cuter. Rinse in cold water and dish soap and row them in the wash. I wear a second pair of boy short undies to make sure they hug my body.

I'm super big on organics... But it's probably not the meat. Girls get their periods at 100 lbs, and as our access to nutrition and calories improves, we hit that mark sooner and sooner. This is especially apparent in countries that have modernised extremely rapidly (Japan). Height increases, earlier development etc are noticeable from one generation to the next. Somewhere I read that in the 1900's in Scandinavia the average age of first menstration was seventeen!
posted by jrobin276 at 11:22 PM on February 27, 2013

I knew a gril in grade school who started puberty at age 5. She was given some kind of medicine to delay it - and managed to keep taking the medicine until she was 17! We were all jealous.
posted by Cranberry at 12:10 AM on February 28, 2013

To assuage some of your fears, giving chickens hormones is illegal in the US and Canada. So it's not the chicken.
posted by WasabiFlux at 12:13 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

A data point for you: A plump kid, I started maturing at around that age, if by maturing you mean filling out, developing curves etc. Growing up in a developing country, I did not eat chicken with hormones in them.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:10 AM on February 28, 2013

Two girls in my final year primary class - aged 10/11 - started their periods then. One was a Muslim so would be unlikely to have eaten standard supermarket chicken - I think it's just a consequence of better nutrition lowering the average age of menarche, breast development etc.

Please get her fitted properly for a bra as soon as she needs it, though. I didn't get fitted until I was 18, purely because my mum never had (it's not uncommon) and thought I just needed to try them on until one looked OK as though I was buying a top - it turned out I was three cup sizes out and probably had been for a long time. Properly fitted bras will feel better and some styles can make her breasts look less prominent if that's what makes her feel more comfortable just now.
posted by mippy at 3:15 AM on February 28, 2013

9 is the age that my daughter changed from looking like a kid to shifting towards looking like a teenager. It didn't seem early to me based on my own experience and how her classmates look. FWIW, she's a short, slight kid.

I got her this book: Care and Keeping of You, which has been helpful to her. We also talk about what is happening to her body, but I think it is good to have a reference you can refer to without asking your parents all the time. This book has a friendly and supportive take on body changes and grooming, although it is pretty gender-normative (e.g., it has information on shaving legs and armpits, but does acknowledge that not every girl may want to do this). It does not have any information on sex.

Checking in with your doctor is a good idea, but I would think long and hard about giving any meds to slow down or delay puberty. It is hard to know from your question whether "alarmingly fast" means menstruating and wearing a C-cup bra or that she's starting to develop breasts and some body hair. If it is the latter, she's pretty much right on time, and she doesn't need medical intervention - just good information and support. Giving medicine to stop puberty sends a pretty clear message that puberty is "bad" and a "problem" - not the best messages to send to a girl on the cusp of it.
posted by jeoc at 4:45 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

I needed a bra at 10.

I had several friends who had their first periods at 9 and 10.

She may be on the early side of development, but it's within the normal range still. Just remember no matter how she looks, she's still only nine. Her body might be maturing faster than the rest of her.
posted by zizzle at 4:54 AM on February 28, 2013

IANAD, but I was an early developer, and I developed "alarmingly fast". At eight I was an A-cup. That summer I'd had my period, and by the time I turned nine I was a B-cup. Alarmingly fast, indeed. And we didn't eat processed foods or chicken, it just happened.

Your daughter is on the right track for her body. It is what it is; you can't change it, just go with it. Talk to her pediatrician about your concerns. But as someone who went through what she may now be going through at a young age, talk to HER. I can't stress this enough. My parents didn't have a good grasp on what was going on and thought I was mentally too young at that point to discuss what was going on. It was horrible. Talk to her, don't make her feel weird or not normal - she's going to feel that way plenty all by herself. I had no idea what was happening to my body and I was terrified and ashamed as I went through the motions. I looked different than everyone else, I was freakin' bleeding - I thought I was dying. On top of that I had to navigate how other people were reacting to my body. Men looked at me differently, treated me differently, my classmates made fun of me. I was called a slut simply for having breasts. I began to hate my body, and my issues with eating disorders began at this time in order to try to stop what was happening to me. It would have been a lot easier if someone had just talked to me and told me it was a normal thing everyone goes through, and that I wasn't a freak, I just happened to have hit that stage earlier than some other girls.

If you worry, share those worries with your pediatrician. But don't share your worries with her. Share your advice and your knowledge. Make sure she knows she is beautiful, and that you are there to guide her in this. Make sure she knows it's normal, and it happens to everyone at some point. Tell her how to handle the unwanted attention (at the very least warn her that it's coming), talk to her about grooming, tell her she shouldn't feel ashamed or dirty, and that it isn't a problem. Support her, tell her what to anticipate, get her fitted for her first bra, listen to her, be there for her.
posted by sephira at 5:53 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I started menstruating at 10. That was in 1977 when rotisserie chooks from the supermarket were not common. My breasts started developing earlier. Perfectly normal. Don't be worried.
posted by h00py at 5:55 AM on February 28, 2013

Canada and the United States outlawed all hormone usage in poultry before your daughter was born.

People mature at all kinds of different rates. If your pediatrician doesn't have an adolescent practice, now might be a good time to consider a change in her doctor.

It is up to you as a parent when you provide her with information about human development, but good non-parental sources like books (particularly Our Bodies, Ourselves) are often less embarrassing for the child and are also are careful not to relay myths.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:17 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was wearing an underwire bra at 10. I skipped the whole training bra stage, because I swear that I went to bed one night looking like an average kid and I woke up the next day with breasts. My mother handled this whole thing well, she made sure I had bras that fit me and answered questions if I had them but otherwise made it a non-issue. I think she hoped that they were going to end up being an average size, but my chest kept growing all through junior high and high school and as an adult I have a very large bust. The onset of my puberty had nothing to do with poultry, as I was then (and still am, to some degree) very anti-chicken. I would talk to the pediatrician just to give you a comfort level, but I don't think it's anything to worry about.
posted by crankylex at 6:23 AM on February 28, 2013

Whether it's growth hormones in your chickens or endocrine disruptors in your household cleaning supplies or just something your daughter was going to do anyway doesn't matter any more: what matters now is how little fuss you make about it. Because what your daughter needs from you now is not OMG OMG OMG but help and guidance with body acceptance.

Any damage she takes from low-level background chemicals will likely pale into insignificance next to the psychological effects of the usual competitive pressures that girls put on each other being jacked up to punishing proportions by ruthless industrial marketing. If she comes out the other side of puberty feeling comfortable in her own skin, you'll know you've done well.

Our Bodies, Ourselves would indeed be a good thing for her to find tucked away in a bookshelf you've asked her to search for something else.
posted by flabdablet at 7:48 AM on February 28, 2013

I had a D cup chest at age 10, 20ish years ago. It just happens that way sometimes, as I'm sure your kid's pediatrician will confirm. No need to be alarmed! You being alarmed will just convince her she's a freak of nature. (PS she almost assuredly already feels this way, so keep an eye out...)
posted by like_a_friend at 8:50 AM on February 28, 2013

My empathies. My 9 year old requested a bra last spring, as she was feeling very tender and clothes were rubbing. And, deodorant - she noticed after rock climbing that she had definite body odour. Ay yi. At her latest check up, our doctor confirmed the suspicions.

I wanted to lay blame on food or environment, because I wasn't ready for it, really - but learned that girls just mature earlier, and it's the "new normal." I didn't start until Grade 5, and my mom played ostrich.

Your concern, if any, should be that she is healthy - so yes, check with your doctor. But also, that she's able to handle the changes with a healthy attitude.

My daughter is looking forward to maturing, so my concerns are more about her enjoying whatever childhood that's lingering. Some of her interest in her own development, though, came from discussions with her (now) 10 year old friend, who'd started herself last year. Other friends, both older and younger, were also experiencing changes and they were as curious about each other as they were about themselves and this was spurred by changing in the locker room for swimming at summer camp. Somehow, between then and now, every girl in her friendship circle has knowledge of what stage every other girl is in. There are girls in her Grade 3/4 class that still look like little girls, and there are some like mine, who is only a head shorter than me and who was suspected of being over 12 and asked to pay an adult price at the movies on Saturday until I showed her health card. Learning to deal with peers is a huge part of puberty.

I'll second the book "The Care and Keeping of You" and second jeoc's answer in whole. It's a book my kid refers to often, and she likes the quiz and anecdotal formats in the American Girl series of books like this. It also doesn't get into sexual relations yet, which is fine with me. We also have the "What's Happening to My Body?" book for girls in the wings, as it goes into " the body's changing size and shape; the growth spurt; breast development; the reproductive organs; the menstrual cycle; body hair; diet and exercise; romantic and sexual feelings; and puberty in the opposite sex. It also includes information on anorexia and bulimia, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and birth control." She's not "there" yet, but the book is on the shelf for when she's ready to go and find it.

And I love Sephira's answer, and wish my own mother had been as supportive.

And, just in case you need the suggestions, we found (almost surprisingly) that JCPenney had really fun and cute and very affordable bras. She has a variety, because on different days she has different needs. We got her a deodorant that is as natural as possible.

But as a parent, I'll also say that our school's Health teacher is great, and I trust the person and the information they'll be presenting and it's a relief. My only complaint is that Fourth Grade is too late for some to be getting the facts. My friends at another school were not so secure with what the school was doing, and the school council arranged for a public health nurse to come in and present the unit in a fun, friendly, current and age-appropriate format. Kids share so much information, and not every kid gets it from good sources. It's nice to reinforce the basics wherever you can, and to have good help in doing it.
posted by peagood at 8:50 AM on February 28, 2013

Oh, and another thing: IDK where you are, but if she gets busty, but is still small around, Figleaves, Bravissimo, and My Intimacy go really small in the band, and Nordstrom's does custom fits.

The Girl Scouts troop in your area might have a little program for tween/pre-teen girls on self image and self care. I did one called F:RESH (Females: Respect, Education, Self, Health) and Our Ophelia (which was more on gender, consent, sexuality, and mental health). Both were really good primers in what it means to be female-bodied in a world where becoming a woman is pathologized (look at all the "Mean Girl" media centered around teen girls' sexuality) and how she can make that transition and be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy in the way that's right for her. I did mine with my mom, and that really helped us both. We learned how to talk to each other about women's health issues, body stuff, and sexual health, which was SO useful as I really matured into a teen and young woman.

Not every Girl Scouts troupe is as awesome as mine was, but they're not just about cookies, y'know?
posted by spunweb at 9:36 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Male here, but one longtime girlfriend told me she had started puberty at age 9 ( this would be back in the mid-eighties), and as if to demonstrate the sudden leap from childhood into adulthood with maximum drama, her first period started while she was watching Saturday morning cartoons.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:29 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel I should get back here, since I'm almost the only one suggesting medication - and because my girls came into the room and looked over my shoulder, my post was pretty short.
As everyone says, early puberty is the new normal. The consensus of doctors here is, we don't really know why, but what we can see is that women end up considerably shorter than their mothers, and we have a slight indication early puberty might lead to some health problems later in life.
No one knows if medication is smart in this situation, and no one will know before in twenty years from now. But doctors here are making case to case decisions and sometimes choosing to delay growth by one or two years (never more).
One indication for medication could be very early puberty. Here, age 9 would be very early unless you were from some ethnic groups with very, very early puberty as the norm. Another (as it was for my daughter's friend) could be a combination of early puberty and other medical issues.
Many factors play in here, which is why our health system doesn't have a fixed set of rules. Race, or whatever we call it, is one; in my own family, those with more "Jewish" genes are earlier than those with more "Celtic" genes. No one knows what Celtic and Jewish means in this context, just that this is the basic mix, and we can recognize some elements fitting together in a not entirely random manner. Another element, mentioned above, is weight. (my daughter of a 100 pounds and tall as a house is flat-chested and not menstruating, while her sister has wide hips and a huge chest and was relatively early in puberty (and yes, one is red-headed and freckled and one has black hair and olive skin) both wonderful).
posted by mumimor at 1:15 PM on February 28, 2013

According to what I've read, scientists and doctors don't know why girls are reaching puberty earlier, but things in the food supply and things in plastics are two things that have been identified as possible causes, so eating organic food and using ceramic and metal food containers would seem to be two precautionary measures that wouldn't hurt (except the pocketbook). There are also some scientists who believe that chemicals in thermal cash register printer receipts that every store provides to customers could be a contributing factor. Kind of makes you wonder if anything is safe these days.
posted by Dansaman at 3:50 PM on February 28, 2013

I hit puberty early, and like the hand of god. I was a DD by the time I got to highschool, which was excruciating in a number of different ways. I highly highly suggest NOT talking about how 'she is a woman now' and those sorts of things because while I didn't develop an eating disorder, I did manifest some fairly deep-seated self-loathing issues about womanhood (I bound my breasts for a few months - I didn't want to be a boy, I just desperately did not want to be what a woman was according to the culture around me; I also developed a set of sexual issues centred entirely around my lack of agency, burgeoning sexual desire and self-loathing that took decades to 'fix'). I developed earlier than any of my peers, and I looked significantly more mature than I was, and was smarter as well. Pity that the emotional development was still in line with my age.

Height-wise I am average-to-short as an adult, but I was this height at 10.

Oddly enough my brother was the exact same. He was the kid with a beard by the time he was in highschool, and had most of his acne done by then as well. As an adult he is tall, hairy and muscular. His experience wasn't as bad as mine (less sexualisation, less coercive encounters) but my sister (exact same pattern as me, not quite as early though) had a similarly bad experience and did indeed develop something like an eating disorder.

I'm mongrel-Australian, heavy on the English but with a dollop of 'do not discuss' (dark haired, dark-eyed, pale to dark skin depending on which side you take after). Even in the 80s doctors would not have looked at medication and while 9 is early, it isn't precocious and that's where the meds come in. A girlfriend of mine, that I desperately wish I'd been friends with back in the day, had a very very similar pattern except she's pale, freckled and red-haired. As adults we look very similar in shape and size and body fat composition.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:03 PM on February 28, 2013

I would advise going to the doctor. Yes, it's increasingly 'normal' for girls to hit puberty early, but that doesn't mean it's a thing to be ignored. When my niece began developing breasts & pubic hair at 8, the docs put her on meds to hold off menstruation for a couple years -- in part because girls generally stop growing 2 years after they reach menstruation, and they wanted her to reach her full height. I believe they kept her on meds until she was about 11, and she's now 16 and 5'6.

Another concern would be: is she emotionally mature enough to handle developing a sex drive?

Early puberty has been linked to meat consumption. Generally menstruation happens around 115 lbs & 15% body fat.

For the record, I got my period at 10. My adult height was projected to be 5'5, I am 5'0.

Anecdatally, one of my friend's happens to be vegetarian & generally avoids giving milk to her kids after age 3-4 -- her daughters all began menstruating after age 13.
posted by MeiraV at 6:19 AM on March 1, 2013

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